Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Week Eleven: Heidelberg!

Okay. So. Monday. Roadtrip! Huzzah! Day trip, really, but we went to Heidelberg. Heidelberg is a really old university city. Apparently, royalty used to live here. This being Europe, that actually no longer impresses me.

How sad is that? Jaded to the fact that royalty once stood upon-

Okay, so that was never that impressive. Most dead people aren't. I mean, seriously? They are dead. So we're on our way to Heidelberg. We cross a really big river, possible the Rhine, as we were in the Rhine Valley at the time.

The 'Rh' really should be replaced by a 'W' by the way. If you want to see vineyards full of grapes for wine, come to the Rhineland. They stretch for miles are are truly a beautiful site. If a bit confusing what with the flat bushes and such.

Either way it was tons of fun, and ended up in a new came that the littlest and I came up with. It has no name, so now I dub it... the 'name-everything-in-sight' game. It's very self explanatory. The goal is to name everything in sight. The worn corn was mentioned a lot. Most amusing is when there was a break in the corn for long grass, normally with bales of hay in it. This resulted in a confusing shout of 'Hay!' Homonyms are tricky things. Because the littlest would shout hay and I'd turn to see what she wanted.

We kept this up for fifteen minutes. It was the longest fifteen minutes of my father's life. Had he and the others merely joined in, they would have had as much fun as we did. Though the game sounds ridiculously stupid, it's actually tons of fun.


So. German parking.

Yeah. The streets were originally meant for horses people. There is little to no street side parking. Do not make me laugh. I have soda at hand and my poor computer has enough problems as it is. This means an underground garage and walking across town to the castle. That's not a big deal, and there was a lot to see along the way.

Then it was up the hill to the castle! Yay! The hill was pretty steep by the way, which was kind of amusing. I had a lot of fun watching my family slowly climb behind me. I stopped often. They didn't keep up. I didn't think I was going that fast, but. Eh.

Anyway, the view from the castle was absolutely amazing. By that, I mean that I haven't seen such a beautiful sight in ages. Heidelberg lies along the Necker River on both sides of its banks. It's really old and wasn't destroyed in the World Wars at all apparently. In otherwords, this is a piteresque European city that looks like it ought to be in a...darn it, I will not get thrown right back into the 'I'm in a movie' phase of being in Europe. But it is that gorgeous.

The castle itself is highly interesting. The inside was closed to the public for something or another. Probably renovations, or support work like many castles tend to have going on fairly constantly. From some pictures in a guide book it's gorgeous, however the outside was beautiful enough for me. Between the view and the coliseum style wall with statues of his 'ancestors' I was highly impressed. All the names were rendered in Latin of course, which made reading them fun. Another display had statues of other famous beings. I noticed David of the bible, Hercules, Justice, the Virgin Mary and a host of other mythological and biblical characters. They seem to go hand in hand in this town, as there is a statue of the Virgin Mary holding Baby Hercules. I kid you not. I thought it was Jesus, but apparently, it was Hercules. The things you learn.

Apparently, the castle is the home to the world's largest wine barrel also. It's about three stories high, has a small 'dance floor' on top and is held inside the cellar. There's a second large barrel that is small, but also in the cellar and probably at least 15 feet high. Do you think they were compensating? Maybe they just liked wine a lot. Who knows?

Inside the castle is also a museum of pharmacies and their history. Odd, but not too bad. It was generally okay. I didn't actually find this that interesting, except that Bayer, which is still around, apparently invented aspirin in 1909. That means the heads of that company are fairly intelligent.

So after our examination of the castle was complete, one of my goals in life was partially fulfilled, as we rode a train down the mountain. Okay, so it was more like a pulley operated train than anything else. I kid you not. It apparently goes all he way up the mountain, but that was higher than the castle. We only found this out when we were on our next stop...the ferry! That's right we rode a ferry up and down the Necker river, though we didn't go through the locks to the upper part of the river, and it was raining, the the top most deck was closed.

But that didn't matter. The view was still gorgeous and as we went up and down the river we saw so many beautiful sights that a girl can't help but be happy. I loved it. We saw parts of the local university, the most interesting mansions I've ever seen, and went under two or three bridges. Graffiti in Germany remains a beautiful and elaborate form of art that I find I don't really mind. Someone had created a graffiti mural. It was beautiful and had kayakers, birds, and so much else as a part of it.

I loved it.

So afterward, we headed home, but it was the end of a beautiful and wonderful day. I wouldn't mind going to Heidelberg again, and spending more time at the castle. Maybe they'll even let us inside?

One Final Byte: Rain is a constant companion in this country.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Week Ten: The Birds

Week Ten: Birds

Okay, so not much happened this week, other than discovering that my swimsuit and swan dives just down mix. Oops! But there is something still to discuss. Birds.

No really! You haven't seen a bird until youve seen a German bird. It's like...huge. The bird here are either small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, or as big as my forearm. Like there's magpies.

Everyone knows about magpies. They're the ones that like shiny things and will take them if they spot them and add them to their little nest. There have been stories about magpies.

Let me tell you, before, I thought magpies were tiny bird. The palm size ones. Oh heck no!

It's a monster! It's sea-gull size, and not those wimpy little parking lot seagulls wither. It's basically the size of a cat. This is not a joke. Magpies are huge black and white words that I imagine a certain yorkie-poo I know running away from. I would run from it!

It's not just the magpies. I'm not certain whether the black birds are crows or ravens, but they are equally huge. It's like god super sized the German birds.

Mind you, there are smaller birds too. Small brown ones with pointed wing tips that are like arrows when they fly. I don't know what these are, but I'm pretty certain they have horrible eyesight. Why do I think this? Well.

