Bad Windsheim and Nürnberg

We spent four days visiting the “bergs” of Bavaria: Nürnberg, Bamberg, Würzburg, and Rothenberg ob der Tauber, with a day in Munich on either end. We traveled with our good friends Danielle and Sylvain, who flew in from France to join us.  We stayed in the charming little town of Bad Windsheim:

Bad Windsheim

Bad Windsheim

We chose to stay there because it was centrally located to what we wanted to see, and also because my friend Niki used to live there when her husband was stationed in the military nearby.

We rented a house off AirBnb and it was adorable. It had a patio where we sat every night to eat, or have a drink:

Sylvain and Kosta sample the schnapps.

Sylvain and Kosta sample the schnapps.

So. Nürnberg. It was the first city we visited and it was charming for all the notorious reputation is has received from the post WWII trials. We saw the Imperial Palace, walked the city wall, had lunch next door to Albrecht Dürer’s birthplace, and saw some beautiful churches and half-timbered houses.

On the river.

On the river.

Danielle and Sylvain

Danielle and Sylvain

My husband's herring. Ew.

My husband’s herring. Ew.

View from inside the fortified palace on the hill.

View from inside the Imperial Palace on the hill.

IMG_6260

Doofus.

Market Day.

Market Day.

Birthplace of Albrecht Durer.

Birthplace of Albrecht Durer.

One more thing we did was visit the Zepplinfield, or the Nazi Party rally grounds. Sylvian is a huge WWII buff and was intellectually interested to see the spot. We stopped there on our way out of town. The concrete risers are still there, although crumbling. I have no pictures of the spot because I did not want to honor it with a photograph. It was interesting, in a morbid way, but I definitely had the creeps being there. Kosta said he felt like he needed to wash the bottoms of his shoes after we left. I still can’t believe it hasn’t been razed.

On a lighter note to send you along your way:

I'll just leave you with this picture of a busker playing the accordion with his dog hanging out on top.

I’ll just leave you with this picture of a busker playing the accordion with his dog hanging out on top. Like you do.

 

 

 

Unexpected Events

Things have been great on vacation. We met up with our friends in Munich, and spent several days visiting Nuremberg, Würzburg, Bamberg, and Rothenberg ob der Tauber. We were treated to such views as this:

Nuremberg. Totally hideous, isn't it?

Nuremberg. Totally hideous, isn’t it?

We have had a wonderful time reconnecting with our friends Danielle and Sylvain, and we have discovered a few things about German culture.

  1. They like cash. I think I only used my credit card to pay for the hotel and the rental car. Cash everywhere else.
  2. Sparkling water is called Sprudelwasser.
  3. The Germans are crazy for pork and cabbage:

    That's a lot of sauerkraut.

    That’s a lot of sauerkraut.

Seriously. I ate so much pork I thought I was going to sprout a curly tail. Pork at every meal. Cabbage hiding under the lettuce of your salad and of course the ubiquitous sauerkraut. We went to the grocery store and they had an entire Wall O’ Pork. They are totally serious about their pig food products.

We are now comfortably ensconced in our friends’ old stone farmhouse in Western France. And it was good to be surrounded by friends because the totally unexpected happened.

The other day I got a text from my Mom saying Dad had been having chest pains. They went to the ER, ran some tests, and the upshot was Dad had to have triple bypass surgery. It happened today and went extremely well. He is in recovery and all signs point to a good recovery. But the fact that I wasn’t with my mother to sit there and hold her hand while her husband of 46 years had open heart surgery left me a quivering mess.

But my wonderful friend Danielle helped me through with Reiki. If you don’t know what Reiki is, I invite you to read about it here. Basically, it is healing energy from the Divine that a practitioner can channel into another being: human, animal or plant. I’ve been a practitioner for several years now and Danielle is the Reiki Master who has taught me. Together we created a flow of Reiki that was sent directly to my father, thousands of miles away. It was proactive and left me feeling more in control of my emotions and hopeful of a positive outcome. I held it together.

Dad will probably be in the hospital for five or six days. Kosta and I debated over what to do. In the end, (mostly because we can’t afford to change our plane tickets) we are going to continue with our vacation. Trust me when I say it was not an easy decision to make. Most of me is longing to be home with my family. Everyone seems to be coping reasonably well. Mom has been so brave and capable and I am proud of her for surviving an extremely difficult situation.

The last couple of days have been rough, for sure. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much on a vacation before. But Dad has survived his ordeal, Mom is coping with hers, and Kosta and I will deal with ours.

Perplexed and a little frightened...

Perplexed and a little frightened…

 

 

It’s a Small World After All…

It’s a Small World After All…

Singing the song in your head? Good. That’s you and me now. I am sitting in the airport in Düsseldorf, Germany, waiting FIVE HOURS for our connecting flight (how did I not notice this?) to Vienna and having a cappuccino. Let me tell you about our trip thus far. Even though it was just one, boring, ass-numbing, Transatlantic flight, things have already happened on this vacation.

I’m not one to talk about work on my blog any more than I am a Reference librarian at a public library in South Florida. I don’t mention bosses or coworkers. But I will tell you about two library patrons that have been regulars over the past 10 years or so. They are mother and daughter and both named Frances.

