I know that the title sounds like a bad christmas music album, but I just couldn’t resist. As you may have noticed, I am guest blogging for Eunice this week. Just too many good moments with the fam to let her have all of the fun.
We were lucky enough to host Pete, Kim, Cole, and Ryan from Dec 26 – Jan 1. It was great seeing them – even though it’s only been 6 months since we left the east coast for Germany, it’s been 6 months since we left the east coast for Germany. In that time you almost forget how it felt to first arrive here – it was neat to see it through the eyes of my brother and his family. For Kim, this was a return trip to Europe, but for the rest of the Kims, it was Eurotrip 101.
December 26, 2012
Pete, Kim, Cole, & Ryan arrive to Frankfurt Airport. I know Pete was super nervous about how Ryan was going to be on the plane. Their flight actually arrived 40 minutes earlier than scheduled. We arrived just about 15 minutes before this pic – perfect timing. We could hear Ryan wailing for a full 30 seconds before they even came into view. I jumped in so early to hug them that this was the only pic Eunie could snap before I “ruined” more photo ops (her words). What can I say, I was excited to see my Jo-bro!
Day 1 is always a zombie walk for guests whether or not they “feel” tired, the jetlag is definitely there (unless you find a way to relax in a Roman spa like Jed and Sarah did). It’s important to keep guests moving. So, after dropping off their luggage at home, we took a walk around Landstuhl and searched for a place to grab lunch. Little did we know that the day after Christmas is a German holiday, so the town was pretty quiet with almost everything closed. This is a picture of me pushing Cole down a little hill our house is on towards the main street of Landstuhl. One thing Pete was surprised at is the way cars are parked (you can see the Pathfinder in the background) – in Germany, parking on the sidewalks is not only allowed – for little streets like ours, it’s actually preferred. Anything else would impede traffic.
The only place open for lunch in Landstuhl that afternoon was a place called ‘New York Doner’, where I ate several times when we were living in our temporary apartment in July-August. Nothing but the best for our guests and what better way to make them feel at home eating in a new country than a place named after their home town. This would be the first of many doners consumed during our week… note that Cole is the only one with no food in sight.
No sleep for the weary! We wanted to keep them on their feet for a few more hours to prevent them from falling asleep too early, so we took them down the street to Ramstein AFB to visit the BX. For Pete and Kim, this was old hat compared to their days at Ft Benning. Little disappointed there weren’t any after-Christmas specials at the BX or its shops. But we did end up finding something of value, and it was Cole that smelled popcorn the moment we walked in to the BX. I didn’t even know they sold it here. Here is a rare picture of Cole actually eating something – mmm, nothing beats American popcorn on an American base at an American movie theater, um, in Germany. At 2 bucks a bag it’s a pretty good deal, too. That is, of course, not factoring in the airplane flight from the US…
December 27, 2012
Decided to take the clan to Trier the second day. The town is small but beautiful, and is the oldest city in Germany. It was neat to take them there (we also took Jed and Sarah here) as Trier is special to Eunice and me – it was the first place that we visited on our own in Germany, the first weekend we were here. I’ll never forget how beautiful it was to step out onto that promenade – at the time, I had never seen anything like it. Unfortunately, it was quite a different experience for us that day – it started raining and didn’t stop – didn’t help that the temps stayed in the 40s. Kim and Pete were lucky enough to find these custom fit, super luxurious stroller covers to keep the boys comfortable (I believe the Germans call them “trash bags”). Those Germans think of everything! In the second pic you can see the famous church in Trier. After a dismal attempt at finding food in a locals German cafe, we finally achieved success at a small bakery. Nothing like pretzels and popcorn to keep the motor going, C-man! Who needs protein when you’ve got soft pretzels?
December 28, 2012
After a tough outing the first day, we awoke energized for our next adventure to Heidelberg to see its famous castle and maybe walk around town. Here is a picture of me taking Cole down the hill (we had gotten far out in front of the group) – its deceptively angled. The cobblestone road leading to the castle is very steep – to appreciate the grade better, look at the bricks on the wall and the angle the road cuts into them. You’ll also note the cars parked here, BMW, Audi, BMW, Audi (ignoring that shopping cart on wheels behind me, of course). Suffice to say, this is a very nice part of town.
Just some pics of the family from the castle courtyards overlooking the town and the river. Ryan was still having a tough time I think adjusting to the schedule and was in full meltdown mode by the time we got to the top. No worries, though, a little pep talk and he was ready for action. Down further are some quick pics of the boys looking at the German trinkets they have on sale everywhere here.
After we walked around town for a bit, we decided to head back home. Perfect timing, actually, as the rain had just started back up again. As we tried to find our way back to the car, we realized we weren’t sure exactly where we had parked. I remembered seeing a playground when we had parked earlier in the day and so when we passed it, we realized our car was just on the other side. Pretty cool and I know the boys loved the adventure – no other way to get to the car than cross the park/mini-obstacle course!
