Saturday, December 29, 2012

Germany - Christmas Edition: Wednesday - Friday (Dec. 26th, 27th, 28th)

Wednesday, Dec. 26th. 
Today, we had lunch and dinner with Thomas's aunt and uncle, cousin, and grandparents at his aunt and uncle's home. They were all very nice and even learned some English to help facilitate communication. I thought that was really sweet! We broke out the English/German translation book a couple of times and that helped as well. They are very good people and I was appreciative of their hospitality. They even sent a text before we came asking if I ate meat. I do, but if I didn't, they would have provided something else. They were just so accommodating and welcoming, I was very impressed and appreciative.

I was very tired when we came home so I relaxed with Thomas on the couch for awhile, played with Moritz the resident feline, and then it was off to bed.

Thursday, Dec. 27th
We started the day early by catching the bus at 8:15 a.m. and then two trains to Wiesbaden where we were met by the boyfriend of Thomas's mother. We were visiting with his mother this day. It was my first time to meet her. When I was here in October, she had been ill and then in the hospital so there was not an opportunity to meet her. She had been in the hospital for several weeks, but was released about two weeks ago so she is still weak, but feeling much better.

She is a very sweet woman and I enjoyed meeting her. Thomas looks a lot like her. We had lunch at a restaurant  that served various foods including Indian, Italian, and German. It was very good food and a lot of it. I had schnitzel and French fries. I had to take one of the two schnitzels home and I ate it on Friday. It was just that much food. As can be seen in the photo. Delicious!

We visited with Thomas's mother and boyfriend at their apartment and then were driven home by an employee of the boyfriend. It was nice not to have to take the train and bus home, it's a long haul that way. As it was, we were home by 4:15 so it was a long day, but a good one.

Friday, Dec. 28th
This was a day of doing nothing, but small errands. It was really nice to be at home for the majority of the day. We did a couple of errands, including shopping for food, and then came home to relax. I had tea and just rested on the couch. It was nice. We had a good dinner of salad, schnitzel and French fries. Thomas is an excellent cook! Dessert was some Spaghetti-Eis I got at the supermarket. It was good, but it didn't rival the stuff you get in the Eis Cafes. Nothing is ever as good as that.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Germany - Christmas Edition: Holidays (Dec. 24th and Dec. 25th)

Monday - Dec. 24th. Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve! In Germany, gifts are opened in the evening after dinner. We took a walk during the day to the local cemetery. I am weird in that I love cemeteries. I find them very peaceful and calming. Hopefully, the people there do as well! We continued our walk after the cemetery to the hill that overlooks the town. The photo to the right is the picture of the town I took from this viewpoint. It is beautiful!!

We spent the afternoon inside with tea and TV, just relaxing. We had a great meal of meatloaf, potatoes and corn. Then, it was gift time!! Thomas got me the perfect gifts. First, an electric blanket. I am always cold here so the blanket was a very welcome gift. Second, he had a felt artist he knows make me a frog centerpiece out of felt. SO PERFECT FOR ME! Those who know me know I love frogs and I love art. And even if you don't know me, the title of this blog should give away my amphibian adoration.

I gave Thomas a CSI: Las Vegas T-shirt and a set of four jigsaw puzzles. He loves the CSI TV Show (it is shown dubbed in German here) and he enjoys jigsaw puzzles. We were both very happy with our gifts.

Tuesday, Dec. 25th. Christmas Day.
In the middle of the night, I snuck into the living room to leave a stocking for Thomas. It is a tradition in my family to have a stocking on Christmas Day filled with candy and a small gift. There is usually also a piece of fruit, but I had to skip that for this holiday since I didn't buy any at the market when we were there before. Thomas loved the stocking! I filled it with small American candy boxes - Junior Mints, Laffy Taffy, Peanut M&Ms, Kit Kats, and Blow Pops. He was very surprised and loved it!

Thomas's grandparents called this day and asked us to come for lunch. We walked to their apartment. Lunch was venison, potatoes, and mixed vegetables. I do not like venison so I had the potatoes and mixed vegetables.