France the Elder is short, wears a lot of makeup and perfume, and loves to try and bargain her way out of trouble. She’s always complaining that things didn’t “print right” no matter how many times I’ve explained about Print Preview and demands her money back. She never gets it.

Frances the Younger is taller than her mother, wears more lipstick (if that is even conceivable) and is a champion at bickering with her mother. In short, they drive each other bonkers, and me by proxy. Every time they are in the library they sit at the computers and look up relics and shrines in Italy. They are extremely devout Catholics, but always looking for a way to worm their way out of trouble or into a better deal.

So imagine my surprise today when shortly after arriving at Miami International Airport I saw the back of Frances the Elder’s head go by in a wheelchair pushed by a Skycap. I think I gasped pretty loudly (which is probably not the best thing to do in an airport these days) and pointed furiously at the carefully coifed head of the old lady. “Oh my GOD.” I said to Kosta. “It’s Frances. F—-.”

He couldn’t see her head, but he did catch a glimpse of her pink-striped shirt, a familiar polyester mainstay of her wardrobe. We were walking a little faster, trying to catch up so we could gawk at the busybody herself. When all of a sudden a second wheelchair comes blasting past us and who should be in it but Frances the Younger.

I was flabbergasted. For you see, neither one has need of a wheelchair. They are both spryly ambulatory and I was appalled that they were having two young men push them through the crowds. What the hell?

Oh, but then? Their wheelchair status shot them directly to the front of the TSA security line. My eyes narrowed and my hands clenched into fists. Those little shits, completely fine, used the wheelchairs to get themselves bumped to priority status. Very Christian indeed.

They whipped through security and I saw the backs of them recede and I let out my breath. At least they were gone, right? Oh hell no. They were sitting at our damn gate, as happy as you please, waiting comfortably for their flight. My flight. Our flight.

And then I saw the Younger Frances in the wheelchair again, her mother standing by. And damn if they also weren’t the first two people on that airplane. I stood there, watching dumbly as they once again used a false handicap to get themselves more priority status.

I think what pissed me off the most was my grandmother spent decades in a wheelchair as a paraplegic. She needed extra help when flying and other things as well. But to fake your condition to purposely get special favors is the worst kind of despicable in my eyes.

This was when a terrible thought struck me. We were sitting in the back of the plane and would no doubt have to walk right past them during boarding. If they spotted me they’d exclaim in surprise and gush about what a small world it is and want to chat. Which was a problem since I wanted to slug both of those cheating mugs. Thankfully, they were both absorbed in something that had them both looking in their laps when I strode right on by, letting out a breath of relief as I passed them. Probably close to the last two people on earth I would want to see.

However, this was not actually so bad. It might even be a sign of good things. In the book I am trying to get published right now I used a mother/son team of patrons at the library as the comic relief in my book. I’ll tell you more about them someday. And the two Frances’? They are on deck to be the comic relief in the sequel. Perhaps this is the Universe’s way of telling me I’ll need to do close character studies in the near future?

At this end of the flight, they were the first off the plane again, I imagine. And they have disappeared. However, I just wonder if I shall be appalled to find them sitting at the gate of my connecting flight when we arrive. Stranger things have happened. Especially while traveling.

ZING!

ZING ZING ZING went my heartstrings.

ZING ZING ZING went my heartstrings.

Vacation is 27 days away and plans are really starting to come together. Every day, every few hours or so, I get a zing of excitement surge through me. Here is what the plan is:

  • Leave 30 June for Vienna and arrive on 1 July. We will spend the 1-3 July  in the city, soaking up the atmosphere, drinking coffee and sampling pastry.
  • 4 July we will collect an rental car and drive from Vienna to Salzburg, stopping in little towns that tickle our fancies along the way.
  • 5-6 of July will be spent in Salzburg and the environs. Kosta is wildly excited about visiting Hohenwerfen where there is a medieval castle that was featured in his very favorite movie: Where Eagles Dare.
  • 7 July will take us by train to Munich where we will meet our dear friends Danielle and Sylvain, who live in France. We will spend the night in Munich, perhaps drink a little beer.
  • 8-12 July will be touring Bavaria. I booked a darling Airbnb in the little village of Bad Windsheim. We’ll be making day trips from there to places like Linderhof Palace, perhaps Oberammergau, Garmische Partenkirchen, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Wurzburg, Nuremburg and others. We haven’t made a hard plan for this and I am kind of excited to see where we go.

    Isn't Bad Windsheim adorable?

    Isn’t Bad Windsheim adorable?

  • 13 July we fly from Munich to Paris and then take the train to the Vendee where our French friends live. We will stay with them for about a week and have fun with the whole family.
  • 22 July we take the train to Paris and check into a hotel near Les Halles and a short walk to the Louvre. We plan to spend the whole next day at the museum and then fly home the next day on the 24th.

As my dear friend Danielle would say, “Roll on, June 30!”

Vacation Countdown…

countdownThe plane tickets were purchased on Friday. We leave in 96 days.

