Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Day Eighteen: Goodbye, 2013

Well, well, well. Look what's here! The new year! Well, almost that is. I currently have about forty minutes left in 2013 and I couldn't be more excited if I tried. Well, I suppose a cup of coffee could have a bit of an effect, but I suppose it's just a bit late for all of that. Plus, I don't have a way to make any. Moving along!

We were originally going to go to the palace for fireworks, but we decided we would rather stay where it's warm and just have our own little celebration. We've got cookies, chocolate, and marzipan goodies for good luck in the new year. My personal favorites are the mushrooms, but I have a good luck piggy too.
These little guys are meant to bring luck in the new year. There is also one that the confectioneries make that is a chimney sweep on a domino, but I forgot about that one...oops. We also have these little guys, chocolate hedgehogs! 
It's a good thing I know the German word (Igel) because the chocolatier did not speak a lick of English! However, she was very patient with us. Here's a look at what it looks like when confectioneries make the little pigs. 
Truly, 2013 has been a wonderful year, and 2014 promises to hold bigger and better things. I will graduate high school, turn 18, and start college! Where I go remains to be seen, but I won't worry too much about that until letters start coming in again. Here's to a new year filled with adventure, good times, laughter, and all the good luck in the world! 
Cheers and Happy New Year!

Day Sixteen and Seventeen: Adventure Awaits You, Pt. 2

Adventure comes from all sides I say. Then sometimes you need a break from it. Day sixteen was all about rest and relaxation and a break from the adventure that kept coming. Oma went off doing things while mom and I stayed home. We had to buy provisions for Sunday, seeing as how the entire country shut down. Again. This happens every Sunday, every holiday, every time the country just decides to shut down. SO! We went off, we bought food, and we came back home. You know what happened next? We took a nap. It was glorious. Then we went to the main building for dinner and went home. We had a very empty, very welcome, day of rest.

Then the nonstop madness began again.

Day seventeen of this  journey started early, with my Oma running out of the house at around 8am (this is somewhat reasonable, considering it was 0630 when we left for Nuremberg) to make breakfast for her mom. Of course, her getting ready woke the whole place up and mom and I were awake getting ready soon after she left.

You wouldn't believe how long it took us to figure out what to do.

We spent a week going back and forth between taking a train to Worms, the bus to Speyer, and the streetcar to Heidelberg. We picked Heidelberg, as it's our favorite city and we just didn't get to spend as much time as we would have liked there. My mom and I also didn't make it up to the Schloss when we went to Heidelberg with Markus. So what did we do? We took a train up to the castle. That's right, a train. A train that was engineered specifically to carry people up the side of a mountain.

 If you think it looks like it's a long way up, you would be correct. The train wasn't so much built like train, but more of an engine-pulled elevator. It was quite interesting to say the least. It was super quick to get up there this way! A few tunnels, and we were there. We did a bit of wandering and saw some super neat stuff!

I maintain, Heidelberg is one of my favorite places in Germany. I mean, look!

 This city is beautiful! Anyway, we went around to the front of the castle that truly looks down on the city. I don't have a picture of it this time around, but if you look up form the walkway you can see golden gargoyle heads suspended at what I can only describe as disguised gutters. This may seem odd, but it served a defensive purpose. In times of distress, those who defended the Schloss used these to pour hot oil all over the hostiles. I apologize for my use of the word "hostiles", but that would be a result of my five years of translating Latin. Anyway, we made our way down the mountain and to the old bridge, just in time to see fireworks going off on either side of the castle. It was pretty cool, considering it was a bit unexpected.

We went home, had brotchens for dinner and went to sleep. Oma and I had an early morning to prep for. My New Year's Eve post will be up shortly.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Day Fourteen and Fifteen: Adventure Awaits You, Pt. 1

Where do I even begin to describe how amazing these past few days have been? I mean there's no way for me to possibly explain it in simple terms. But I can, however, share what I experienced and maybe you can feel the magic that I did too.

