Monday, June 16, 2014

Germany The Last Three Days

Happy Father’s Day everyone!  I’m grateful I get to spend it with my Dad today and surrounded by my family. This afternoon, we’re all taking a flight to Rome from Frankfurt.  And, I have a little downtime on the flight to document what we did since my last post. 

The last two days have been filled with lots of activity.  On Thursday, Krissy and I went to the Fasanarie Tier Park (Animal Park) with Katja, my niece and nephew, Sophia and Laurenz, Annie and Kaden.  Alex was still recovering from his pink eye and rested while reading (which is his favorite thing to do anyway).  

It’s about a 15 minute walk from Landhaus Diedert through the forest to the animal park.  We enjoyed the cooler weather – especially walking through the forest.  They have a really cool dirtbike trail that the boys would love to ride on if we could rent bikes…maybe we’ll do that when we get back. 

The animal park is pretty awesome – especially since it is free of charge and state run.  I’ve been visiting this place since I was a young boy.  I always remember the “Wild Schweine” – Wild Boars, but this time we didn’t see any.   We did see 3 Bears, a Fox, tons of Goats and Sheep and most impressive, the big Red Deer, which Kaden and Anthem loved to feed. 

Annie and Sophia bonded quite a bit at the playground.  Even though they don’t speak the same language, they still communicate non-verbally and just laughed a lot together.  It was cute.  We had a really nice relaxing time together for the afternoon. 

That evening we went out to eat together at a restaurant on the Neroberg.  This local gasthof has a beautiful scenic view of the German countryside and the Rhein river.  Just like almost every other restaurant in Germany, this one is locally owned and operated.  The food they prepare is wonderful with great places to eat outside as well as inside. 

The boys, of course ordered Schnitzel – their favorite.  Krissy and I each had amazing salads.  What I’m constantly amazed at is how fresh everything is at these local restaurants.  All of the salads are filled with the freshest lettuce, vegetables and the dressing is always zesty and light. 

After dinner, I took Kaden and Annie over to the playground next door.  It was a great area for them to play on while the adults and Alex kept talking.  I enjoyed watching them play for while in this beautiful setting in between the Vineyards and the view of the restaurant. 

While we were on the Neroberg, I truly appreciated talking with Omi.  She seems to be in a very positive place.  Truly being thankful for the time she gets with each of her grandchildren.  And, Anthem, in particular takes a liking to Omi.  They hold each other and cuddle the entire time.  Annie doesn’t have to say anything, but just smile and hold Omi.  That’s the best thing for Omi.  I’m so happy Omi gets another chance to spend with her grandchildren – especially Annie who she hasn’t gotten to spend as much time with yet. 

That night we watched the first World Cup game where Brazil (the host team) played Croatia.  It was a good match-up, but Brazil had lots of favor from the Refs, in my opinion and was able to win the game 3-1.  It was after 12 midnight by the end, so the boys and I finally went to bed. 

Again, sleeping in this German bedrooms is fantastic.  We leave the windows open at night and a nice fresh coolness fills the room while we sleep under our goosedown blankets and pillowcases.  I definitely enjoyed all of our nights of sleep here.  Most evenings we would get 9-10 hours of sleep and sleep in until 10-11am.  This night was no different.

FRIDAY, June 13
After a good nights sleep and a breakfast served to us by the local restaurant, we were set to meet Katja, Patric and the kids for a trip to Taunus Wunderland – a local theme park.  We didn’t have high expectations, so maybe that’s why we enjoyed it so much. 

The theme park, located on the outskirts of Wiesbaden, was a perfect park for all the kids…and even us adults.  Some of our favorite activities included Water Rides, Trampolines, Roller Coasters, Haunted Caves, Carousels and Rocket Rides.  My impression of this place was how self-directed everything was. There were very few workers there at the park.  I’d say, there were 5 tops working the entire place.  And some of them pulled double duty – serving food and drinks and working the rides. 

I enjoyed watching Patric and Katja interact with their children.  They gave very close attention to them and seemed to never be bothered or frustrated with them.  I wonder if begin together for over 20 years before having kids made it easier for them to transition to the next phase of their lives – having kids.  They also seemed to still be very much in love with each other.  I liked seeing that.  Katja is also into natural medicine, which is something Krissy and her connected on throughout the week. 

After 5:30, Patric and Katja had to go to a birthday party of her nephew.  So, they let us take Patric’s car – a very nice BMW, which was very fun for me to drive on the German roads.  What made it even better was the 80’s Duran Duran mix he had in his car.  So, we drove back to the Landhaus Diedert before dinner listening to New Moon on Monday, Union of the Snake, Wild Boys and A View To A Kill.  I think the kids were getting into it too…or at least they didn’t mind.  Kaden was really curious about the car.  Oh, one more cool feature on this car was the speed limit and speed display on the windshield.  And, when you turn on the GPS, the directions were right there in the windshield while I was driving.  I never had to look down to check directions, look at my speed…AND, I always knew the speed limit wherever I was – I guess each speed limit sign has a chip telling cars with the technology how fast they are supposed to go.

