Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Smith Family European Vacation--Days 3 and 4
The good news about day 3 is that I slept all the way through the night, and so did all my kids. Yes!!! Jet lag is the worst, so it feels great to be back on a better schedule.
The other great news is that we had my very favorite breakfast cereal in the world on Tuesday morning--Chocos. Aaron and I (and perhaps Brendan got a diluted dose by nursing) first fell in love with Chocos when we were living in Germany for the summer in 1995. I am really not a treat cereal lover, but Chocos are very, very chocolatey, and not too sweet. They turn your milk deliciously chocolatey, too. Mmmmm, mmmmm, good. They are not sold in America. We may have to stuff a few boxes in our suitcase.
We decided to drive into Munich and go to the Deutches Museum. It purports to be the largest Science and Technology Museum in the world. It was HUGE. We have been to the Smithsonian and various other science museums around the world, and this was definitely the most daunting. We probably only skimmed through about 1/2 of it. They had whole boats in here, for goodness sake.
The most impressive exhibit was a mining exhibit. It was a warren of chambers and tunnels. It literally took 20 minutes to just walk through (with kids like Lukas and Sawyer, who are 8 and 5 respectively--we don't exactly get to stand around and read every placard). It went up and down four or five levels and was very, very impressive. By the time we finally got out of the dark labyrinth, I felt relief that is probably only surpassed by real coal miners after a hard day's work underground.
We spend a lot of time at the "Kinder Reich" (children's kingdom). The human-sized hamster wheel and extra-big Legos were a big hit. Lucy was a big fan of the kid-sized toilets and sinks in the bathroom ("They're so cuuuute..." she cooed when she saw them). After spending 6 or so hours there, including a suprisingly good lunch at the museum cafeteria, we went home. Aaron's parents arrived, and we all sat down for a traditional German dinner of "Abendbrot." Germans tend to eat their main meal at lunch, and just have a light meal of bread, cheeses, lunch meat and vegetables for dinner.
After dinner, I did some laundry in our impossibly small washing machine. Granted, I have an impossibly large washing machine at home, but I would probably have to do laundry all day long if we lived here just to keep up. Then I relaxed. The rest of the family played a vicious game of Settlers of Catan.
My favorite quote of the day was from Sawyer. We had just visited the museum gift shop, where he had bought an over-priced suction cup ball. As we were walking back to the car, he showed his shopping bag to Brendan and said knowingly, "This is what I wasted my money on today."
Day 4 was our Bavarian castle day. We got to see three castles all lived in or built by Ludwig II--Linderhof, Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. It was amazing to see their opulence and marvel at the artistry involved, especially given that so much of it was done by hand. We had a delicious lunch at a hotel restaurant near Schloss Linderhof, which included the very best Apfel Strudel I have ever eaten, bar none.
The kids' favorite part was taking a carriage ride up to Neuschwanstein. And during the carriage ride, their favorite part was when the horses, shall we say, broke wind. All the kids Sophie and younger giggled and giggled. Silly kids. They were also impressed when I was able to ask the driver what the horses' names were and tell them what he said in reply (Mary and Murrri. They were a matched pair of mother and daughter). Granted, that's about where my German ends these days. We've watched a little German TV, and the only show where I didn't feel completely lost was when we were watching the kiddie show "Caillou." So I guess that means I'm about a 3-year-old here.
But most of all, what I've noticed the last few days is just how beautiful the Bavarian countryside is. I am exactly half German and half English, and I get the same feeling when I drive in the country in England. It may be that both these places are objectively beautiful, but I think it is somehow deeper than that. I think that something deep in my DNA recognizes this land and feels some sense of belonging here. At any rate, it is gorgeous just to drive from one place to another.
Unfortunately, on the way home, we missed a turn. I decided to do a U-turn on the deserted country road and pulled slightly onto the shoulder to give myself a wider turn radius. Our right wheels immediately sunk 10 inches into the soft mud which was covered by only 1 inch of what I thought had been sturdy gravel. We put branches under our wheels and tried to get out, but no dice. After about 10 minutes of spinning our wheels and pushing (and just as panic started to set in), a truck stopped, and three orange-jumpsuit clad men jumped out. Two of the three immediately lit up cigarettes, and then, with cigarettes dangling from their mouths, they go to work. First they (and Aaron and Brendan) tried to push us out. When they realized that was futile, they attached some straps to our car and pulled us out. We gushingly thanked them. They waved aside our thanks, hopped into their car and sped off.
Since we were back on the road, we made one more stop before we went home: a lovely church in the village of Wies ("Wieskirche"). It was hauntingly silent inside and very, very lovely. It was a gorgeous end to our day.