Well, this blog entry is a bit late in coming but we have been busy. Germany at Christmas cannot be matched. We flew into Bonn to visit the markets with Bethany and were not disappointed. On Saturday we woke early even after a late night arriving from the airport; this is an Avi trait. The local market areas of Boon opened at 10 and we were there soon after ready for snacks and shopping. The kids both surprised me with their interest in the shopping booths: we spent a long while looking at a metalwork shop, Zoe was fascinated by some coconut candles, and they both gazed long after my interest waned at those miniature town dioramas. Continue reading “Christmas Markets”
The kids and I drove up to Madrid this morning… deep into the heart of Madrid and the famous Museo de Prado. Parking in a nearby underground lot was surprisingly cheap and there was no line at 2pm when we arrived! I had read many a travel guide that said to expect huge queues, but not on this sunny day! Continue reading “Rembrandt and Ryan “
Yippee!! Germany finally feels like spring. So, we have crammed in all those fun outdoor adventures that we wanted to do last week. The first highlight was a great outdoor living history museum where we walked between local ‘villages’ to see the different styles of home and farm in the Rhine area. It was great! The weather held out and we got to explore a ton of old timey homes. The oldest was, I think, from 1411! I am fascinated by old fireplaces, so that held my attention. The kids loved running around the old homes and seeing chickens and pigs and farm stuff. They also seemed to dig on their wagon which I rented to drag them around with. Zoe dragged Avi between a few of the villages. It was a great time; felt very Hansel and Gretel walking between villages in the deep dark woods. We also had fun getting to know Walter, Bethany’s boyfriend. He, thankfully, drove us out to the place and joined us for the day!
Another fun day we spent at the local Drachenburg castle and ruins across the Rhine from Bonn. We took the train out and then rode a cog rail up the hill. Views from the top were great, if misty, because the warm sun was finally out!! The ruins were neat and the hike down hill to the more recently built castle was nice. Bethany hadn’t been here, yet, either so it was a fun exploration for all of us. The castle was super cool, and our combo ticket got us inside to poke around and wander the halls and interesting spiral staircases to odd rooms. After that, it was (of course) time for Bethany and I to sit and chat over a beer at an outdoor stall while the kids messed around with a cat that seemed to enjoy chasing a stick. The last attraction included in our ticket was the ‘dragon cave’ from the legend associated with the castle. Well, this was an ‘attraction’ – super cheesy, until we got to the reptile house. Here was the most active group of snakes I’ve ever seen. In fact, we got to watch a big ole snake shedding its skin!!! wild.
From the Drachenburg we took a train and bus back out to the Waldau park I visited with the kids earlier. Bethany wanted to see the baby wild pigs!! After some searching, they found her!! It was an awesome, but long day.
The local playground has also been one of our favorite places!! It’s a quick walk down around the corner near the grocery store.
We also went to the old part of town for a traditional German meal, followed by some yummy ice cream at an ice café! Germans know how to do fancy ice cream.
Lastly, we got tickets to a Yakari stage play. Yakari is a show about a Sioux boy that the kids have watched every episode of – Netflix just dropped it recently, however, which is a super bummer. It’s a great show. Zoe even dressed up for the event and got a free book!!
Finally it is sunny in Germany! So, we are out and about!!!
Thursday was actually kind of cold, so we went to the local history museum to learn all about Neanderthals, and cave man times, and Roman occupation. The museum was very classy, but had a super fun kids area that focused on cave-man life. There were clothes to try on, spears to throw, and a giant play table to pretend to hunt.
The kids and I took a local bus out to a big forest park called Waldau on Friday. The highlight was a giant playground, and it seemed all the locals were there with the same idea. All the stores and even most restaurants were closed Friday for good Friday. The kids played and romped in the playground for hours, and there were, thankfully, enough other kids to let them have fun apart. I think they are getting tired of being together 24/7…. fighting and arguing. So, Zoe found a pack of girls to pal around with for a while and Avi played with another boy at the sand-dumper for a long time.
