European wrap

Trip Start Sep 28, 2010
Trip End Oct 06, 2010

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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Friday, October 8, 2010

It's our next to last day in Europe (Wednesday, Oct. 6) and I'm  starting this post riding and typing in the car as Tim drives us south to visit Schloss Neuschwanstein,  a castle built in 1869-86 for Bavarian King Ludwig II. 

I usually get motion sickness from reading while in the car, so we'll see how this goes as I try to recap this trip.
Germany shares its border with nine countries. Denmark is to the north. Poland and the Czech Republic are to the east. France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland are to the west and Austria and Switzerland are to the south.

There are 16 states in Germany and we started our European journey in the capital city Munich, located in the state of Bavaria, where we flew in on Wednesday, Sept. 29 from a direct flight out of San Francisco. We left Munich on Friday, Oct. 1 for Prague. We stayed Friday night and Saturday (Oct. 2) night in Prague, Czech Republic and left Prague on Sunday, Oct. 3 for Dresden, Germany. Along the way to Dresden, we went to Poland for lunch and spent Sunday night in Dresden. On Monday, Oct. 4, we toured around Dresden and left for Wuppertal, Germany and stayed until Wednesday when we left to head back to Munich. 

Wuppertal is located in northwestern Germany and is the home of Bayer aspirin. Carmen tells us that this area of Germany is the most populated in the country. We had a really nice time visiting with Bruce, Carmen, Lizanne and Edda ... and Mango!  

At 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6, we are driving in Southern Germany towards Munich and our last night in Germany.  On the way, we drove through Ulm, the birthplace of Albert Einstein. We arrive back in Munich at 6:55 p.m. to check into our hotel. The Oktoberfest ended on Oct. 4 and prices for accommodations in the city have dropped dramatically. The last place we stayed in Munich was near the Oktoberfest grounds and this time we've opted for a hotel in the middle of the city center near the Marienplatz.

Germany is not so convenient with its Internet access. I realize just how spoiled we are in the USA. I also realize that it could be the same boat for Germans when they come to the USA. Not so convenient. Bottom line for us ... we could connect in the Czech Republic and Poland easier than we could in Germany. The delay on this posting is because once we arrived back to Munich and to our hotel, we did not have convenient Internet access so I'm writing this recap on this 11 plus hour flight back to San Francisco.

It's 7:39 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7 Munich time and I'm fully aware of how enjoyable this Lufthansa direct flight from Munich to San Francisco is. I'm feeling just completely content and relaxed. As I'm looking up at the screen above my seat, I see that we are flying over the Norweigen Sea. I always feel good when I'm in the know. I then turn to watch and listen to a show on the screen in front of my seat about what's happening with Europe and space. Oh ... I've also already enjoyed a snack, a dinner, some drinks, some cribbage, nice chats with folks sitting to my left and a trip to the bathroom downstairs where I got a little stretching exercise action in on the handrails. It's quite a nice flight. It makes me ask the question ... why are American airlines so much more lacking? I realize I'm on an international flight ... but surely, it's not only that. 

It's now 7 hours and 37 minutes until we reach our final destination. I had a great time. I love to travel. Traveling makes me want to travel more. There's so much to see. It's pretty cool to go out in the world and see the origins of where our country got its roots and influences. I can see it when I travel. 

In Germany, sausages and pretzels and beer reign and the translation into American cuisine is obvious to most, I would think. I think the Germans walk more, though;) You just can't eat that without exercising and stay thin. 
The Oktoberfest was great fun to experience. If you love cute outfits, beer, roller coasters and rides, dancing, sausage, pretzels, loud music, history, games and I'm sure more that I'm leaving off this list ... I'm sure it would be worth at least a visit to you. Ok, really it's the great great grandmomma/poppa of the amusement parks we have today. Except at this amusement park, you can drink when you're 16.

In the Czech Republic, there was a lot of stimulation. Once we rolled into town and were greeted by the police welcome wagon and then the steady 24 hour blocks solid eye candy yum yum and then the welcome out of town wagon and the out of town out of town you're welcome to leave wagon and the driving through the ditch and slip to Poland ... well, how could you not look back upon that fondly;)
Prague is eye candy and I'm talking about the kind that's not moving. In fact, it has been frozen in time. The buildings are the beauties here and you can't take a peep without taking them in, in all their glory. Prague is just a place to behold.

In Poland, I got the opportunity to experience what I felt like it must have been to live there back in the day ... and this is not back in the day and has not been for 20ish years. Don't know if that makes sense ... that border town felt like there was no joy. When I was a little kid, that's what I remember thinking it must have felt like for people who lived in communism during the Cold War. 

