Taking the Scenic Route

Leavin’ On a Jet Plane

28th February 2009

Leavin’ On a Jet Plane

#59 This is where I will be sitting on the way to Germany at the end of April. Yay! (unless a set of the purple “preferred” window-aisle seats open up and we can nab those)

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24th August 2008

Going Home. At Last.

In Kansas, it was 2am when we woke up and had breakfast in Germany, and 4 am when we pulled away from the hotel in the shuttle bus.  Our hearts ached to see the faces of our kids, and it was 9:30 at night before we rounded the corner and saw them standing there. 

The Frankfurt Airport has got to be the most stale, institutional airport we have been in.  Our trip here we went to the basement and wound through corridors, and didn’t see the outside until we exited the parking garage.  Up a floor it wasn’t much better.  Everything is shades of gray and white, with so many security and passport checks I lost count, and a huge maze of endless corridors to walk through.  For the first time ever we actually had to open up bags at one of the security checks…they wanted to see Zach’s shaving razor.  A little nerve wracking when I couldn’t find it right away and had to dig through our cram packed luggage. Even worse to try and close it again.  We finally made it to our gate an hour and a half after arriving from the hotel, very thankful we only had our carry on luggage to deal with through all of that.   We had another hour and a half to wait.  I knitted, Zach played games on the computer.  I was so glad when they started boarding.

The plane going back for the longest leg of our journey was a seat narrower than the one we flew up in, and without the personal touchscreen tv and information panel.  Boring old fashioned, narrow, crowded seats, but at least this time I had a window seat and Zach was next to me in an isle seat (a little more ability to stretch the legs and not jammed up against a stranger this time).

Accending

Most of Germany and most of the rest of Europe, actually, our view for 80-90% of the trip

The clouds break enough to get a peek at England

and a quick peek at Ireland as we go out over open ocean

Where the sky meets the sea

And after watching Horton Hears A Who, in German, on a little screen off in the distance,  I finally see land again.  I would guess it is Newfoundland, but since I couldn’t watch where were where specifically like I could on the way there, I can’t be sure.

We landed in Chicago O’Hare.  We thought a 2.5 hour layover was a long layover until we had to actually experience it.  We waited in enourmous lines for Customs, were sniffed by drug and agricultural dogs, and I was constantly distracted by a teen I presume was autistic and wished I was physically close enough to the mom to try and help them out as she was obviously struggling with a boy who was just done with the whole thing.  I felt bad that all I could offer where prayers she couldn’t hear.  I had noticed them earlier and could hear them about 20-30 rows behind us when the plane landed and he started crying.  I was glad to see no negative reaction from fellow passengers.  It was hard on me knowing I couldn’t really help, especially since I had heard them speaking exclusively in what I assume was an Indian language.  It further intensified my ache for my own kids.

After the long wait through customs, we found that we had very little time to get the hot dog from Gold Coast Dogs we had been dreaming about since we heard we were flying through Chicago, but we booked it there and back to our gate, arriving with a happy tummy and just in time to board the little plane that would take us home.

After about 19 hours in daylight, the sun finally goes out of sight for us.

Finally, we land.  We walk across the tarmac and once again lug our suitcases up the stairs, and start the longest walk of the trip, the last few hundred feet to see my babies again.

When we came around the corner, Zach spotted them first (height has it’s advantages.  lol).  Zora had her arms out reaching for us, and Zane was clapping in joy.  The grown-ups were all a bit teary.    Mom and Dad took our luggage and we held on to the kids as we went out to the car, hugged good-bye to them, and drove home.  (through a drive in for some burgers because there was no way we were making ourselves supper.  lol)

The kids had the signs up for us when we walked in:

We made it. 
Home Sweet Home.

posted in Frankfurt, Germany, Stress, The Kids, Travel | 3 Comments

24th August 2008

Leaving Attendorn, on to Frankfort for our Last Night in Germany

The hotel in Frankfort was the picture of modern efficiency.  I was impressed by the technology, but after a week with such charming hosts in a smaller town, it felt very sterile. 
When we got to the room this was on the tv

The key had to be put in the wall slot in order to turn on any lights.  It keeps guests from leaving lights on when they leave the room.  It might also tell the desk when a guest isn’t in the room any more, but that is just speculuation on my part.