Eventually, Zoe noticed some goings-on over the fence and crawled over to join other kids making forts and shelters with some recently felled huge pine trees. She was so focused and spent a long time on this shelter, only asking me to help her carry some of the larger logs. It was fun to see her in her element.
After that we ate our packed lunch and wandered over to the forest animals enclosure. Well, we attempted to go over there. Avi had a complete tired-man breakdown over this. He did not want to walk, his feet “hurt”, his legs were ‘bung’, all of it. He even sat on the trail and screamed! The Germans were kind of in awe, I’m sure. It was a fantastical performance, and when we finally got to the not-far wild boars he thought they were super cool. There were even stripey little babies! The bus ride home was nice and relaxing, and we all took a long nappy nap.
On Saturday, we took a walk to the big local toy store. 4 floors of toy gloriousness. I gave each kid 5 Euro to spend, and they took an hour to explore every nook and cranny and make a choice. Zoe picked a playmobil girl with kitties. Avi chose a cool matchbox-style city tram like the ones we’ve been riding.
In the afternoon, after the rain dissipated, Walter drove us all to a super neat living-history museum. It was laid out like tiny villages with real old homes to walk around and explore. The oldest was from around 1400! The villages represented different Rhineland regional styles and walking between them, through the forest felt like going around the deep dark woods of a Grimm tale. I loved examining the fireplaces, while the kids liked just running around the place and seeing chickens and horses and pigs. It was so enjoyable! A bit cold, but sunny and nice. It was also a fun time to hang out with Walter and Bethany!
Other than that, we’ve been enjoying the local playground and had a fun German food evening out at a local restaurant downtown. Bethany lives in the Altstadt – the old town – near the old walking-only streets full of shops and restaurants and the outdoor markets. It’s lovely.
This Easter we are in Germany visiting Aunt Beppy! So, the kids had fun decorating her traditional German Easter tree. We also blew out eggs (made a frittata!) and dyed the shells. Then we decorated them with sparkles and ribbons. This time of year is pretty here with lots of daffodils, tulips and hyacinth bulbs blooming and for sale everywhere!
On Easter morning, the kids woke to find a few things from the easter bunny: a clue to lead them to their treats, and tickets to Phantasialand! Zoe was quick to start the scavenger hunt for her easter basket. The rhyming clues were fun to figure out; it even took her to Bethany’s basement storage unit! She finally found her basket featuring a white chocolate bunny this year. When it was Avi’s turn, his picture clues led him around the apartment. His basket was in the washer!
After some candy for breakfast, we walked to the train station for a quick trip to Phantasialand. This is a great amusement park!! We had a blast riding the rides and exploring. it seemed crowded at times, but lines weren’t long for the kiddo rides we do. Avi’s favorites were the 3-d Chocolate Mouse ride where we rode through a video game shooting mice with chocolate. He also LOVED the Crazy Hotel – it was a classy fun house complete with a final slide out. Lastly, he rode with Bethany twice on the Hollywood tour – its a cheesy, OLD, boat ride through scenes from movies.
Zoe seemed to favor the coasters, as always. She went twice on the dark indoor Temple of the Night Hawk, which is much like Disney’s space mountain, but completely DARK! It turned my stomach, so Bethany rode with her the second time. She also loved the Mountain Train coaster – which Avi also could ride, but hated. It was too much for him… went through a dark tunnel.
After some snacky lunch we decided to chill out watching an ice-skating show, which was wonderful. But, in the middle of it, the power went out and emergency lights came on. We were ushered outside to find the entire park out of electricity! There were people hanging on the super fast coaster…so we were lucky to not be on a ride, or in a claustrophobic line. There was no freaking out, though, but also no public announcements…a lot of people left. We bided some time with a walk around the lake and play in the labyrinth playground.
