I have finally gotten to sit for a moment to type on a computer... I tried to use my cellphone to blog, but I was not very successful! So, forgive me if this is a bit longer than usual...
The trip over to Germany can only be described as "interesting." Friday, July 4, was a beautiful day, and it was very hard to say goodbye to John and Joseph. I am not used to traveling without them, and three weeks is a long time to be away from them.
Those of you who know me, know I like to be prepared for anything and everything, so my new suitcase was more than a bit full. (OK, so it weighed almost twice the weight of Joseph, but who is counting! ) However, I started having second thoughts about what I had packed in the suitcase when I saw the other participants had really small suitcases! So, I quickly removed several items right there in Tamara's driveway, and I felt much better.
We had a quick and easy trip to Canada thanks to a friendly and chatty bus driver from St. Catherine's named Jules. He had a story for everything we passed, so we were entertained and informed on that leg of the journey.
My wonderful new suitcase got me again at the baggage check in. I was 2.5 kilos (about 6 pounds) over the weight limit, and I had the privilege of paying $130 more for my bag. I guess I should have been counting those pounds I put in it after all! But, we arrived at the airport very early to discover that Germany had won their soccer game, and this was great news for us -- Since our flight was on a German airline, we knew our crew would be in a good mood. It is important to have a happy flight crew at 40,000 feet above the ocean!
Well, the flight crew might have been the only happy ones on the trip across the Atlantic. The seats were unbelievably tight with almost no leg room, and I am only 5´5"! I could't imagine my friends, Nicole or Marge, on this flight since they are both over 6 feet. However, this was a cheap flight, and I guess you get what you pay for... and sleep was not included in the price! This flight allowed discounts for children, so it was full of families. By 11 PM, all of the lights were still on in the economy class (but off in first class because they paid more), the children were still awake, parents were walking the aisles with the kids, and the duty free carts were out with flight attendants selling cigarettes -- there was so much chaos, it would not have been unusual to see a chicken or a goat at that point! So, I think some families got as much as one hour of sleep before they started to serve breakfast. At least the breakfast of bread with a side of bread had bread... no that is not a typo. Bread is the official food of Germany, I think, and so it must be served in more than one form at every meal. Not that I am complaining, since I love bread, but gluten free wouuld be almost impossible in Germany. The flight lasted less than 6 hours, so that was great. We just didn't realize it would take almost as long as the flight to get the rental cars... After three hours of rental car hassles, it was good fun to drive on the autobahn where Germans drive so fast it would be funny if it wasn´t so scary! We also stopped at a rest area along the way, and they had a dessert bar in the rest stop that would make any restaurant jealous. Any country that values dessert as much as I do was already making a good impression on me!
Alas, we finally made it to Margret's lovely home for a delightful welcome drink and snack. Our hosts were waiting for us there, and it was so nice to finally met my host, Queri (pronounced Carrie), and all of the others. We enjoyed local pretzels and elderberry drink made from Margret's garden. It was wonderful to see Margret again.
Queri is so nice and friendly. She drove me to her incredible home in Lichtenstein about 40 minutes south of Stuttgart. I met her husband, Flo, and they showed me the amazing views of the Swabian mountains from their home. What a lovely village! A clock tower rings out the hours and the quarter hours for all to hear, and the flowers are in full bloom. Everywhere are nice gardens and beautiful homes. It is postcard picturesque!
We spent a nice evening with a light dinner, but by 10 PM, I was ready to take a shower and crash. But my suitcase had one more surprise... the shampoo I had packed so carefully in plastic and a zip lock bag had leaked in my suitcase and broken right through the plastic bag. I spent the next hour cleaning shampoo out of my shoes, clothes, and other items. The suitcase strikes again!
On Sunday, we enjoyed a leisurely European breakfast with meats, cheeses, bread (of course!), and Nutella. Any country that routinely serves chocolate for breakfast is alright with me! We went to the castle in Lichtenstein were Queri and Flo were married (imagine, Disney fans... a real castle for your wedding!). We travelled to a beautiful Catholic church in the area, and then were went to the only cave in Germany navigable by boat. And by boat, they mean a wooden row boat for less than 10 people that the guide navigates inside the cave with his hands! You had to duck down low just to get through it!
After our adventures, we were hungry, and we ended our day at Flo and Queri's favorite restaurant. The trout was fresh from the stream beside the cafe, and they served these creamy, cheesy potatoes that were the best I have ever had! If you are sensing a theme with food here, you would be correct. I am not going hungry in Germany!
I would like to write about the great days we had visiting schools on Monday and today, but now I must rest up for the big game between Germany and Brazil tonight. It won't begin until 10 PM here, and well, you couldn't sleep through it if you wanted to! Everyone is so excited, and you actually see German flags everywhere which Queri said never happens unless it is the World Cup.
Oh yes, and I still need to buy some shampoo!