You could buy internet access for $5 Euros and hour.  Uh, no.  It takes a good 10-15 minutes to connect to anything, so we didn’t mess with it.

The bed was softer than the one we had in Attendorn, but still not very comfortable.  Notice the quilt is smaller than the bed.  It’s a good thing we don’t mind sleeping close together.  lol.

If you opened the windows, the air conditioner shut off.  Pretty clever. 

The view from our window.  The hotel was once the city’s airport (we deduced from the pictures on the wall).  I suspect the orginal building was the gray part, like the section we were in. 

Supper in the eveing was so overpriced that we were appalled.  Clearly dealing with a captive audience here and taking advantage of it.  We finally settled on a four cheese pizza and a ham and cheese sandwich.  Everyone who worked there seemed to speak English like natives, and most of the tables that surrounded us were filled with Americans.  It felt sort of weird after the experience we just had.  Service was paced much more like Americans would be used to also. It was like we were being broken back into “American Life” and we hadn’t even left Germany. 

The breakfast was in the area straight ahead, on the first floor.  It was a buffet breakfast and you had to use your room key to enter the area.  Breakfast was bountiful, but much more geared towards American tastebuds rather than German.  Lots of eggs and bacon, and in the areas with more German foods, it was still good, but clearly not top quality like we had experienced in Attendorn.  One bonus was the coffee machine.  Instead of serving you coffee, you went to a machine and pushed a button of what kind of coffee you wanted…everything from lattes to coffee, to expresso…about 8 or 10 kinds of coffee.  It took about 5 “servings”/press of the button to fill a cup with expresso.  Zach was well wired before leaving.  lol.

If we do this again, we will stay in Attendorn and just deal with the two hour drive the morning or our flight out.  The hotel was fine, but it was a let down after the previous weeks.  It lacked the personality and intimacy we had come to enjoy in Attendorn.

posted in Attendorn, Autobahn, Frankfurt, Germany, Travel | Comments Off

24th August 2008

A Few Cars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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24th August 2008

A little more shopping

Did you know Aldi is from Germany? 

 

 

Shopping carts

 

Want a Wii?  They actually have them in stock, something I have yet to see in person here in the States.  For $249 Euros, you can own one.  (with PAL, so they won’t do you any good here at home)

 

Zane would have been crazy for these:

 

 

 

Dad, I found the store you would frequent.  We kept seeing tractors driving down the city streets here.  You would think a bunch of Amish lived here.  lol.

 

In the toy stores there was a drool worthy amount of Haba.  There was also a lot of Lego and Playmobil.  I was really wishing I could have bought out the stores.  lol.

 

 

posted in Attendorn, Germany, Shopping, Travel | Comments Off

24th August 2008

Architectural Tiles in Attendorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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21st August 2008

Wrapping this up here in Attendorn

We just came from breakfast, and I hope to make this post without the internet dropping me again, then I gather everything up and we check out of the hotel when Zach comes home for an early lunch. This afternoon Zach goes back to work, I buy a bit of chocolate to bring home and sit someplace and knit. When Zach gets off from work, the guy who drove us here will drive us back to Frankfurt, where we will spend the night. In the morning, we go to the airport and spend about 14-16 hours dealing with flights and airport stuff. We take off from Germany at 7am Kansas time, have a 2 hour layover in Chicago, then another hour to Wichita. We should land at about 7:15 pm (if I remember right…don’t have the itinerary handy) This is likely my last post from Germany.

Anyway, our last full day in Attendorn, Germany:

I finally got brave enough to try a “Donor” sandwich.  I got the small and it was plenty big enough for me.  It meat (I would guess lamb) shaved right off the rotating rotisiarrie, put into flatbread, with several kinds of cabbage, lettuce, some yogurt sauce, tomato, and I think Feta.  Qe got them at the shop next to the hotel.  Zach has had several of these over the last few weeks for lunch, but I generally am wary of food like this, but it was really good.

