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The Autobahn

Driving the autobahn is a terrific window into the German society.

The rules take some preparation if you’ve never driven in Germany before. The speed limit has a habit of changing rapidly and it’s easy to be taken off guard if you’re not paying attention. But that’s rule #1: German’s take driving seriously. I never once saw someone trying to buck the system and cause a problem. There’s plenty of road on the right for slower cars – a lot of the new, small, gas-friendly cars are permanently relegated there. The left lane is for one of two things: Passing or driving very, very fast. Most people are the former – even if they have nice cars that can get some speed. The latter is for the select few who have awesome machines and are regularly speeding along at 150 mph easy.

Despite the fact that people can – and do- drive so fast, rule #1 applies. Everyone takes driving seriously and is attentive. It would be a fool who wandered into the left lane without being completely sure that there are no automotive masterpieces rushing up from behind. Everyone signals turns (at least that’s what I found). This even goes for BMWs, which in the United States are apparently sold without them.

One last comment on rule #1: I did not observe a single person trying to handle a drink or phone while driving on the autobahn.

Rule #2: Driving is fun. Because everyone does a pretty good job with rule #1, driving is a pleasure. In the States, there is always a self-righteous old lady (sorry about the sexism) clogging traffic and setting people’s emotions to a boil. In Germany, there’s nothing to be self-righteous about. The law allows people to enjoy themselves.

Rule #2a: Don’t rent a crap car. I did. I had a woefully underpowered Nissan Quashicore (At least we dubbed it so, with the motto: “Starving for power!”) We’re both science geeks, so it was funny to us – well, at least to me. Laura got the joke, but only smirked. I laughed for both of us. If you follow rule #2a, then rule #2 will apply.

Rule #3: Don’t get the GPS: Sorry Garmin, your device sucks with respect to pronouncing German street names. We would have done much better with a good old fashioned map. OK, maybe the GPS did help some, but it’s just not smart enough to allow you to adjust directions according to roads you would like to take and listening to ‘The Woman In The Box’ gets just tiring in the city, where the long Germanic street names are compounded by very aggressive traffic, old roads that just might be alley ways too small to get through safely.

 

OK, sorry. Enough about driving. We’ll probably be taking the train on future travels unless we can afford to drop the extra $1000+ for a nice car to get us through.

 

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Personal Life

 

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Back Home

Not having internet access in Germany (at least on a regular basis – which means at night, after my wife falls asleep) has done some damage to my narrative of our trip. I had been writing some material into my journal using iBook Author, but the entries there are pretty jumpy as well.

So now the whole thing is out of joint. What to do?

I’m going to just post my last full day’s entry here and then another post with some comments on the trip and call it good. Then it’s back to DHS and codecademy and life here in the hot, desolate midwest.

 

Here’s what I have:

Second Day in Wuerzberg
We decided to take about half the day today walking around the city and the rest as a break from tourism for some quiet time in or near the hotel. We think that there is a park not too far from here and are wondering if we might find a playground where Harry can exhaust himself.
A note about the hotel: We’re staying at the Novatel hotel in the AltStadt. We are nearby a school, so there was some noise of children playing in the morning, but that’s not the bad sort of noise that disturbs sleep. We did not know what to expect with respect to our breakfast this morning because we couldn’t remember if this hotel included it or not. In fact it did and it was probably one of the best breakfasts we’ve had since arriving.
On our walk today we visited two churches, Stift Haug and the Church of St. Mary Although beautiful on the outside, neither was especially remarkable inside (perhaps due to reconstruction after the war). Stift Haug was very obsessed with the crucifixion, depicting it in many ways. As you come into the church, you are immediately met with a modern sculpture of it and all throughout the church were paintings following the stations of the cross. In addition to these paintings, others depicted the deaths of the saints. None of these was very sparing of the pain and suffering associated with these events and, more notably, there was little mention of anything else (such as any good deeds or rising after death). I wonder how being faced with these images affects the mind of the people growing up in these churches.
The second was a gothic church in the center of town that was largely an interesting red color on the outside, but much more classical on the inImageside. One thing to note though was that this church was apparently the resting place of many old Franconian knights.
We got as far as the bridge, but even after seeing the fort across the river, Harry was not interested in hiking up the hill to visit it. So, there we turned around and made back to the hotel. We only stopped briefly to pick up some food from a grocer, where I made a dismal impression as I got to the front of a long line only to find that they did not take Visa and could not figure out how to cancel the transaction without stopping all three lines and talking very loudly about the stupid American. Ugh. I didn’t enjoy that.

Here’s a photo of the fort from the bridge near the town square. (We had a great hike up and wander around this fort the next day.)

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Personal Life

 

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Berg Reichenstein, Trechenhauser

As I said a couple of posts ago, we enjoyed our stay in Berg Reichenstein. I notImageiced that a lot of reviews are from people who have been pretty unhappy about their experiences there and I can understand completely. If I had gone under different circumstances or with different expectations, I might easily have been disappointed as well. However, we knew about what to expect and chose this hotel specifically because of its friendliness to children and wonderful location along the Rhein. Knowing this, we got exactly what we wanted and more. In addition to having a good stay and being able to give our son a bath (a great boon), the owner also had a small child named Constantine that was a few years younger than our boy and the two of them had a great time running around exploring. Constantine couldn’t speak any English and our son only speaks a couple of words of German, but it turns out not to matter when you’re both small boys and you have the run of a 12th century castle.