While in the labyrinth, Avi had to go poo and couldn’t find his way out! I went to the lookout and helped navigate him and then picked him up (assuming he was poo filled and didn’t want to squish it past his undies) and ran to the bathroom quite a distance away. Well, he was surprisingly clean with only a tad on his undies; I let him finish his business, wiped him up, and let him go commando for the rest of the day. Of course, Phantasialand has fancy motion-sensor faucets, but with the power out they wouldn’t work!!! So, that is stupid! I know people don’t like touching a regular public toilet faucet, but better that than not being able to wash hands….ewwww!!
The power came on not long after (and we washed hands), which meant a great evening of rides with fewer people. The park even stayed open an extra hour. The last thing we did was watch the big finale ‘end of the day’ show – which is at dinnertime since the place closes early. Well, this show was goofy! It was like watching amateur hour or something – there were actors half-assed play fighting and then standing around watching some hot men tumble. But, there was little showmanship to it. It was like, a guy would do a trick, and then stand and bow for an applause. Like a talent show or gymnastics recital. Maybe I’m spoiled with all the Korean flare for entertainment, lights, costumes and music, but this was funnily thrown together. All in all, an odd and humorous end to a wonderful day with Bethany and the kids!!
The last two times I visited Bethany in Germany it was spring break and Easter time. The weather was beautiful, warm, and sunny. I suppose I just figured that was spring here. Not so. This go around … after getting here via space-a from korea, no less …. The weather is crappy. It’s not just cold and windy and rainy, it’s also apparently impossible to predict.
Today I loaded up the kids and we biked over to Bethany’s school just in time for lunch. We had spaghetti and a souvlaki-type dish with german-y yogurt and salad. Pretty good. Zoe was then invited to join the Kindergarten class for their egg hunt after nap and library time. So, she stayed in the library with Aunt Bethany to color and read books while I took the hour break to bike over to OBI with Avi – we needed to exchange a part for the stroller I”m attempting to fix. It was quite the bike ride…back past Bethany’s apartment and returned – 7km roundtrip at full speed was tiring with Avi in the kid seat. He and I returned just in time to see Zoe and the other’s run amok in the playground looking for candy. It was fun – they had all brought in their interpretation of a basket. So there were bread baskets, cups with handles, felt bags, and cans….not a giant American-style Easter basket in sight. Zoe had a makeshift one from a decorative tin and piece of string Bethany had in the library and fit right in. This afternoon we’re finalizing things and packing for our big trip!
This morning Zoe went on a long bike ride with me following in the stroller. She did amazing following the bike rules, dinging when she wanted to go around someone (usually me), pulling over for others, and crossing the street. In fact, she was having so much fun we decided to collect flowers to press and just kept biking until we made it to the ‘far away’ big playground. We played for a while. Avi was asleep in the stroller almost the whole time, so it was nice to get just some mommy – Zoe time. The return trip went quicker since she knew the way. She got going quite fast a few times I had to run to keep up…especially down under the bridge and back up the other side. We ended up out for 3 hours! After some lunch – since we were starving – we took the tram over to the big grocery store at the mall and back.
Our Merebe Korean stroller has served us well. The back wheel, however, got pretty busted so I took it apart and the ‘axle’ is bent! The guys on the airplane or all the cobblestone must’ve done a number on it. I can’t bend it back. I think I can replace it with a nut and bolt, but the wheel itself is also broken and cracked apart which I’ll fix with superglue. Guess it’s a trip to the OBI! In the meantime, and because I’m not convinced it will be safe after I fix it, I got a new (to me) stroller at a German second-hand store. It is super super super nice!!! Not only do the wheels actually rotate when needed, but the locking mechanism works too….amid a whole ton of other perks. Doesn’t seem used at all save for a bit of a stain. Diminishes my motivation to fix the other one. I guess that was Zoe’s….maybe Avi deserves his own stroller.