After we arrived home, Thomas began making Berliners. I napped on the couch while my wonderful man made me my favorite German pastry. They were delicious. As previously noted in this blog, Berliners are doughnuts with pudding or jam inside. I like the pudding better than the jam so he made them with pudding. I had them with hot tea. Perfect!

The rest of the evening we spent cuddling on the couch with hot tea, watching TV, playing with the cat, and talking. A perfect end to a wonderful holiday!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Germany - Christmas Edition: First Weekend (Dec. 22 and Dec. 23)

I was up really early this day. My sleep patterns are always off the first couple of days due to jet lag. Thomas, my wonderful boyfriend, got up with me about 4:30 a.m. and we had tea and toast before both of us fell asleep on the couch. He slept until about 9. I slept until 2 in the afternoon. I really needed it and felt a million times better for it!

I took a shower, which also helped me feel better, and got dressed. We headed into town and did some grocery shopping. I got some money out at the bank and then we went to our favorite döner eatery in town. It was delicious as always. We were the only customers in the place since we showed up right at 5 p.m. when they opened. So it was a leisurely, quiet dinner. We talked and ate and just enjoyed the atmosphere. 

Finally, we headed home in the rain. It had gotten colder as we were eating. Upon arriving home, we discovered a note from the airline saying that they had tried to deliver my luggage, but we were not home so they left it with the neighbor. I was SO thrilled that it had arrived because, in addition to containing my clothes and various needed items, it also contained the Christmas presents I had brought for Thomas. We went to the neighbor's house and rang the bell. It seemed he wasn't home. As we were getting ready to leave, the door opened upstairs and we retrieved my luggage. OH HAPPY DAY!!

I was so excited to change into my Christmas shirt and sweats with my comfortable socks. You just don't appreciate the little things until they are gone. I was also excited to give Thomas the Nutty Bars I had brought for him to try. He loved them and ate several. They are one of my favorite American treats so I was glad he liked them too. We had a quiet evening and went to bed early, around 9:30. 

I was up at midnight. That sleeping until 2 p.m. thing was not helpful. I laid in bed for a few hours playing with my Kindle, reading various things and surfing Facebook. Finally, I got up around 4:30 a.m. and made some tea and toast. Around 6 a.m. Thomas was up and we talked for a bit before I laid down on the sofa to sleep. He woke me at 9:30 and we walked into town to the bakery where we got some bread.

We came home and I continued napping until around 2 when I got up and got ready to catch the bus for the Michelstadt Christmas Market! I was so excited to go to the Christmas Market!! Germany is famous for its Christmas markets and Michelstadt is such a beautiful city, I knew that it would be even better with the Christmas lights and booths.

I was not disappointed! We arrived at the market around 3:30 and it was crowded with people in the holiday spirit! There were tons of vendors with beautiful items and food. I bought a couple of items. We had hot chocolate at one of the booths and it was very good. They served it in Christmas-themed glass mugs. We wandered around the "handmade" area, which was the area where the crafts are completely handmade. We decided to get some food and had a wonderfully romantic dinner at Restaurante Kreta, the Greek restaurant. It was A LOT of food for a good price. Thomas had the Gyro and I had the schnitzel. So delicious.

After dinner, we wandered around the market, purchased some Christmas gifts, and took photos of the lights and booths. We stopped in an ice cream cafe in search of my very favorite ice cream, which I can only get in Germany - Spaghetti Eis. I am sure it can be found in the U.S. somewhere, but I know it can never be as good as it is in Germany. I first had it in 1993 when I spent six weeks in Germany and I have been hooked ever since. We found the spaghetti eis and I had a big plate of it followed by some hot chocolate. It was a perfect way to end our fun day.

Finally, we headed to the train station, which took us to Reinheim, where we had to catch our bus. Unfortunately, the next bus was two hours away so we called a taxi and took an expensive ride home. But it was worth it. We were tired from our great day at the Christmas market. We relaxed at home with some tea before heading to bed. A great day in Germany!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Germany - Christmas Edition: The Flight

So I am spending the holidays in Germany with my wonderful, amazing German boyfriend. This time, I am here until January 2nd. I arrived yesterday (Dec. 21) after a horrendous flight experience. The flight was to take off from Houston at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 20 and then I was to make a connection in Amsterdam, the Netherlands at 11 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 21st and arrive in Frankfurt, Germany at 12:15 on Friday. The best laid plans...