That evening, we met Omi, Barbel and my parents for a dinner outside at the Treibhaus, where we will be celebrating our Family Reunion on the 28th – later this month.  The kids enjoyed some cool drinks – Hollunderbaer Limo.  Again, the food and conversation was great.   The boys commented on how much we all say the word “Genau”, which means “Exactly”.  They kept saying it to us from that point on. 

That night we met up at Amo & Apo’s room and watched the first half of Holland vs. Spain.  Spain was heavily favored, but I think they came in a bit jaded – as they were the defending champions.  We watched as the bald Robben (who plays for Bayern Munchen in the Bundesliga) scored 2 goals out of the 5 that the Dutch team scored in that game.  All of Germany was happy to see the Spaniards lose, since the Germans lost to them 4 years ago in the Semi-Finals.  Also, since Robben plays for a German team, they consider him one of their own.

The next morning the boys and I met Patric at his house to help him clear his yard.  Katja and him were going to tear out their existing grass and yard décor and replace it with brand new grass and stone slabs.  It was 2 hours of hard work – tearing out heavy stone slabs, removing large rocks, carrying a heavy trailer through a narrow gate, clearing out a sandbox, moving the sandbox to the patio deck and in general preparing the backyard for the remodel the next week.  It was hard work, but satisfying and fun to do with the boys. 

Later, Katja fed us lunch.  And again, we left stuffed and full of so much food – but it tasted to good.  I think I’ve already gained 5 pounds on this trip. Then, we were off to Landhaus Diedert to change and get ready to go down to the annual Wilhelmstrassen Fest downtown Wiesbaden.

We met up with Barbel, Patric, Katja and all the kids for an afternoon at a local festival with music, rides, food, beer, wine stands.  It was packed as it was a beautiful day for the Germans to take in the festivities.  Krissy and I enjoyed a “Erdbeer Bowle” for the first time.  It’s a mixture of strawberries soaked in Champagne or Vodka.  Delicious!  I could have had 3 or four of them, but held off.  Patric, my dad and I also enjoyed a good large glass of beer.  We went over to the kids play area and let the kids play until they closed it down at 6pm.  Meanwhile a bunch of cover bands were playing on various stages throughout the day.  One time, Annie wanted to just stand there and watch them play – she was so intrigued by the band. 

I got all the kids (except Alex) some balloons at the fair.  They all ate Crepes with Nutella and Kinder Chocolade.  Plus, we had some good local pretzels and Alex finally got to eat Meat on a Stick – actually 2 of them.  He had been wanting to eact that ever since we first walked in.  I’ve eaten so much sausage and meat since getting here, that I’m actually getting a little bit sick to my stomach with all of the carnivorous activity.  That evening, I started feeling a little bit sick. 

Later that night, we went out with Patric, Katja and their friend Petra and another couple friends of theirs.  We went back to the festival, walked around some more, had some more Erdbeer Bowle, enjoyed some beer, local fresh cut French fries (way better than anything in the US) with Mayo – Yum!  The girls (Krissy, Petra, Katja) all got matching belts at one of the local leather shops.  We spent most of the time talking while listening to the local cover band play past midnight. 

The subject of Walker Stalkers came up, which ended up being a great conversation about what’s popular on TV over here in Germany.  Also, they were very interested in how it all worked with the conventions. Maybe they will start watching the show – because none of my family has ever watched an episode.

We stopped for yet one more Erdbeer Bowle at 12:30am to finish the night.  More good talking and casual conversation.  I felt it was good that Patric and I had this time to talk more as we were able to just relax and have a good time together – it felt like old times.  I’m really glad Katja and Krissy get along so well together.  I think our families could have some good vacation time together – either over here in Europe or in the US.  We’ll see. 

That night Annie slept over with Sophia.  Barbel babysat.  I was amazed that Annie wanted to sleep over, even though she couldn’t speak the language.  But, she really wanted to and they apparently had a great time – even though they don’t speak the same language. 

The next morning (Father’s Day) we went over to Patric’s to pick up Annie.  Patric, Annie and Sophia were picking raspberries from their garden.  On their way back, Sophia took a big fall and banged her head really hard against the door – thankfully there was no stitches needed, but there sure was a lot of crying and we were worried for a while.  Krissy tried to give her some oils, but Sophia didn’t want it.  She left some samples behind for Katja.  I’m sure she will use them.  