I’ve been making a rough outline of where we will be going and what we will be doing in the three weeks we will be abroad. Here is the rundown so far:

  • Leave from Miami on Saturday, July 2.
  • Arrive in Paris in Sunday, July 3. Take the train to Nantes or La Roche sur Yon and meet up with one of my besties, Danielle and her family.
  • Hang out on the west coast of France for five days, visit Puy du Fou, a French theme park, and definitely take an overnight trip to Mont St. Michel, which I have been dying to see for years.
  • Take the train (or a cheap flight) to Frankfurt where we will pick up a rental car and drive south into Bavaria
  • rothenburg-ob-der-tauberSpend four days driving through the picturesque towns and drinking lots of beer, see Rothenburg ab der Tauber, Neuschwanstein, Hohenwerfen, and lots of other amazing medieval sites.
  • Arrive in Salzburg. Spend two days seeing the sights. Do my Maria von Trapp impression on the mountain top.
  • Drive across Austria for a few days, taking in the splendor of the Alps.
  • viennaArrive in Vienna, drop off rental car, and spend the last few days of vacation tramping about the city, seeing the legacies of so many famous composers, drink lots of coffee and eat lots of pastries.
  • Fly back to Miami on July 22. Arrive home on July 23.
  • Still have a good week to recover before going back to work.

For some of that time in Bavaria, we are hoping that our French friends will join us on our travels. We have spent time together before and get along very well. It would be our second time traveling with another couple and we’re looking forward to it.
I took two years of German in college and even though that was nearly (gasp!) twenty years ago, I still have some retention. Even so, I am working on brushing up on my language skills in a few ways. The first is using Mango Languages. mango-languages-stickyWe have this online program through my library that I can use for free. It has two units of conversational German that I can go through. I also have a book, Learn German the fast and easy way that I will be slogging through. It’s all still in my brain somewhere, I just have to find it and reignite that fire in my brain.

2 languages 1 brainI have been toying with the idea of alternating German days with French days. Although in France I will have my personal interpreter, it never hurts to know a bit of the language where you are going. I’ve taken some French too and have three levels of Pimsleur French on CD that I can go through. But can my brain live at that speed? German and French are very different, and yet I wonder how badly they will jumble in my head if I try to do both. Well, I guess there is only one way to find out.

Where to go on vacation…?

My husband Kosta and I love to travel. The highlight of each year is where we get to go on vacation. Since we don’t have kids we do our best to sock money away so we can go to Europe and explore for several weeks in the summer or early fall.

Since we’ve been together we’ve seen a lot. Our first real vacation together was a road trip to the Southwest United States in August of 2007. We spent time in Southern Colorado, New Mexico, and a brief hop into Arizona.

Wild poppies growing in Red River, New Mexico.

Wild poppies growing in Red River, New Mexico.

Anasazi cliff dwelings at Mesa Verde National Park.

Anasazi cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park.

The two of us at White Sands National Monument

The two of us at White Sands National Monument

In 2008 we journeyed to my home state of Minnesota. I showed my new fiance the wonders of the North Shore of Lake Superior, the beautiful city of Minneapolis, and the lovely woodsy area of Lake Minnetonka.

A cairn we built on the pebble beach in Little Marais, MN.

A cairn we built on the pebble beach in Little Marais, MN.

At the Minneapolis Institute of Arts--a scuplture of medusa before she became a hideous gorgon.

At the Minneapolis Institute of Arts–a sculpture of medusa before she became a hideous gorgon.

The view of Lake Minnetonka from Excelsior Commons.

The view of Lake Minnetonka from Excelsior Commons.

In 2009 we got married. For our honeymoon we spent a week at Disney, a week on Sanibel Island, and a week at home. It was lovely, but we really wanted to go to Greece for our honeymoon. But that would have to wait another two years. 2010 was a bust as far as vacation was concerned. But then in 2011 we went to Greece! I had never been before and Kosta hadn’t been in 40 years. We LOVED it.

The famous theater at Epidaurus (Epidavros).

The famous theater at Epidaurus (Epidavros).

The view from the upper town in Monemvasia.

The view from the upper town in Monemvasia.

Preserved ioni column at Delphi.

Preserved ionic column at Delphi.

 

Once we got a taste of Europe, we didn’t want to stop. In the menu bar at the top you can see some of our photos from our trip to England in 2012, France in 2013, and Greece again in 2014. In early 2015 I had to have emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder and that pretty much shot our vacation budget. But as it happened, we spent 10 days in a cabin in Franklin, NC, editing my book for my agent. Then we went to New York for a few days to actually meet the agent. (Hi Alex!)

So that brings me to this year. We have enough frequent flier miles for tickets, we have money saved. But where shall we go? The other day on Facebook I saw this photo:

Rothenberg ob der Tauber

Rothenberg ob der Tauber

The funny thing is, I remember my mother having an etching or a watercolor of this exact spot.  Then my friend Tammy sent me her picture of being there, and that cemented it: After we visit our dear friends in France we are heading to Bavaria and Austria! And because I work at a library I already have a bag full of travel guides and videos to get started with trip planning.

So look out Die Schwarz Wald, the Karras’ are coming in July! And let me know if you have an favorite out-of-the-way, must-see places in that area.