What do we have here?  Another yarn shop.  A little shop, but they had some nice yarn.  I got one skien of white wool to practice sock knitting.  I haven’t done a few of the techniques I need for socks in a while and it is always good to practice a technique with white/light yarn before digging in to the patterned stuff so you can see what you are doing better.  They had Addis in there for a whole lot less than I have ever seen them in the states.  I about cried walking away from them, but I can’t afford any more stuff right now.  lol.

The vending machine in the hotel.  The selection seems pretty par for the course here.  Coke, Fanta, Sparkling water (I don’t know what the deal is with sparkling water, but they don’t drink tap water here.  Everything is “water with gas”.  I can not wait to drink real water again.  This stuff makes me burp like crazy. lol), Apple juice with “gas”, and Beer.  Yes, beer in a vending machine.  Zach got one last night to see if it is regular beer or non-alcoholic.  It is regular beer.  German beer with lots of hops. 

Just for the record, if it says “Hallo” (Hello), you can get stuff.  If it says “Leer” it means that no matter how much money you put in the thing, it will keep spitting it back at you.  We thought there was a trick to it that we didn’t understand or that we needed “leer coins” or something.  The “trick” was that “leer” means “empty”.  lol.

“Trink Coca Cola”

The last night in Attendorn and we decided we had to eat at the hotel.  The food is great and we really enjoy the staff.  We did not know what we were hungry for, and since the place wasn’t busy, we asked Otto to make us what he wanted…without onions.  lol.  I like seeing what chefs do when given a little freedom, and don’t have the opportunity very often these days.  Plus, they know which ingredients are the highest quality that day, and are often able to create really spectacular meals because of it.  Chef Otto didn’t dissapoint.   

Here he is with the staff around him.  They are a neat bunch of people

And here is the magnificent meal he presented us with.  The pictures just don’t do it justice.  Both rustic and elegant, it was absolutely magnificnent.  It was a fish stuffed with an omlet.  In the omlet there were potatoes and mushrooms.  The seasoning was just superb, nicely layered and well balanced.  The whole thing just melted in your mouth.  I have never had fish that I enjoyed so much in my life.  I have worked in 4 and 5 star hotels and restaurants with world renowned chefs and can’t remember a dish I liked so much.  Especially surprising because I am more a “cream sauce and cheese make the meal” kind of gal (with the waist line to prove it) and this had nothing like that in it.  What an excellent end to a great vacation.

And I will finish with two more shots of our home for the last two weeks.  I can’t recommend the hotel highly enough.  Even this former restaurant and hotel manager was able to relax and just enjoy myself, something I can struggle with because I have difficulty letting my critical eye relax.  No problem with that here. 

It was a great vacation, but I am so ready to hold my kids in my arms again.  I really miss them.  My heart just aches waiting to see them again.  Mom and Dad are bringing them to the airport so we can see them moments after taxing down the runway.  I can’t wait.  I am all teary just thinking about it.

posted in Attendorn, Food, Germany, Knitting, Travel | Comments Off

19th August 2008

Where everybody knows your name

Last night when we went to eat, both restaurant areas were fully booked, so we ate in the bar.  Frankly, the bar is more fun to us because it is more lively, so that was a good thing as far as we were concerned.  The food here is always top notch.  Very, very good. 

One of the fun things about the bar is the group of guys that are almost always there, playing cards and giving each other a hard time.  I can’t understand a thing they are saying, but it is obvious they are enjoying themselves and it is fun to overhear the enthusiastic jarring across the table as they play.  I love hearing them in the background as we sit and talk.

The Beef vs. Pork tangent
The closest thing I have had to an exception to “all food here is great”  is the steak I had last night.  The steak was well seasoned and the flavor was good, but I am spoiled by living in the heart of beef country and used to fork tender steaks.  (as in, you really don’t need a knife if you are eating a good steak).  I definatly needed my knife, and was having to dig in my brain on how to cut it so that it was against the grain to make it more tender to eat.  lol.  Now I understand why there is hardly any beef in the grocery stores, and I really should have taken that as a clue not to order beef here.  It tasted really good, and the chef did a great job with the best quality I suspect he had available. In fact, I think the pasta we have enjoyed a few times has beef tenderloins on top, but it is prepared in a way that helps deal with any toughness.  That was fork tender, so I assumed the regular steaks would be too.  Not so true. 

