Monday, August 22, 2011

The Trip Home: A Report Card

Our Itinerary: Stuttgart to Atlanta and Atlanta to Salt Lake. It was a good schedule, flying out at 11:00am and getting in at 9:00pm on the same day (flying back across 8 time zones too, so about 23 hours of travel door to door).

  • German taxi driver: A+. cheerful, knowledgeable, efficient and with candy for the kids
  • Stuttgart airport: C-. inefficient, poorly-designed, and not very helpful; had to show our passports 5 times in 5 different places. took 1 1/2 hours to process us from curb to gate. ugh.
  • Delta: B-. The flight attendants all looked "rid hard & put away wet" and the bare bones service just can't keep up with their [government subsidized] European counterparts with their dewy-skinned attendants, steaming towels, toys for the kids, and gourmet meals instead of astronaut food served in foil pouches. They got us there and did it on time, but it feels more and more like riding on a bus with a lot of rules.
  • German Family With Four Kids Who Sat Next To Us On The Flight: A++. Enjoy your time in the US. Hope everybody doesn't stare at you. Now move on -- you're making us look bad!
  • Atlanta airport: A. Clean, air-conditioned, and efficient. Managed to process our whole family through passport control, baggage claim, customs, baggage re-check and re-security in half the time of Stuttgart and even managed to make us laugh. Better than JFK, Dulles, Vienna, & Heathrow. Detroit and Atlanta are my new favorite airports.
  • Joss: B+. better than expected. played the iPad 70% of the time, slept about 15%.
  • MaddieWillSebi: A-. entertained themselves well even without personal screens and only started bashing each other and crying at the 20 hour mark.
  • Salt Lake Airport: A. Home! Full of big families, restrooms and drinking fountains! Yay! The only thing you could have done better was to lose our luggage (that is now our dream -- we make it and the suitcases don't -- then they have to deliver it to us! Ahhhh . . .).
  • SLC shuttle driver: C+. und ve vill gib him za EZ Bake Oven Avard for funcktioning on only ein lightbulb, very dim. But I guess one lightbulb is all you need to get us from SLC to Provo.
  • Our Renters: A+. the house is in great shape and the pets are happy
  • Our yardcare specialist: A. everything is green and huge and we have already harvested tomatoes, onions, zucchini, beets, basil and a wheelbarrow full of weeds
  • Jet lag: B-. Worse than usual; we're good at the staying up part, but still lacking in the sleeping part. I can't help noticing how much more I get done in a day when I wake up at 2:00am. If only I didn't walk into doorjambs.
  • Culture shock: B. Disposals, yay. Trampoline, yay. Mexican food, yay. Wii, yay. Friends, YAY! Family, YAY! "Pajama jeans, the pajamas you live in, the jeans you can sleep in." Whaaaaat?

Oh, crud. I'm home.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stocherkahn Ride in the Neckar

On our last day in Tübingen, we decided to go on a stocherkahn up the Neckar.
The seats are made by these three boards -- one across and two on the sides.
Just what the professor needed.

University students hanging out
Maddie tried out the stocherkahn
So did Sebastian, but it's a pretty high stakes game with the river so full of boats.
Joss wanted to stick his fingers in the water and "make bubbles".
Our great guide Felix. He gave us the wine, women, and Hölderlin tour of Tübingen.

Goodbye Tübingen!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Schwäbisch Hall

The kids went back to their day camp on Monday and Rob, Joss and I headed up to Schwäbisch Hall for another meeting with an internship provider. My mom has liked doors since she first came to Europe, and we've followed her lead and taken a lot of pictures of doors. I think this one is the Door With The Mostest 2011.
This is where Rob stayed when he came in 2005. He said you could drop a ball at one end of the room and it would roll to the other, it was so off kilter. As I recall, I had three kids in Vienna while he was away visiting his interns. I bought myself a great pair of shoes as payment.
This is where they have summer performances. Rob got to see one while he was here in 2005, but I am just imagining actors falling down the stairs in mid-dance.