First, the plane did not leave Houston until just shy of 6:30 p.m. so three hours late. The plane was late getting in from Denver and it had to be cleaned and serviced before we could board. Once we boarded, the captain announced a problem with the fuel pump so a mechanic was brought on board to fix that. Finally, we were underway. 

This plane was very old. The PA system was bad. We could barely understand the flight attendants when they made announcements. The movie screens on the back of the seats had bad video/audio quality. And the final "damn, this plane IS old" moment was when I went to the bathroom and saw the ashtray built into the wall. Smoking on planes has not been allowed for many years (although snakes are OK). Also, just adding to the general crap situation, the food was not good. Airplane food gets a general bad rap, but when I flew to Germany in October, the food was really good so you just never know.

Anyway, because the plane was so late coming out of Houston, I ended up missing the connection to Frankfurt in Amsterdam. When this happens, they get you on the next available flight to your destination. I stood in a very long line with many others to get my connection information. Then, I had to go stand in another long line. The second line was divided into two lines with one for Lufthansa and another for other airlines. The guy working the Lufthansa desk pointed me in the direction of the shorter, second line. So I got into that one. Some biatchy American woman decided that myself and another woman were waiting in the wrong line and tried to get pushy with us telling us we had to go to the back of the long first line. 

I was not having any of that. I told her that I was in the line the airline employee had told me to be in and that she needed to back off and be patient. She was bitchy after that, but I took a "shut the hell up or I will CUT you" attitude with her. That seemed to help. I am normally a pleasant person, but after a long overnight flight and very little rest, I just wasn't going to put up with that crap.

So finally, I got my ticket settled and ate a very expensive sandwich. The airline had given me a voucher for a snack so I had a sandwich and a drink. It cost almost 10 euros. The voucher was for 6.95 euros. Thankfully, I had some extra euros from my last trip to Germany so I paid the difference. 

At last, I got on the plane to Frankfurt. I was concerned that my luggage wouldn't make it onto the second plane, but at that point, I was exhausted and slept for most of the hour or so that it took to get to Frankfurt. The plane landed without incident and we were all taken on a bus to the terminal from the runway since the plane couldn't get a "docking station" as it were for some reason. They dumped us off near the terminal and I found my way to baggage claim. Usually, in Frankfurt, you go through passport control before you collect your luggage. This time, it was luggage first.

So I waited around a very empty baggage claim area and finally the belt started up. Four pieces of luggage came out before the board read "finished" for the luggage from Amsterdam. My fear had been realized. My luggage DID NOT make it onto the plane. Sigh. I trooped over to lost baggage claims with a bunch of other people from my flight who had the same problem. I filled out the form and finally went outside to meet my boyfriend who had come to pick me up. I did not have to go through passport control anywhere, which I think was a mistake, but there was no sign for it anywhere outside baggage claim so my boyfriend and I headed to the train station under the airport and went to the main train station in Frankfurt. That is the first stop on our way home. 

We had schnitzel and potato salad at one of the train station restaurants. It was very good. I was really hungry, which I hadn't realized until I actually sat down to eat. It was cold and rainy and we got on the train and went to our next stop, where we had to wait about 30 minutes for the bus home. We sat in the bakery that we had been in before and I had some hot chocolate and a pastry. Finally, we were on the bus and home. 

By the time we arrived, I had been traveling for 25 total hours with almost no sleep and the sleep I did have was bad sleep on the airplane. I was so glad to take a shower and go to bed. Despite the difficulties in traveling, I am happy to be in Germany again!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

More Tiny Tim, Less Scrooge

I can't believe it's already December! The holidays are coming and I am really looking forward to it this year. I have some fun plans in the works so that makes me happier than usual about the upcoming festivities. There have been some years in the past where the holidays have induced a "Bah Humbug" kind of feeling, so it's nice to be more Tiny Tim and less Scrooge this year!