Munich is a great city. I am happy to report that after our adventures since we left the city roughly a week ago with our rental car, we survived a spin/three country European road vacation. And more ... we checked into our hotel in Munich for our last night in Germany, walked down the street and found some sweet deals on a dirndl and lederhosen. The Oktoberfest ended on Oct. 4. Oh yea ... like everywhere it seems, the bargains are always to be had after the event. Makes sense and woot! I'm stoked. After taking our fashion scores back to the hotel, we walked down the Marienplatz to take some pictures and find some food. We ended the night in our hotel lounge listening to a German Elvis impersonator who branched out into playing some Lou Reed, Prince, Eric Clapton Johnny Cash and Lionel Richie, among others. That was unexpected and bit bizarre. He was pretty good and it seemed like he had a good gig going on.

As I was thinking over the trip last night as I was in bed (Wednesday, Oct. 6), I told myself that I wanted to point out the things in Europe that I found to be of what I would call of notice or as my father would say: different:)

The beds ... 
It is what appears to be the norm in Germany as far as bedding goes ... Two twin beds pushed together with individual sheeting and bedding. There is a fitted sheet on both twin beds and then the beds are pushed together and there is no sheet over the fitted sheet. Instead, there is what I would describe as a thick comforter that is the size of the twin bed. The twin comforter is folded in half and then turned and placed on top of the bed. That is duplicated on both twin beds. I have to say, I rather like it. The beds in Germany were so comfortable. I have to give them an A plus for what they have going on with that.

WC ...
Oh yes. I can't leave out the public bathrooms. At a gas station that we went to in Germany, I had to insert 50 cents in euros in order to enter the bathroom. I had to take a ticket that popped out before I entered the bathroom or WC as they are called in Germany and then insert the ticket into a machine on my way out to exit the bathroom. Pay to pee. I must say ... that bathroom was the cleanest public restroom I've ever been in.

Thoughts on Americans ... 
After going through check in to head back to San Francisco from Munich, we go through our first security area, customs and then after a second security screening area, we went to an area restaurant/bar near our gate. I was standing in line to order and this English fellow behind me was talking on his cell phone. He was loud enough for me (and I'm sure anyone within a 10-foot-distance) to hear his conversation. At one point, he pretty much told the person on the other end of the line that he was standing in line at an inferior place because "everyone hates the Americans." He was mentioning that he was annoyed with having to go through the extra security. I could go on here but I'll skip to another story that tells the opposite. On our second night in Munich, we met two English pilots who flew a private plane for a Russian billionaire. Their plane was being repaired and they were staying in the same hotel as we were. They told us how they loved the U.S. and had lived there for a little while. Opinions ... we've all got them:)

Being a stranger in a strange land ... 
When you go somewhere that you have never been or rarely been to, it's unfamiliar. It's really a humbling experience. Not knowing the language of where you are traveling can be a disadvantage. It can also be exciting. For me, it allows me to relate to people who don't have a mastery of English that are living in the U.S. Trying to learn the language of the country you are visiting feels empowering when it helps you to better communicate. Even if you are butchering the language, as I'm sure I've done most of the time here, I think the locals still appreciate the effort. Heck, if you don't try, you won't get any better ... at anything. I have no doubt that knowledge is power. I think most of us strive to learn more everyday. I now know how to ask where the bathroom is and a very few other words and I'd love to show you but ... this is not a spoken word medium and I know that I don't know how to spell that phrase correctly ... yet.

Another part of the trip that stood out was our visit with Tim's family. They have such a nice family and it was really great to be able to visit with them and experience German life for a few days. I thought they were a very inspirational family. A really nice and talented family. 

Creepy criminals ...
Tim and I had stopped into a little local watering hole near our hotel on our first couple of nights in Munich. While there, someone pointed out this man who they said had been to prison in Germany for killing a police officer. We were telling this story to Tim's brother Bruce while we were visiting him in Wuppertal and he told us that the man probably got no more than 10 years in prison for that. Strangely enough, while we were there an e-mail came in from a family member telling the story of how a cousin of Bruce's living in Montana had been kidnapped this past week. Luckily, the incident ended without violence and the kidnapper was caught. He's now facing a $250,000 fine and life in prison.

PastNowFutureGreening ...
I noticed how well many areas we traveled to in Europe were able to incorporate new businesses into buildings that have been around hundreds of years and there was an abundance of solar panels on old houses and buildings as modern wind turbines spun along in the open fields along the roads we drove.

There is so much more I noticed and I'm sure that will pop into my head later. Until then ... auf Wiedersehen!
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JIm on

Another oddity in German hotels is that instead of body wash, soaps, shampoo, and conditioners, they simply have a single all purpose solution in a squeeze bottle.

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