There's this bird.

It's not very bright bird.

And there's this door.

It's a sliding glass door.

It's smudged, and has fingerprints and scratches.

It is not a windex door.

And every two weeks, this small brown bird flies right into it, without fail. Once it flew inside and back out again in shock. The sound made? CLUNG! Yes, I am serious. CLUNG!

It's fun to be in the room when the bird does that, but I can't imagine that the bird much enjoys it. Though I still think it's kind of funny.

So, there you have it. German birds. Either big, terrifying, and cat sized, or small and slightly stupid.

Also, as a side note, the town I live in has no stray dogs, but it does have half a dozen exceeding clever stray cats that like to use our yard as a street. And the birds avoid these cats, every the really huge ones. This makes me feel somewhat better about myself.

One Final Byte: I would never ever mess with a magpie.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Week Nine: Independence Day Holiday

Week Nine: End of Month Two Holiday?

How to start, how to start? This past week has been so eventful, I had to jot down notes! Only a word or two, and not even full sentences, but I filled up a page. Okay, so hm. Well, okay. Yeah, I don't know.

Okay, so first off, most of this week was fairly boring. Other than a jaunt out to the pool not much happened...until Monday! On Monday, we left the house about as early as our family leaves for anything. That is, an hour later than we swore we would. Vacations huh?

Where were we going?


(That's a theme park by the way.)

Europa is kinda of like Disney excellent without the characters. It exists solely as a theme park, and while they have 'princesses' and a mouse's got nothing on Disney. However it has a lot of the same types of rides with the same types of themes.

The Epcot center space mountain ride was there. No joke. I was amused by the similarities. Anyway, we were there for seven hours and had a blast! It rocked, though the fourteen-year-old and I kept getting in the line for the wrong ride.

This resulted, amusingly enough, on me going on a huge roller coast with a giant drop and at one point I was completely sideways. Did I mention that my feet weren't long enough to touch the floor of the roller coaster cart? No? Because they weren't, and I was terrified and could barely walk at the end. The man next to me thought it was hilarious. It was like I had sea legs and was trying to walk on land! Apparently even coming out I looked frightened.

And yet I loved every second of it.

Amusingly, there are never picture of me on a roller coaster doing the whole hand in the air thing. The terrify me but at so much fun I can't help myself. Though that was not the one I was looking for. The one I was looking for was much calmer.

So after a long day at the park, we headed to a European hotel. Now, I have heard horror stories from Americans about European hotels. They're too small, they're cramped, they lack in this and that.

I don't know I liked it. The beds were not as wide as an American twin sized bed. In fact, there was one 'twin' bed pushed against a wall, and two twin beds pushed together to form a larger one. The room was slightly smaller, but didn't feel it, because the beds weren't behemoths. The TV, which worked just fine, was small, maybe a 12" TV.

The complimentary soap and shampoo came in liquid form ina dispenser attached to the wall, so there was no taking it home with you. Oh, and you were expected to scrub the toilet bowl if you made a mess of it. There was what we would call a wardrobe, but they call a schrank, and in it was a small safe. No fridge, microwave, coffee pot or dresser.

So it was smaller, and there was less. But it was all perfectly fine to me. And breakfast was included with your room at this particular hotel/restaurant. If there hadn't been a restaurant attached however, there probably wouldn't have been a complimentary breakfast.

So after getting fast to sleep and waking up the next day, we put the blankets back how we found them. (folded and sideways. Huh?) After having gotten everything together, and eaten breakfast, it was discovered..I had left the room key. In my suitcase. In my room.

Oops! So we had to be let in to grab our things. We found the key pretty quickly, and we were off!

Onwards, to Treiberg, two hours away and home to the House of 1000 Clocks! It is an apt name. There were tons of hand made clocks there, the wood hand carved, and the vaste majority of them were cuckoo clocks of course. They were all quite gorgeous. But the fun part fo that day was the hike to the end of the town to see the waterfall.

I should like to note that just walk through the city was a hike in and of itself, as it lies in the foothills of the Alps, which are roughly the size of the Appalachian mountain in the US. The foothills are, that is. They are Very Large, and also Very Gorgeous, and we were right in the heart of the Black Forest, which made it all so much better.

I know you've heard of the Black Forest. Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and an assortment of other Grimm Fairy Tales were based in this Forest. It's named because in parts, the sunlight doesn't penetrate the canopy of leaves. This is highly believable. I suspect if there hadn't have been a hiking trail, where the trees had been cut down, that where we were would have been just as dark.

So we hiked up to see the waterfall, and by up, I do mean up. About a mile's worth of steep trail. We lost the step mother about half the way through, and the fourteen-year-old kept up...though she stopped an awful lot. Meanwhile, myself and the littlest forged ahead! There was no stopping us, until we came to the end, and would have had to pay more to go higher.

Daddy, who had been hanging back with the fourteen-year-old refused. Oh okay. So we went back down, and began to trip home.

Oh there's so much else I could say. Like Europa's mouse mascot crept me out. I'm not certain why. Perhaps because it wasn't Mickey? And that I loved the drive through the Black Forest to get to Treiberg, because it reminded me of where I grew up and the Rocky Mountains all at the same time. It was gorgeous. And we say a pink bus on the way, tons of cows and horses, and so many things.

We traveled over the Rhine and over the Maine. We saw so many sights and so many things, but if I include them all, then I'll never finish the blog. Who knows, maybe next week I'll cover some of what else I saw too.

We'll see!

One Final Byte: Next time, we are so bringing a picnic basket.