It is the opposite of home.  At home, pork is usually much tougher, dry and you have to prepare it in ways that compensate for that (pound the heck out of it, put it in sauces, cut it the right direction, etc), but here it is so tender and tasty that I am getting over my prejudice against pork steaks.  lol  They love their pork here and do an amazing job of preparing it.

So, if you come to Germany from beef country and want to order beef, order it in a form where they can use knife skills and other tricks of the trade to make it tender.  A slab of beef is not going to be your best choice here.  If you don’t have any restrictions on pork, get that instead.  Every restaurant here seems to do really well with pork.  (of course, some are better than others, but generally speaking, pork is a better choice.)

…and, back on topic
The staff here are just exceptional.  I usually have to adjust my expectations for places because, as a former hotel/restaurant manager, I have a tendancy to see any imperfection because that is what you have to do to improve the performance of your staff  (and yourself).  Here the service seems pretty flawless, and quite exceptional. 

It is almost becoming a running joke between Zach and I that they must have elves watching the room to see when I leave and then hurry and clean it while I am gone.  I don’t leave at the same time every day, and sometimes not until the evening.  To my horror, one night when I left in the evening, I didn’t expect them to clean the room that late and left a little pile of toenail clippings on the endtable (Zach interupted me when he came home and I hadn’t tidied up yet) and they came and cleaned.  I was mortified when I realized the toenail clipping pile was gone and the table cleaned off.  I know, from years of experience, that is probably nowhere near the grossest thing they have seen, but still. 

The waitstaff / barstaff here is really spectacular.  The only major difference between here and home are cultural ones.  Here it is obvious that they expect you to linger for a while after the meal, and linger over your drinks (rather than chugging and needing refills).  They expect you to go at a more leisurly pace than we were accustomed to.  It has taken almost a week for us to really get the pace here and learn to just chill out enough to just sit.  Finally, last Sunday, a table actually left before we did and we knew we had finally hit the relaxed rhythm that is the norm around here.  Take the leisurely pace together with “a good German Beer takes 7 minutes to pour” and you have a totally different pace than the fast paced American meals where you are practically pushed out of the restaurant to turn over the table. (especially if you have kids in tow)  Of course, it might also be because it is a smaller town and not a metropolitan area too.  Small towns in the US let you linger a bit longer too. (but you almost have to get to the “one stoplight” towns and smaller to have that pace there)

Everyone seems to go out of their way to make sure we are comfortable and happy.  They don’t seem annoyed by our struggle with the language, and most of them speak at least a little English.  We are gaining a little on German words, but it still isn’t to the level of people who claim they don’t know much English.  lol.  Apparently, we don’t have the accent right yet either because even when we use German, they smile, amused, and start talking to us in English.  lol.  We must be pretty transparent.

The chef here, Otto, is really quite exceptional.  I was shocked on my first time in the dining room when he came out to make sure that garlic was ok when he got the message that I couldn’t eat onions.  He double checks with us almost every meal now if he has a question.  Pretty cool.  On a more personal note, the first time he came out I knew immediatly that he looked just like somebody I knew.  I couldn’t place it for a while, but it wasn’t just how he looked, but how he held himself…his posture, his gestures, his facial expressions…everything.  Almost uncanny.  Zach said he thought the same thing but couldn’t place it either, only commenting that he thought it was somebody that he knew, but that I knew better.  It took us a few days and all of a sudden it hit us who he looks like.  He seriously has a doppleganger in Kansas.  Here is a test for my mom and Dawn, who also know this person.  You might not get it without seeing the body language, but let’s see if you can determine the doppleganger too:

   

Another cultural difference between here and the US is the concept of leftovers.  I can not for the life of me figure out how people eat such huge portions and are not particularly fat.  I am fat.  I can put it away, but I can not finish an entire meal here, no matter how hungry I am.  It is just an astonishing amount of food.  Apparently they eat it all because they are not at all familiar with the concept of taking the leftovers home with you.  They have no carryout dishes/boxes/bags in the restaurant for food take away.  Last night, when we asked if we could take the leftovers to our room “Packin’ ” (probably a very different spelling, but that is what the word sounds like to my ears if you ask for a to-go bag).  When we were ready to leave, this it what the waiter brought us:

ROLF!  They have to think we are just nuts.  They didn’t have any take away dishes, so they just wrapped them in kitchen dishes and sent them with us.  lol.  I don’t think we will ask for “packin’ ” again.   I was not expecting that at all.