We said our goodbyes to the Nebhuths and then went over to Omi’s for a light lunch  and some quality time with her.  She and Annie spent a lot of time hugging and staring at each other.  It was very sweet. 

I’ve been driving a lot with the van and the stick shift – just to practice, because I haven’t driven stick shift that much up until now. 

Then, it was time to leave for the airport as we were on our way to Rome!  We got to the airport, had a relatively easy time getting checked-in.  Although I stressed out a little bit because I didn’t print my tickets or had any booking reference #’s.  The kids were laughing at me while I stressed for a few minutes.  Oh well…I’m not a perfect dad.

We met Amo and Apo at the gate, had some relaxing time at the café and are now on the plane headed to Rome.  We will arrive after dinner, get settled into our hotel.  The next post will be from Roma!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Germany: The First Two Days

Well, the first day is always the toughest.  Getting to Germany from America is a long day.

We left Nashville at 3pm on Monday and arrived in Frankfurt at noon on Tuesday, June 10.  Not only was the trip long, but it had it's other challenges. Alex was battling pink eye (and still is).  Annie didn't want to sleep on the plane.  I think she was too excited.  And, Kaden wanted to watch every movie on the plane.  Each of us had our own movies to watch and activities to do.

Once we arrived, we got our luggage, went through customs and waited for Amo & Apo to pick us up. We went straight to our Landhaus Diedert in Wiesbaden, where we changed, showered and got cleaned up.  Some of us took naps, others were too excited and headed down to the restaurant to have a little something to eat.

Later that evening, my Aunt Barbel came with my Omi.  We spent some time with each other - just catching up and giving lots of hugs and kisses.  Annie was especially sweet with Omi, which I know Omi treasured very much.  A little bit later Katja and Patric showed up with their two children - my second cousins/nephews I guess - Sophia and Laurenz (Larry, as we called him).  Sophia and Annie quickly bonded and connected and started to play together at the swing set.

We had a good evening of talking, laughing and telling stories.  We were all pretty tired.  I was amazed at how much energy Annie had though.  She was a trooper.  Never once took a nap until it was time for bed.

At around 10pm we all went to bed and slept relatively well.  We all were up around 2am for a while, but then fell back asleep until a storm woke us up.  We had all the windows open, but it was kind of nice to hear the rain and thunder outside as we continued to sleep until 9.

On Wednesday morning, we originally had made plans to go to the Fasanerie Tier Park (local zoo), but the kids were still sleeping.  We postponed it for tomorrow.  In the meantime, Alex and I were up and he couldn't wait to have a good German breakfast with Broetchen and meats.   He seemed to like it.  His eyes are looking better, but he's been wearing my sunglasses a lot, which helps him.

Later after everyone had some breakfast, Amo, Krissy, the kids and I went for a walk around the neighborhood - through the woods and to the zoo and back.  It was a good hour - and so nice to be walking through the many trails in this area.  It's one of the things I love the most about Germany - taking hikes on all of the trails in the hills and woods.  It feels like they are hundreds of years old.

Then, after Apo got back from the dentist, I drove the stick shift van to Eltville, where we were going to ride bikes along the Rhein river.  Before we got our bikes, Annie wasn't paying attention and almost got hit by a car.  It scared us all half to death.  She was running after Apo and didn't know she was on a street - it was cobblestone.  Anyway, thankfully the lady driving the other car was cautious and slowed down enough not to hit Annie.  I can't think about what could have happened too much or it makes me sick.

Annie rode on the bike with me and I rode along the Rhein with her.  I got some good video of her and I riding with the GoPro. It was fun. All of us had our own bikes.  We rode through a few small towns along the Rhein: Oestrich, Mittelheim and then rode back - stopping often along the way.

We had lunch at a nice restaurant along the Rhein.  The waiter reminded Krissy of Paul Buono - my producer.  Looked just like him and similar mannerisms.  We ate Bratwurst, Kartoffelsalat and Spaetzle.  Plus lots of good drinks and of course, a good cherry kuchen - which we noticed cherries are in season here.

Later that night on the way to dinner, we passed by a local cherry and strawberry stand and got some.  They were delicious.  We ate at a restaurant at the top of the Neroberg - Hof am Neroberg.  Beautiful view and lots of fun memories were made.  Krissy got to share essential oils in depth with Omi and Barbel.  And Annie got to have some precious time with Omi.  By the end, Annie and Kaden were playing on the nearby playground and Alex was in the corner sleeping after another Schnitzel meal!

I drove us all home and enjoyed the fresh cool breeze and beautiful view from our balcony.  The weather has been absolutely beautiful.  I'm very thankful for this nice place we have here to stay at Landhaus Diedert just outside of Wiesbaden in Klarenthal.

That's it for today.  Tomorrow more time with Katja, Patric, Omi and Barbel.  Guten nacht!