It's been quite a year here in Houston for me. A year of some losses and a lot of gains. A year of some sorrows and a lot of joys. A year of holding on to what matters and letting go of what doesn't. A year of growth, of possibilities, of happiness. I have enjoyed this year with all its attendant ups and downs. Because really, there have been more ups than downs, more joy than sorrows, more love than pain. I truly look forward to what the rest of the month holds and to the holiday season.

And incidentally  I do refer to it as the HOLIDAY season and not Christmas because I have many people in my life from all cultures and backgrounds. Some celebrate Christmas, others Hanukkah, others nothing at all, and others something of their own making. I don't feel the need to shove the concept of CHRISTMAS ONLY down everyone's throat. I don't understand the people who think Merry Christmas is the only acceptable sentiment this time of year when there are so many people who do not celebrate it. And you know what? That's OK! They have a right to their holidays just as those of us who celebrate Christmas have a right to ours. 

I do say Merry Christmas to those that I know celebrate that holiday, I'm just saying that I don't assume everyone celebrates Christmas. Just a side note to my whole "Hey it's December" posting here.

I hope everyone has some wonderful plans for whatever holiday you may be celebrating and if you celebrate no holiday, enjoy the day anyway!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Life of Pi and Falling from the Sky

Thanksgiving was fantastic! My Dad came down from San Antonio and we ate (a lot), talked (a lot), saw movies (a lot), and just generally enjoyed ourselves (a lot). 

On Friday, we saw Life of Pi at the theater. It was AMAZING! I highly recommend this film. It has everything - adventure, family, spirituality  suffering, redemption, courage, joy...the list goes on and on and on. Both my Dad and I were incredibly impressed with this movie. We discussed it for two days after seeing it. 

On Saturday, we saw Skyfall, the new James Bond movie. My Dad is a huge Bond fan. I am neutral where Bond is concerned, but I enjoyed this movie. It's long at 2 hours and 23 minutes, but you honestly don't even realize it. The film moves quickly and the story is engaging and entertaining.

Dad was here from Wednesday evening until Sunday. In addition to watching movies in the theater  we also watched Charlie Chan movies at home. We both love the old mystery films. Dad also took Peanut outside on her leash several times. She loves going outside and gets mad at me because I won't take her out 150 million times an evening. She was so thrilled to hang out with Dad because he was happy to take her out as often as she wanted to go. 

After Dad left on Sunday, I prepared for the week ahead by doing laundry and cleaning up a bit. I enjoyed Thanksgiving with Dad and I look forward to the coming holidays!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Eve

Wishing all those in the United States a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING! My father should be here any minute from San Antonio (about four hours from where I live). We will be celebrating tomorrow at a local buffet restaurant with a friend of mine. It will be a good time of food, chatting, and more food. And also some food. And some pie.

In the Thanksgiving spirit, here are a couple of things I've found humorous over the past week or two. Enjoy your holiday!

Thanksgiving at Mitt Romney's house.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

GERMANY - 10 Things

My fourth and last week in Germany was nothing special. I went to the bakery of course and lamented the fact that my time there was getting shorter and shorter. I arrived back in Houston on Saturday, November 10th and I'm already planning my next adventure in Germany! 

In the meantime, here are 10 THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT GERMANY:

1. They do not bag groceries. You either bring your own bag to the store, you can buy bags there for .10 Euros, or you just take your stuff to your car and toss it in.

2. Recycling is serious business. You separate your items into food products, plastics/aluminum, and cardboard/paper. Each type of item has its own bin. And don't put the wrong thing in the wrong bin!!

3. It costs .75 Euros to send a postcard to the US.

4. A lot of people speak English. They learn it in school early there. That doesn't mean everyone speaks English, but you will find English speakers in surprising places.

5. Star Trek is on TV a lot. It is dubbed in German.

6. Children go to school until about 12:30 or 1. It is not an all-day thing followed by sports/clubs as it is in the U.S.

7. Children are divided into groups in school based on academic performance. If they do well in school, they can go to "gymnasium," which is the college preparatory version of high school. Others go to vocational schools and are trained for jobs.