One more quickie before I sign off.  I am amused by the exit sign.  lol

posted in Attendorn, Food, Germany, Travel | 3 Comments

18th August 2008

A Quiet Sunday

In contrast to Saturday, Sunday was calm and laid back.

In the morning Zach went out and picked up some bakery rolls, and we sat around leisurely enjoying coffee and rolls, and a few of the locally made chocolates we picked up Friday night until we were itching to get out.

The “excitement” of the evening was taking a different route to the restaurant area for supper. On the way we discovered the other old wall tower, just around the corner from the one I took pictures of the other day. I thought the other one was one of the buildings that I could see from my window, but after seeing it, the placement didn’t make sense, so today when we went out we went looking for the tower we could see. This one appears a bit shorter, and doesn’t have a museum inside, but it is still very charming.

Other views as we walked around

Those look like soybeans. Soybeans? In a garden plot? Why would somebody grow soybeans in a garden?

notice that the parking spaces are defined by differently angled bricks instead of paint

 
Suppertime.

This time we ordered some regional favorites. We had a waiter that spoke English so well we asked him where he was from. He is from Germany, but studied in Scotland for two years and learned English there. That accounted for the Scottish accent, but he really spoke English like it was his native language. It allowed us to ask him questions and order the local favorites (for Zach) and I got something closely related. (I am more adventurous than I used to be, but not like Zach).

Zach got “Sauerlander Krustchen: paniertes Schnitzel auf Toast mit Champignonrahmsauce, Pommes frites, Spiegeliei und Salatgarnitur. (Pork fritter, on toast, covered with a mushroom sauce and an egg. Served with a salad and fries)

I got: Kaseschnitzel: paniertes Schnitzel mit Kasesohnesauce, Kroketten und Salatbeilage. (pork fritter with a cheese sauce, served with tater tot type potatoes, with a salad).

The salad you see in between the plates and on Zach’s plate seems to be a normal salad around here. It consists of a few kinds of cabbage in a sour/vinegar type dressing, with carrots, cucumbers, romainne lettuce, and corn. Really good actually. I am going to try and make something like it at home.

The beer this evening was first, a Diebals, then I got a wheat beer and Zach tried the waiter’s favorite beer, and then we switched because the waiter’s favorite was a banana infused beer that was too sweet for Zach. lol. For once I liked something he didn’t. Rarity.

posted in Attendorn, Food, Germany, Travel | Comments Off

18th August 2008

Our last stop of the day: A Castle Festival

We rode up to the Schnellenberg castle, which overlooks the town of Attendorn. They have had a festival going over the weekend, and we join in just before sunset. We eat bratwurst on rolls (Bratwurst mit Brötchen… zwei), wash it down with a shared beer, and listen to the band for a while as the sun set. It was an Irish band, who spoke German, and played traditional Irish jigs, reels, and folk music (which I love and almost never get to hear live), mixed the occasional American Bluegrass or Old Country song in English (with an Irish accent). There were a few young people dancing down in front of the band, and at least one kilt wearing dude. Really fun to watch. A relaxing end to the day. We left about a half an hour before the fireworks to go home. We were exhausted and didn’t want to deal with driving home with that kind of crowd.  Worn out hardly covers it.

Peaceful, charming end to a thrilling day. As much fun as it was to see the sights, I am glad he works and we are staying in Attendorn. It is so much more relaxing and laid back here.

posted in Attendorn, Germany, Travel | Comments Off

  • Zane's age

  • Zane is 15 years, 7 months, and 21 days old
  • Zora's age

  • Zora is 11 years, 7 months, and 25 days old
  • Random Quote

  • Jesus didn’t send his disciples out as “Christian soldiers marching as to war.” He sent them out as peacemakers, who would form circles of friendship and thereby enable people to connect with one another. That is still the primary Christian mission: better living through better circles of sharing. — Tom Ehrich

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