We wish that we had booked more days at Reichenstein and would love to return someday while the boys are both still young. 

 

One last note: there are an insane number of hunting trophies covering every wall of the castle. I expect the animals are still recovering.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2012 in Personal Life

 

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Perhaps it was the mushrooms…?

Something strange happened last night. I didn’t notice until the morning, but stepping out of the shower, I see that I have GROWN VERY LARGE! I’ll have to look into getting a helping from the other side today.Image

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2012 in Personal Life

 

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Second Day in Germany – or maybe the Third…?

We arrived in Germany just a few short days ago after an absolutely terrible flight from the Charlotte, NC. There was nothing especially wrong with the flight, it was just that I couldn’t get comfortable and didn’t sleep a wink the whole way over. I also cramped up in my legs and had the worst time sitting still – even after getting up Imagea few times to walk around a stretch. The only good thing that I can say about the flight was that I watched two excellent films: The Big Year and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Both of them were terrific and had me laughing and crying (perhaps it was also the leg cramps). Actually, I think The Big Year only had me laughing, but I did think that all the stars (Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson) turned in solid performances that were a joy to watch. The story was entirely formulaic, but because the story wasn’t really the story, it was easily ignored. All I really wanted to watch was the character development and interactions and enjoy the ride. Jack Black was the character that we are, lost in the world -and even if we aren’t completely swallowed by it,  the current  sweeps us away from what we want in life rather than towards it. Steve Martin is who we want to be, successful in his career and his marriage and an all around good guy. Owen Wilson is who we worry we might sometimes become, wrapped up in our own world and missing the bigger picture in our relationships.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, well, again, the story is not important – except when it is. What I enjoyed was the way that people found strength in one another and learned that they did have something to offer the world and that their mistakes were greater in their own minds than in anyone else’s.

But… Germany:

We arrived in Frankfurt – Oh No! Frankfurt! I thought we were flying into Dusseldorf?! Well, it didn’t matter, we still had a car reserved and drove up to Dusseldorf to meet a co-worker of my wife for kaffee und kuchen at his new home not far from the Bayer offices.Our son enjoyed the company of their children and got his first taste of playing with kids who don’t entirely share his language. To our relief, it didn’t seem to matter at all to him. We also enjoyed our visit and then went into town to our hotel.

Hotel #1: The InterCity Hotel (ICH): I don’t know what we spent for this hotel, but it was probably too much. My impression was not the best, although there was nothing wrong with it at all – except that I was lost in time from jetlag and there wasn’t a clock to help me out when I awoke in the dark of the night. Regardless, it was close to the HauptBahnHoff, a large number of casinos and a good helping of adult stores. Maybe this is common to many cities here, but it made me feel like we were in the wrong part of town.

We saw some of the town during a long walk and a short streetcar ride and even caught some of the T3 Dusseldorf Triathlon (I’ve raced a number of tris and I thought this one looked great – except for the idea that they probably had to swim in the Rhein, which doesn’t look so clean). Mostly though, we bopped from cafe to cafe to stem the hunger-crankiness and I probably had about 2000 calories in cakes alone.

The next day we went to Koln (Cologne). Our stay in that city was almost entirely restricted to a visit to the Dom, including climbing the tower and visiting the treasure chamber. Harry really enjoyed the climb and my legs were so happy to be exercising that it really brought me to life. The Dom is fabulous. I could spend a day or more there taking it all in, but this was an extra and not really a part of the itinerary.

From Koln, we traveled south to a little town on the Rhein called Trechtingshausen, where we are staying in the castle on the hill (Berg Reichenstein). I could stay here for the remainder of the trip easily. It’s a small town with not much going on, but it’s also just what I love about this country – it is old and beautiful and comfortable in its ways. We sat at a family restaurant overlooking the Rhein and had a great traditional German meal and met a sweet old man who brought his dog along for dinner (the dog is 17 and must have garlic with his schnitzel otherwise he just doesn’t know it’s there).

Tomorrow we are hoping to have a nice breakfast, hike along the river and tour the castle we’re staying in before driving to another castle and then ending up in Heidelberg staying in the shadow of a third.

All in all, this has been a great trip. I would prefer staying in one place much longer, but that’s the trouble with traveling so seldom: you want to do so much that it’s easy to schedule out the time to just enjoy any one place. Next time though… next time.

 

http://www.burg-reichenstein.de/

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2012 in Personal Life

 

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Exiting the heat

Today we finally get to escape the heat!

But it’s not because the weather in Kansas has changed, but because we’re off for a week in Germany. We’re visiting the castle road that goes from Cologne to Munich. Our son, who is seven, is eager to see the castles and old cities – we’re eager to share that with him and give him a good association with the area. This last is important because there is a chance that we may relocate to Germany sometime in the next year or so and we want it to be as positive experience as possible for the little guy.

….

more later (now we’re off)

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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