On day fourteen, 27 December, we did some essential things. The first is going off to Mannheim to a store called Poco in the industrial sector to look for curtains. Say what you will, the Germans know how to make beautiful curtains. My mom and Oma managed to find the most beautiful drapes; I hope one day when I have a home of my own I'll be able to come back to Germany if for no other reason than to get drapes for my home. After the curtain escapade, we went to Kirchheim to pay our respects to my great-grandfather, may he rest in peace.
We were originally going to go visit a family friend, but that didn't work out. Instead, we were dropped back off at our hotel and left to our own devices. We decided since the sun was shining and it wasn't bitterly cold it would be a good day to finally visit the Schloss Garten in Schwetzingen. 
It's an exceptionally large garden for the palace here, fashioned after Versailles. There are many, many, many statues (almost all of which are currently covered to protect them from the winter). There is everything from a mosque to a temple to Apollo in the gardens. 
There is also mine and my mom's favorite place, the End of the World. 
I maintain, it wasn't bitterly cold. Take note of the hoodie I'm wearing instead of my usual coat or lighter jacket. 
We wandered a bit more, but of course at 4:30 in the afternoon the gardens are closing and the sun is starting the set. Fun fact: the sun doesn't get up very high in the sky at all during the winter. I didn't realize we were so far north because of the severe lack of snow (and overwhelming abundance of rain). Little did I know, we are not at the highest elevation. We are surrounded by mountains, and the ones that enclose the little (okay not little but you get the point) valley we are in are blocking the snow at the present moment. Come January and February, this certainly won't be the case, but we won't be here then obviously. 

Anyway, the weather was getting colder and my mom and I were freezing. So,we went for hot chocolate and cake before going back to the hotel. 
The next day, we were finally ready for a real adventure. My uncle had arranged for my mom and me to go top Heidelberg, sans Oma, and go all over the place with our own chauffeur cousin. We started out bright and early (not really). Our first stop was the main street that contains many interesting little shops that sell everything from cuckoo clocks to steins to formal dresses. Of course, that's not what we were there for. We were there for a day of history, architecture, and marveling. 
We had lunch at an interesting little joint, finally having something besides pork and mushrooms in sauce; it's actually really good but it was time for a change. I suppose that because we were Americans, the waiter was of a nice enough mind and mood to put (three) ice cubes in my drink. It was fantastic finally having an ice cold Fanta, even though it was chilly outside. 
Afterwards, we went over to the old church, looked around, lit a candle for our flight home on Thursday (thoughts/prayers/etc. are much appreciated thank you), and went on down to the old bridge. We got to see the monkey statue, before going out over the river. At each of the little lookouts, couples have locked locks together, leaving them on the bridge and tossing the keys away. 
After this, we made our way back to the car (after buying a new suitcase, but that's another story for another day when I tell people I travel with that their bags are either too small or they have packed entirely too much to go away with) and went on our next adventure. 
This one was not for the faint of heart.
Nor was it for the shy. 
Or the cowardly. 
We were off to the Thingstatte. This was an amphitheatre, built by Hitler into the side of the mountain. It was on the same hill as an old monastery and a Roman temple to the god Mercury. Before we managed to happen upon the Thingstatte, we found the remains of the monastery. 
I climbed all the way to the top of that tower. One does not simply get all the way back down before getting dizzy and thinking the tight spiral staircase is never going to end. Then, we trekked up the rest of the way up the mountain to the Thingstatte. 
We went in the back way, the way the leaders would have entered way back when. Me being me of course wandered out onto the stage, then all the way up to where the people coming to listen to propaganda would have come. Needless to say, it was a long way up. 
It was raining steadily, and once I was all the way at the top the wind was ridiculously strong and I had to close the umbrella I had :( But, it was worth it. 

Our adventure continued as we drove back home in the dark and the rain (eesh) and finally got back to my Oma who had spent the day with her mom and brother. We went to the main building for dinner, and called it a night. 
Part two of our four days of adventure to come soon. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! Christmas was faaaantastic! Over in Germany, Christmas lasts two and a half days! *insert loud cheering here* Anywho, again, this is a shorter post because, well, it's very late (as in this post is a few days late) and it's just not as exciting as my entry about day fourteen and fifteen's activities.

In Germany, Christmas Eve is the day where presents are given and a smaller meal is eaten. Families enjoy dinner together, and once it is dark the Christ Child brings the gifts and they are exchanged. Until recently (and for all I know parents may still do this) trees were not purchased or put up until Christmas Eve while children were sent out the play. They weren't allowed to see the tree or presents until after supper and nightfall. This year, my uncle did in fact put up a tree. It was quite small, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

On First Holiday (December 25th) families gather for a day of dining and just enjoying being together, something that I definitely like about the German Christmas. Usually, it's not about the gifts so much as just being together and celebrating. We went back over to my uncle's, where I got to see my aunt Sofie, Markus, Carmen and meet Vivian, her son. It was wonderful!

On Second Holiday, we spent the morning doing a bit of relaxing, we went to breakfast, and then we came back to get ready to go to Tatjana's house again. That was awesome, as it always when we get to see her. We got to hold her pet dragon, Babel! She was so sweet! She didn't puff up, and when we tried to give her back to her parents she attempted to crawl up my Oma's arms. Silly dragon.
I seriously considered kidnapping Babel and taking her back to the USA. Just kidding, but seriously she was a sweetie.

