Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Going Local

Today, we stuck close to home and let the kids see some of Bruchmuehlbach where Mommy grew up! First stop: Mommy’s house. It looks nothing like it did when I was little! The changes are actually a vast improvement, but since everything else was so much the same, it was a bit of a shock.

Next stop: The Elendsklam. This is a beautiful hike that we used to take regularly. My back was unfortunately not up to making the entire trek, but the kids had fun just the same. They’ve never gotten to be in real woods before!
The kids went about three times as far as the rest of us, darting up the road and coming back, climbing the hills beside the path, and making all sorts of discoveries.

They even found some wild raspberries.

Steffen helped Daddy with the video.

We took time out for some group shots too.

Finally: We went up to Nanstein Castle in Landstuhl. It’s just a few minutes from home, and although there are probably more impressive castles out there, this one is great for kids. There are very few people, and they were able to run and climb everywhere.

Steffen kept his guidebook handy.

You’ll notice that these pictures show the BACKS of the children. That’s because we big people were always a step behind. They were SO excited.

This evening, Bryan and I got to go out for dinner by ourselves! We haven’t done that in months, and it was so much fun. We really enjoyed it, and the kids had fun at home with Tante Tina and Mutti and Sara while we were gone.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I was very excited about today! Going to Trier is an amazing experience. It’s like a mini-trip to Rome, only an hour from home. I couldn’t wait for the children to get a sense of the far reach of the Roman empire back in its glory days.

The weather was cool, but we were blessed not to have any rain.

Our first stop was the Porta Nigra (black gate). It was built between 186 and 200 AD, and narrowly avoided complete destruction by Napoleon. It had been used as a church since the middle ages, and Napoleon was bent on dissolving the church. He did dissolve the church, but (according to local legend) kept the gate since it had Roman origins.

Justin opted not to go up the long and windy staircase, so he and Steffen and I hung out in the inner court while the others climbed to the top.

We then headed out to the town square, and stopped at the Roman Baths.

Finally, the crowning glory of the day: our visit to the Roman Amphitheater. The kids had a great time tearing around the arena, climbing up the stairs to the seating, and going underneath to where the gladiators and wild animals were kept while they awaited their battles.

The kids were especially fascinated by the grates that allowed them to look under the Amphitheater.

And Nathan terrified his mom by climbing way up on the walls. He was ordered down immediately after Dad snapped the picture.

Even Justin, who wouldn't go up the stairs was climbing all over everything. (You can click on any picture to make it larger.)

A Day Off!

Today we took a day off to allow everyone a little time to rest. Bryan was especially grateful not to have to do a lot of driving. Tina stayed home from work and we had a great time hanging out with her.

Tante Uschi and Tante Gretel (my great-great aunts) dropped by and we saw them for a little bit. They both live on Mutti’s street. At the end of the visit, Tante Gretel took Bryan by the hand and led him down the street to her house. She told him all sorts of stories, showed him her house and garden, and had a wonderful time talking to him. Of course, since she only speaks German and he only speaks English, he didn’t understand a word of what she was saying! He was very sweet and gracious about it, and we all had a good laugh when he finally broke away about half an hour later. Tante Gretel is 90, very fit, and I don’t think she really believes that there is anyone who doesn’t understand German.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Playmobil Fun Park

Today we did a trip that was all about the kids (and a little about Mom and Sara, who were Playmobil enthusiasts once upon a time.) The kids REALLY wanted to go to the Playmobil Fun Park. It was three hours away, but we knew it would probably be the highlight of the trip, so we decided to make a LONG day out of it. Daddy was a serious trooper- he did all the driving.

The park was great. It was basically just a huge playground, where everything was a life-size Playmobil set. (Those of you who aren’t familiar with Playmobil are missing out! They’re some of the best toys for kids out there, in my opinion. I’ve been collecting since I was five in Germany. Back then, it hadn’t extended out of Germany and was called Spielmobil.)

We definitely noticed a cultural difference when we went here. In Germany, people don’t sue like they do in the States. “At your own risk” really means that, and as a result, there were tons of very fun playscapes that never would have passed the safety test at home. A plank over water (no rails) was the entrance to the pirate ship. The kids climbed up ropes, ran around on slippery wet rocks in Dinosaur Land (Megan and Evan both whacked their heads as a result of that) and rappelled down hills. They slid down three-story slides on mats (even Carsten), sat on thrones next to Playmobil kings, and panned for gold in the Western Town.

Another cultural difference: No kids’ fun park would be complete without a Beer Garden.

Now, the adults were profoundly aware that this park was built for CHILDREN, not adults. Climbing from area to area often involved walking over swingy rope bridges or crawling through very small castle passages.

And, just to add to the experience, there was a dethroning as was common in medieval times:

One of the biggest challenges for us big people was keeping track of the little ones! There were so many great things to do that they just kind of scattered. We used the orange shirts again, and I’m glad we did. Carsten wandered off once, and someone at the park recognized that he must belong to us because he matched the rest of us. I was a little nervous about losing one of the kids all day, and the announcements that kept coming over the address system didn’t help. Every so often, a cheerful voice would announce, “Dearest Guests, we are requesting your help to locate a child. His name is Michael and he is three years old. He is wearing a blue shirt and a diaper and was last seen near the Construction Area.” And then a few minutes later, “Thank you, dearest guests, Michael has been returned to his parents.”

There was also an indoor area with EVERY single Playmobil set out for the kids to play with. Our kids could have spent an entire day just in that spot. All in all, this was a great day and well worth the drive, although if we had it to do over again, we would probably have stayed overnight and turned it into a two-day adventure.

And, of course, no trip to a Fun Park would be complete without ice cream!


We got up the very next morning and headed to Mainz. It was just over an hour’s drive away, and I figured that getting up and getting going would help us conquer jet lag more quickly. We’ve been studying medieval history, so I was really anxious to see the Gutenberg Museum and the cathedral.

The drive there was just beautiful. We all marveled at the green landscape, dotted with picturesque little villages. Pictures from the car didn’t turn out so well, of course, so those memories we’ll just have to keep in our minds.

The museum was fascinating, though unfortunately, more fascinating to adults than to children! It was definitely a “look, don’t touch” experience for the little people, and the museum designers were obviously not under 4 feet tall. Stepping up on the side of the exhibits was NOT in “ordnung.” Still, we got to see the printing press, and walk inside the vault with the Gutenberg Bibles in it. Amazing, truly amazing. Photography isn’t allowed, so you’ll have to take our word for it that we went in.

The square outside the Mainzer Dom (just across from the museum) had a lovely open-air market. We bought our lunch there and enjoyed it right along the cobblestone. The kids thought that was quite an experience.

Then, we moved on to the Dom (cathedral). Built between 991 and 1037, the building is remarkable. Soaring ceilings, gorgeous stained glass windows, sculptures: we walked around in hushed wonder.

Some of the relief images and statues creeped the kids out. Something about having skeletons in a church, I guess.

Justin said, “This is a lot nicer than our church, but also a lot scarier.” Megan was particularly discomfited. She wrote in her journal, “We went to a cathedral. It was creepy and I don’t talk about it.”