August 10, 2017

Deutschland - eins Tag

Earlier this year I got a bee in my bonnet to do a family vacation, just Sassy, Chunky and I, which we haven't done in 6 years so long overdue. I asked each cherub to name three places in the U.S. they'd like to visit - I got six distinctly different places. Then I asked each to pick one from the other's list. I wasn't super stoked about either of their choices - Colorado and Alaska - so I was back to square one thinking of someplace we'd all want to visit. The answer was easy - Germany. We have German heritage on my father's side and paternal side of my kids' father, plus Sassy speaks German (high school and college). I knew it wouldn't be cheap, but it's a big, great world out there and I was really hoping for a special cultural family experience. I started with plane tickets and planned the rest over four months ... 8 nights, 8 cities and one rental car.

We left for Frankfurt via short layover in D.C. I upgraded our seats to be in our own row with bulkhead seating behind midsection bathrooms. We planned to go to sleep right after dinner was served to arrive ready to hit the ground. Unfortunately, none of us got more than a couple hours of sleep - airplane noise and seated position are not ideal conditions.

We arrived about 7:30am local time, tired but anxious to begin exploring. We knew the forecast called for rain, but were undeterred. We decided to head for the hotel to see if we could check in early. I had a funny feeling when we got stuck at the airport exit after picking up the rental car. We had to call for help and it took several minutes to straighten out - a technical glitch, not user error, but foreshadowed the next two and a half hours. The rental car was manual transmission (stick) and there was no display anywhere on the dash or nav of what gear I was in. I just kept watching the RPM gauge and feeling the gears shift. We got on an autobahn road according to iPhone directions to the hotel and were arguing about whether we missed a turn when all of a sudden there was a strong odor and the car would not shift at all - we were coasting on a 60+ km/hr road with a huge truck flashing its lights close behind us! In the pouring rain! After several attempts to move (car started but would not engage a gear), a service call, polizei call (two cute policemen!), waiting on the side of a busy road for over an hour in the rain, tow, and new rental car (automatic) we were on our way. I have no idea if I'll be charged for the tow and service - though a little rusty, I learned to drive and have had several cars with a stick shift, plus had made it onto the autobahn without issue so though a new car there was obviously something wrong.

Third time was the charm for finding the hotel which is in an area close to the airport so new it doesn't register on GPS yet. Thankfully we could check in early (before 11:30am) and the clerk took pity on us after hearing of our ordeal so gave us free shuttle tokens so we could leave the car for sightseeing. We took the hotel shuttle back to the airport to catch a regional train to city center (€10 for all day multi person pass). It was only a short walk from the train station to historic old town. There we visited Römerberg (former city hall plaza) as well as St. Nicholas (medieval Lutheran) and St. Bartholomew (gothic Catholic) churches. This area was largely destroyed by Allied bombing on March 22, 1944 - photographs and preserved building fragments / reliefs are displayed throughout. St. Bartholomew's is also called Kaiserdom as it was used for crowning many kings. Chunky and I both lit candles, I sat in a pew and said a prayer, and we casually walked the stations of the cross to marvel at the architecture.

We ate late lunch/dinner at a traditional restaurant in the plaza - onion soup, cheese plate, bread and beverages. The decor was kitschy medieval. The most fun was overhearing and talking to other travelers - conversations at every table are fair game for commentary from fellow patrons. One gentleman was Canadian on holiday from his job in Japan en route to Austria and Croatia, while another couple were on holiday from Italy.

Jet lagged we returned to the hotel where my cherubs have been asleep for nearly 7 hrs already and it's 12:30am. The plan for tomorrow is early breakfast at the hotel then south to Heidelberg and Karlsruhe. Hoping my prayers earlier today are answered for the rest of the trip.

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