Anyway, we had a wonderful dinner, spent a little more time with her, and made our way back home. More on days fourteen and fifteen. The adventure begins....

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day Ten: The Best Model of Effeciency

This isn't a very long post, as this day was just too much excitement for one person to handle. Today I witnessed the true efficiency of the German people. My great-grandmother collapsed (thoughts and prayers are much appreciated) and the German equivalent of 911 had to be called. I know now why they don't let family work on family in the medical setting. Panic mode sets in and there's no way to tell up from down and left from right. It's just a huge mental mess. However, the German paramedics are some of the most efficient people. Ever. For starters, they were at the house within five minutes of being called. The strange sirens no doubt having to do with people wanting to get out of their way. Soon after they got there and started working, two doctors and a nurse came too.

First off, the jump bags that they had were backpacks, not duffle bags. America, I don't care that you're not running up and down stairs to apartments on the third floor, backpacks are so much more organized. They weren't digging around for things they needed, it was just there neatly laid out.

Second, what I thought was interesting was that they didn't use a stethoscope to take blood pressures until the doctor got there, they just took it over palpation. It was interesting trying to explain what that meant to my mom and Oma.

Third, they had a mobile three lead EKG machine with them. Color me surprised. Anywho, they gave her all kinds of medicine and got her put on a stretcher that was a full body splint, the kind that is filled with sand and they suck the air out of the form it to the body. Anybody remember what those are called?

Now, she's in the hospital, doing somewhat better, and yeah. Post on Christmas to come tonight. (or later this afternoon, depending on where in the world you live).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Day Eight and Nine: Everything Has an Accent

When I say that everything has an accent, I mean ev-er-y-thing. Everything from the people, to the sirens on the polizei cars and ambulances, to the handies. Yes I said handies. That's what the people over here call cell phones, and of course me being a mimic that's what I've started calling it. And I can't say hello anymore, I say hallo. It's a small difference, but it is very much there.

Yesterday was a day that I think has been one of my favorite. I got to see my cousin Tatjana. A close friend of mine will tell you that I dropped everything when she got here. We went out to a store where my Oma could get a new coat. While we were there, we found gigantic liquor bottles too. It was quite interesting.
The bottles were huge as you can see (by the way that's my mom in the picture, isn't she pretty?!). I sent this picture to a little birdie and the little birdie told me and my mom to buy it and drink it. I told the little birdie ain't nobody got time for that. After that, we went to Tatjana's house for dinner. We got to meet her husband and her dog and have dinner there. It was a great time and my mom and I agree that my dad and he would get along really well. We talked and had a great time. Then it was time to go home and get some sleep finally.

Yesterday and today I have learned just what it means to live in Deutschland. The first thing is that you don't stockpile groceries except on Saturday and before the Christmas holidays. You go almost every day for breads and meats and cheeses and things of that nature.

The second is that if you're not walking, you're not traveling. It doesn't matter if you have a car or not because of the parking situation. If you don't want to pay 1.40for a liter of gas (that's about $5 for a gallon) then it's public transport for you. The thing with that though, is that then you walk to the station, you get on the bus/train/streetcar and you go to another station as close as possible to your destination, then you walk to your final location, then do the whole thing in reverse. If you want to take a cab, it's much more expensive and then you're going to be playing Russian roulette with the driver. You could either have a super nice guy like the driver of the cab we took to see my aunt today, or one who is not so nice like the one who drove us back home. Jerk. 

The third thing I've learned is that a certain blonde friend of mine has a dopple ganger. I saw him in a bakery in Heidelberg and I sat shell shocked for a moment while I waited on my mom and Oma.

Now, when I say that everything has an accent, I do not joke. The very way of life over here is different, as is the outlook on certain aspects of things. From what happens on a daily basis, to the fact that one works 40 hours a week and only 40 hours of week. Yes I said it. Anywho, today I went and got another leather notebook from Heidelberg. These things are handcrafted and absolutely cannot be found in the United States unless you 1) know a guy or 2) have one that someone saved from long ago. 

I apologize for the lack of pictures, but I haven't taken many yesterday and today except for of the bakery and around the city. I'll post them at a later date. 

Tomorrow, we are going to be running around getting provisions for when the entire country shuts down for three days. Come the 27th, part of the country will open back up but until then we have to live on what we buy tomorrow for three days. Such is life in Deutschland. Until tomorrow, 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Day Six and Seven: Cars, Trains, Buses, and... Streetcars?

First off, sorry for not updating yesterday but we spent all day on the go and had to get to bed early because of an early birdie wake up call today. We'll get to that.