8. You must pay 53 euros every three months to have access to TV and radio.

9. You seat yourself in most restaurants. A hostess seating you is not the norm.

10. When you rent an apartment, you must furnish the place - literally. You buy your own refrigerator, oven, electrical fixtures, etc. Getting your first apartment is an expensive proposition.

Monday, November 5, 2012

GERMANY - Third Weekend (Dachau).

The third week of my time in Germany is not worth a whole blog. It was basically my usual treks to the bakery and what not. But, my third weekend is definitely worth noting.

Our rental car - Chevy Captiva
Friday: Headed out on the bus to meet my boyfriend. We took the bus and then the train to Michelstadt where we picked up our rental car. Most people in Germany drive manual cars. I do not know how to drive a manual so we ended up with a Chevy Captiva, which is a much larger car than I am used to. I am now and have always been a compact car girl. I drive a Kia Rio back home in Houston so that ought to tell you something. In any case, the Captiva is what they had available in an automatic so we went with it. Before getting on the road, we parked the car and walked through town looking for some lunch. We finally ended up at a donër stand and had some delicious food after which we headed out to our destination.

Hotel Palazzio
Where were we going you ask? Dachau. More specifically, we were headed to Dachau Concentration Camp. I am a big fan of history and I have a particular fascination with the Holocaust. I have always wanted to see the concentration camp and now that I am in Germany and so close (relatively speaking), I decided to visit it. It is about a four-hour drive from where I am staying so my boyfriend and I decided to make a weekend out of it. I drove and it was a nice drive through some beautiful countryside before we hit the highway. I did drive some parts of the autobahn, which has no speed limit, but it was raining so I didn't go very fast. We made it to Dachau around 8:30 and checked into the Hotel Palazzio. It was a cute little hotel and perfect for what we needed. We had some ice cream in the restaurant downstairs and headed to bed.

Saturday: We were up early and had breakfast in the hotel. It was a basic continental breakfast consisting of croissants, meats, and cheeses. We decided to walk to the site of the concentration camp because it was only about five minutes away on foot. We headed out into a warm, sunny day. We found the site, got a map at the information desk and set off to see the camp. 

I have no words that can adequately describe how moving this experience was. To be in the same spot where such atrocities took place, to walk the paths so many walked in agony, to see where so many lives were was a humbling experience. It put so much in perspective for me. The pain that we inflict on each other and, at the same time, the spirit and courage of those who persevered in unfathomable conditions. It gives us all hope that we too can endure whatever we encounter on our life journeys. 

The most difficult part of the camp was the gas chamber and incinerators. So many lives lost there, so much potential, so much life experience gone. The photos around the site (and those I took) are not for the faint of heart, they show the atrocities in all of their horrific glory. It is something everyone should see. Everyone should see what happened there. Only by knowing history can we prevent a repeat of this kind of horror.

Thomas and I talked about what we had seen and how moved we both were by it. We then headed back to the hotel to rest. We then headed to two grocery stores to stock up on some things. Thomas does not have a car so we took the opportunity to stock up on things that are easier to purchase when one has a vehicle. Then, we found a place to eat called the Pan Americana, which served food from both North and South America. We both had Mexican food - fajitas for me, burritos for Thomas. We both thought it was interesting that were were in Germany at a restaurant with an American motif, eating Mexican food. How worldly of us!

Tree-lined path at the Dachau Palace and Court Garden
Sunday: We had breakfast at the hotel once again before checking out and heading to the Dachau Palace and Court Garden. It was a beautiful palace and although many of the flowers are not yet in season so to speak, the paths in the garden were gorgeous. We had fun walking through them and just enjoying the fall colors and leaves. 

After visiting the Court Garden, we walked through town and then headed back to our car to get on the road back to Frankïsch-Crumbach. The drive was nice, the sky was blue and we were not in a hurry so we were able to enjoy the weather, the music on the radio, and just rolling along the highway. We stopped for an early dinner around 4 in Erbach, a beautiful old world town. It was raining a bit now and it had grown cold so it was nice to stop and have some good food in a cozy eatery. Thomas had lived in Erbach at one time and recommended a cute restaurant that served, among other things, pizza, spaghetti, schnitzel, and donërs. I had the spaghetti, he had the donër pizza and we were both very happy with the food. 