Original Bratz dolls? Who knew?
I have heard that when Rob's mother came to pick him up, she had only one german word under her belt: niedlich, which means cute. She could have gotten pretty far here on niedlich. It was all niedlich.
Teeny tiny alley good only for drug deals. And being niedlich.
Joss got to pretend he was an only child and do things that he never gets to do.
Every time we turned around there was another picturesque view. Niedlich, niedlich, niedlich.
We crossed several covered bridges and made our way to the other side of the river. Sooo niedlich.
The Würth museum there had an outdoor installation by Niki St. Phalle and it was a Joss magnet because, as he said, they all had hidey holes.

Rob and I had actually seen a couple of her pieces in Balboa Park in San Diego in 2007. We wished the kids had been with us for 20 minutes to enjoy them; we got our wish today!

In the belly of the bear. After all of this climbing, we decided we were ready for lunch. We'd been choosy about a restaurant and then found out that it was 2:00pm and that everything closes in Schwäbisch Hall at 2:00pm. We walked back to the other side and found a place called Olli's
We chose well.
Very, very well.
Rob loved these colors together
And I loved these colors. Sehr niedlich. Joss was beginning to melt, so we made our way back to the car. We took a scenic route home through the Schwäbisch forest which was lovely. Then Helga the GPS frau, who had been acting weird all day, took us all the way to Esslingen instead of back home. I worked her over and told her who was in charge, but we ended up seeing Stuttgart's wine country too.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Heidelberg & Speyer

We got up in our quaint hotel and came downstairs to perhaps the most sensational breakfast we've ever had, and that is saying something. But we've never had a candlelit breakfast before, or one with personal jars of fruit salad and bottles of juice.
Rob and I had looked at the menu at the Weisser Bock, but the fixed price menu was waaaaay above our budget. Too bad, because it was all Spanish-German, and we are Spanish-German foodies if ever there were some. So at least we got the swank breakfast offerings.
The kids enjoyed it, but they probably would have picked Krispy Kremes or Count Chocula over the cold cuts and croissants and muesli if given the choice. We went to church at the LDS ward and had a good time. We came back with all of the students to this restaurant Rob had picked out the day before called Perkeo on the Haupstrasse:
Perkeo was a jester with a legendary drinking ability.
We had our own room and we got to order our own thing (usually for budgeting and serving ease, we all get the same thing). We had a calm, leisurely lunch.
I had a salad which is what I've needed after all of the pork and potatoes we've been eating! Maddie took Joss out to walk up and down the street while we settled the bill. The waitress asked what kind of a group we were. I suspect that in Heidelberg, renowned for students and drinking, a group of 30 ordering alkoholfrei was pretty noteworthy.
When Maddie and Joss returned sopping wet we realized that it was raining outside. Also that all of our umbrellas were in our luggage, a solid 8 blocks away. So we all got soaked getting to our luggage, then we split up trying to get our car, only the people at the parking lot didn't have the keys, so we all got even wetter and it took us another two hours to get the car, settle the bills at the hotel and the hostel and leave Heidelberg. They were not our best two hours; we shall leave it there.
But because we're gluttons for punishment, we decided to stop by Speyer. It was only 25 minutes away and had . . .
. . . everybody say it with me now, a rare three-aisle romanesque church! Only our third in a week!
To be fair, though, the Speyer cathedral is the most important of the three and by far the largest.
Sheer age and size impress -- this thing was started in 1021 and took 50 years to complete.
Speyer is where the Catholic parliaments were held for centuries and where in 1529 the mother of all protests (the one that spawned Protestantism) took place.

Sebi and Rob explored the crypt where emperors, kings and a whole slew of bishops are buried.
Outside there was a huge party going on. I have to say that Speyer had great street musicians: a guy on a xylophone playing Bach and Haydn, and a quintet playing La Cucaracha.
Joss was sleeping in the car, Maddie was reading the iPad, and we had these two with us. We bought them ice cream cones and sat them on these stairs while we tried to look around the Speyer altstadt.
There was too much party. As a woman in Reichenau said "That's a lot of mutton" and it was. Tourists are the very dumbest creatures, waddling down the street and bleating to each other.
But it was nice to see Speyer, the cathedral, and here we are -- our one drive by of the Rhine this trip. We drove home in a blaze of sibling-smacking screeching unhappiness, but the kids were as quiet as mice once we got back to their Tübingen house.