Whew! Quick stop at home and then we were off to Big Emma’s to meet up with the Remo’s and buy some 3 liter beers. Hilarious! All the boys together watching some ipad (that thing saved us more than a few times) and loving their suckers. Then back home for our nightly ritual – wine, some more beer, listen to Ryan cry and then pass out, and a Netflix movie… Have I died and gone to heaven?
December 29, 2012
Nothing says Germany in winter quite like a visit to the Frankfurt Zoo. Yes, there is only a wire for a fence for the RHINO exhibit, but it’s Germany, and it’s winter, so instead of focusing on the negatives, we decided to just take a picture. Not sure that rhino moved anyway although I’m sure the wire pegs would have slowed it down enough for Pete to take his sunglasses off and run for cover if we needed to. At the bottom of this section is a picture of an ape exhibit/lab experiment. Nothing beats a yellow-tiled, sawdust-covered, minimally equipped room, packed with apes in various stages of a terminal illness that causes violacious hemorrhoid formation.Thanks to Eunice for making sure this pic made it past the cutting room floor (the Frankfurt Zoo head experimenters may make us take it down so make sure you copy and paste it if you like it).
After the zoo, we took a ride on the Ebbelwoi Express. Ebbelwoi is, I think, the name for their apple wine. I didn’t know this before this trip but apparently Frankfurt is known for its apple wine. Anyway, it sucks. Which probably explains why it’s not that well known. The electric streetcar, on the other hand, was really neat. It’s not a get on/get off train, but was perfect for what we wanted – a nice, relaxing ride through the city. And, much to my surprise, it’s actually a pretty cool city. Full disclosure, I opposed the idea of visiting there – everyone I talk to when I mention the place seems to give me this quizzical look of “Why would you ever go there?” but I’m a believer now. I’ve seen enough of it for a while, but who knows, maybe when Pete and Kim come back in 2013 – Frankfurt, pt zwei?
Dec. 30, 2012
One of my absolute favorite memories from the trip was the visit to Speyer and the Technik museum (technology museum) on display there. Like Kip from Napoleon Dynamite, the Germans also “love technology” and it shows. They basically have three hangars full of locomotives, fire trucks, planes, cars – you name it. Cole was a total madman running around that place – and everyone had an amazing time. They had a 747, a U-boat, multiple helicopters that you could walk around and into. Cole even got to get his drive on in the little go-karts. He was so hilarious trying to figure out how to press the gas AND steer at the same time. I am so pissed I didn’t think to video record it. Once he got the hang of it, though, it was off to the races.
After the museum, we headed over to the downtown area 1 mile away for the Christmas market there. The Speyer christmas market is one of the few in Germany open even AFTER christmas (actually up until New Years). It was, as you’d expect, pretty packed. We were so excited when we got there because we didn’t know what to expect, especially after seeing some amazing christmas markets (Cologne) and some terrible ones (Ramstein, Strasbourg). We were mainly excited to show Pete and Kim something that we really had loved about Germany and the holiday season. It’s true that gluhwein tastes better in the cold at a Christmas market – especially if you’re double-fisting. Pete and I also tried the waffles there as I couldn’t stop talking about the waffles we had tried in Brussels. I didn’t realize until after I fed some to the boys that Nutella would stoke Cole’s nut allergy. I was pretty anxious as I realized what was happening when Cole started saying “my neck is itchy.” Kim to the rescue with Benadryl – crisis averted. A little traumatized, but fat, happy, and drunk, it was back to Landstuhl for another movie and some more beer.
December 31, 2012
Landstuhl Castle, then New Year’s Eve at the Remo’s. Turns out looking for some place to light stuff on fire is as easy as dialing up the Remo’s and asking them what they’re doing for dinner. And that’s just what we did. Morning was relaxed for the girls as they went to get Thai Massages at Rotchana while me and Pete took the boys to run some errands. A quick lunch and off to the Landstuhl castle (unfortunately closed for December) with its awesome views of the town. A really nice way to close things up for them and a great place to let the boys run around and be crazy. After a couple beers we stopped off at home and headed over to the Remo’s to light some sh*t on fire! Some pics of Pete setting up some of the fireworks. Nothing says European vacation like coming home with 2 fingers on one hand (what?). Turns out that Pete and I are cowards, leaving most of the “detonating” work to Julie, who, I am certain now, does not really care about the use of her hands or eyes. All joking aside, I was seriously impressed by the power of these firecrackers, with some shooting easily 60-70 feet in the air with a huge burst. I can’t wait for next year … where I’ll get to watch Julie light some even bigger ones while I watch drunk from her porch.
August 1, 2013
Goodbyes suck. I am clearly a broken man here just hanging on by a thread. Love you guys so much – and so glad you came out. We absolutely love it here, and the only thing that makes this place better is being able to share this amazing experience with people we love. Seeing friends and family always makes Eunice and myself feel so lucky and blessed. Can’t believe it’s over already. Alas, until next year.