We headed back to the car while I played tourist taking photos of the town. We then stopped at the home of a friend Thomas's before heading back home, unloading our grocery purchases, and relaxing for the evening. It was a very productive weekend full of history, shopping, gardens, good food, and a nice drive through beautiful scenery. I couldn't ask for a better last weekend in Germany!

Monday, October 29, 2012

GERMANY - Second Weekend (Frankfurt)

Saturday: Our plan for this day was to head to Frankfurt, spend some time browsing the Sachsenhausen Flohmarkt (Flea Market), go to the museum, eat some Thai food, and then head home. The best laid plans...

We decided to head out early in the morning so we could be in Frankfurt around 9:30 or 10 a.m. The flea market is open on Saturdays only from 9 - 2. We were up around 6:30 so we could catch the bus at 7:18. I grabbed my clothes out of my suitcase and my shirt felt a bit wet. Hmmm...I brought it to my nose and smelled that gross, pungent aroma of cat pee. The cat had peed in my suitcase the evening before. GAH!!!!! Thankfully, he hadn't peed on all of my clothes so I was still able to get dressed, but this was not the way I wanted to start my day. 

We had some tea and the berliners I had purchased the day before. We bundled up and headed into the still dark morning. As we stepped outside, we saw it was raining a bit so we hurried to the bus stop. As we did the power walk down the road, we realized it was not rain. It was snow. Snow was pelting us through the air. We should have turned around and gone back home at that point, but no. We are hearty travelers, people intent on our mission. We made it to the bus stop, which thankfully had a small, shed-like shelter over it so that was a plus. We waited for the bus. And waited. And waited some more. It was supposed to be there at 7:18. It was now 7:25. And 7:30. And finally the bus arrived about 7:35. A little over 15 minutes late, which you wouldn't think would be a problem, but we arrived at our train station stop just as our train was pulling away. CURSES! 

At this point it was snowing, we were cold, we had missed our train, and the next one wasn't scheduled to come for another hour. We seriously considered heading to Darmstadt instead for a day of shopping, but no, I was insistent we must go to Frankfurt, I wanted to see the museum and the flea market. My boyfriend is such a good sport. There was a nearby grocery store so we went there and sat at the bakery counter where we had a pastry and some tea. It was a good (warm) way to pass the hour until our train came. Finally, we went back outside and the train arrived.

We had to change trains a couple of times on our way to Frankfurt, but we made it at last. We had a map and we went to the tourist information counter in the Hauptbahnhof (the train station) to find out where we needed to be exactly. The flea market is located on the bank of the river in Sachsenhausen  We headed over there. It was COLD. The snow was still coming down, although it wasn't sticking to the ground. Still, the air was frigid and the temperature was dropping by the second. 

We made it to the flea market and it was a bust. Not many vendors were out there and of those that were, several were packing it up to head home. It was about 10:30/11. I couldn't blame them at all. It was so cold. We hurried through the vendors that were there and then found a cafe where we had tea and shelter. We studied the map to find out how to get to the Senckenberg Museum. Our plan had been to go to the flea market for a couple of hours, eat lunch at Thai Express, and then head to the museum. Since the flea market was a bust, we flipped the plan and decided on the museum and then Thai Express for lunch. 

We weren't exactly sure how to get to where we needed to be to catch the bus/train to the museum so my boyfriend asked the elderly woman seated near us. She was very nice, but couldn't help. Later, my Thomas asked her to take our photo. She did so. She asked if the photo was good (in German) and I said to Thomas (who speaks both German and English) that it was OK, the lighting was a bit off, but it was fine. The woman then said to me in English "Is it really OK?" She had a British accent when she said this. And I said "Oh, you speak English. Are you from England?" She told me that after World War II, her parents had sent her from Germany to England to be educated there since Germany had basically been flattened by the war. She spent many years in England before returning to Germany. The people you meet when you travel are just amazing!