Let's start with yesterday's adventures! We started the day off at a somewhat reasonable hour, around 7, and managed to make it out the door by 8. After the way we flew in, ate breakfast, and left in a hair brained frenzy it was nice to actually have some time to do the European thing and actually enjoy some time talking and eating and relaxing. We went off to grab lunch for my great-grandmother and picked up some special dessert to share. My Oma even got a piece of this delicious cake called Schwarzwaelderkirschtorte. It's Black Forest Cake! It's amazing. 

While we were out, this little thing happened. This thing where the sky gets dark and water starts falling from the heavens. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it started raining. It got exceedingly uncomfortable so I got myself an umbrella. It's a super nice one, designer brand, and a proper mushroom shaped umbrella. And it's clear. I love it so much! It's perfect. Once we finished our lunch and cleaned up, we were off to the bus station to get to Heidelberg. My mom won a bet while were there about which bus went where when. 
Once we were on the bus, we got lost a bit in our minds just taking in the sights, as it has been years since any of us have seen them. One of the more important/interesting to us is the Rauthaus (courthouse) where my Oma and Opa got married. 
We finally made it to the streetcar line that we would take into the city a few minutes later. We disembarked at the end of the line after much fooling around, and got our first look. 
One of my favorite things about this time of year is the food. We walked a little ways down the street after I bought a new, lighter jacket for the warmer (haha) weather. It's just so much easier to wear a light jacket in the forty-something weather than the large coat I brought with me. When we got to the first market, I bought myself dinner. Of course, I shared. It was delicious. Then, I remembered to take a look up and around. What did I see? The Heidelberg Schloss looming  over the city. 
Also here, in this square itself, if the University of Heidelberg. If I knew how to apply, and knew enough German to go to school here, I so would. They have an excellent medical school and a top notch undergraduate education. However, I will in fact be going to school in the states. To make up for this, I dream of one day spending much time at the Heidelberg University Hospital as a surgeon teaching techniques to doctors there. That's the dream, now I have to make it happen. 
Here's a picture of the market where I found the most perfect things ever:
After some time spent finding the absolute perfect Christmas gifts for a very important person and myself, we made our way back to Schwetzingen. Might I add it got extremely cold (to us) after the rain came and went? Well it did. Before we walked back to our hotel, we meandered down the street and went to Schwetzingen's Christmas market. We also went inside the gates of the Schwetzingen schloss. We'll be going back to the palace, but after Christmas. 
Finally, we meandered back home, had a snack, talked to the people back home, and went to sleep as early as we could because we had an early wake up call. 

TODAY! Today was the day to end all days! We got to make an amazing, marvelous, eye-opening trip to Nuremberg, the home of Lebkuchen. This isn't all it is known for obviously, but it's what I know it for. Our day started at 0445 and is not quite over yet, as I am still awake writing this. We made our way to the Bahnhoff to catch a train to Mannheim, so that we could make our connection with the IC bus to Nuremberg. This was an awesome way to travel, as it was comfortable, fast, and stress-free. When we got there three hours later, the architecture nerd in me was weeping was internally weeping with joy. 
Today I got my wish to go somewhere and just marvel at something. I got to do that all day long. We walked into the Old Town, the original city where the castle is up on a hill surrounded by buildings and walls at the edge of that particular part of town. Of course, it has caught up with the times as there are many shops, restaurants and things of that nature all throughout. The big thing is that very few cars are allowed in this area. We stopped for lunch at an authentic German restaurant and had actual weiner schnitzel, not that Bavarian crap. Real schnitzel is made with veal, not pork thank you very much. We did the actual European thing again today and spent two hours at lunch. It was fantastic, especially since we got to sit by a window facing the market. There was also this amazing bridge that just made my jaw drop for whatever reason. 
As we were wandering, we happened upon three churches. However, church just doesn't seem to be enough to describe these holy architectural masterpieces. There was St. Lawrence's, which was built in 1250: 
The Church of Our Lady, built in the 1500's:

And last, but most certainly not least, St. Sebald's Church. This church's construction began in 1225. If this was not a chronological post, I would tell this story first. This church was practically destroyed in World War II when the Allied powers took Nuremberg. 
Today it stands as it did when it was reconstructed after the war, in all its glory. 
After a day of marveling, we found our way back to the Bahnhoff to catch our bus back to Mannheim. The bus that took us to Nuremberg was basically a regular charter bus just with super nice interior, but the one that took us back to Mannheim was a double decker bus, complete with a first class bottom floor. We caught a train back to Schwetzingen, grabbed some provisions for dinner, and headed home. Now, we are sleeping in a bit before seeing my mom's cousin tomorrow. Until tomorrow, 

Day Six and Seven: The One Where We Go Home

Tuesday saw another early start, as we had plans to be at Chena Hot Springs Resort. The reason we had to leave so early is that the road to...