After that, we headed out to the museum. We walked a few blocks before finding the train station. It was freezing, but I always look at these things as an adventure and luckily, so does Thomas. We found the station and got on the train. It was the wrong one. There was someone on the train who told us which one we needed so we went back the other direction and found the right train. After departing at the train station, we walked several more blocks to the museum. I was absolutely frozen at this point, but the museum was a lot of fun. They had dinosaurs, fish, geologic items, and so on. It was a nice way to spend a couple of hours. 

After the museum, more walking was in store for us. We went to the train station and got out where we thought we needed to be to find Thai Express. We were hungry at this point and really in need of some food. We walked and walked, looking at our map and pondering if we were in the right place or not. We asked a taxi driver to help us find the street and he pointed us in the direction we should go. That did not help, we still could not find it. Finally, we asked a worker at an open to the street sandwich shop and she said she had no idea. We walked a few feet past the shop. I have a habit of looking around at the different shops and streets when I travel and it's a good thing because I turned to look and there, right across the street, was Thai Express! VICTORY!!!

We were so happy to find the restaurant and have a chance to sit and eat some good food in a warm environment. We ordered and ate. It was not bad. I do not like Thai food as a general rule, but Thomas does so I was happy to eat there. I can always find something on the menu at any place so I had beef and rice and gave my wonderful boyfriend the stir-fried vegetables that came with it. A win for us both :)

After the Thai restaurant, we headed to the big mall called the Zeil Galerie. We were not planning on purchasing anything, but it was neat to look at. It has an interesting design. We stopped in the food court and had ice cream. One of my goals in Germany was to find Spaghetti Eis. I absolutely love it and I have not found anything equivalent in the U.S. so I really wanted some. The ice cream place in the mall had it and they brought it to our table. DELICIOUS!!

We rested a bit at the mall and then headed out to catch our train. We rode for a bit and Thomas said our stop was coming up so we had to get out. Unfortunately, it was the wrong stop and the next train that would get us to where we needed to be arrived in an hour. And, that train would take us back to Frankfurt before depositing us at our stop. Whatever, we didn't care, we just wanted to be home at this point. I spotted a hotel/restaurant/bar and we walked over there hoping they would be open. They didn't look open, but it turned out they were. THANK GOD. 

We had tea in the restaurant, chatted, and rested before heading out to the train and catching it. It was a long ride back to Frankfurt and then to our stop in Reinheim. Finally, we made it to Reinheim. As we exited the train and it pulled away, Thomas realized his cell phone was on the train seat. GAH!!!! It was OK because the phone was older and it was a pre-paid card inside so no major money is lost, but still. It was just one of those "Really? This day has SUCKED" kind of things. 

Our last bus, the one that would take us home, was scheduled to arrive in about an hour. This was the same place where we had started our journey (and missed our first train) so we headed back to the same grocery store K&U bakery counter where we once again had tea and relaxed until the bus arrived. The bus came and we got on, along with about 50 teenagers who were obviously headed to some party. Several of them had alcoholic drinks in their hands. Thomas explained that you are allowed to drink beer and wine at 16 and harder liquor at 18. These kids were probably about 15/16 so that explained it. I find the concept of taking the bus to the party kind of funny, but then they cannot get a driver's license in Germany until they are 18 so I guess you do what you have to do to get to the party.

Finally, we arrived home around 9:30. It was a very long and cold day. A hot shower was SO welcoming and my sweet boyfriend made tea. We relaxed for a bit before heading to bed, both of us just so happy to be home at last.

Sunday: We did absolutely nothing on this day except visit Thomas's grandmother for about 45 minutes. We had Hawaiian meatballs, potatoes, and corn for dinner and just stayed inside. Perfect way to recover from the trauma of Saturday!

Friday, October 26, 2012

GERMANY - Week Two (Part II)

Thursday: Very early Thursday morning I awoke with severe pain. I've had this pain before and the only thing that can cure it is laying down and sleeping. So that is what I did once I took some medicine and prayed that I wouldn't die. That last part is totally necessary with this particular pain because I worry that I will die and then I hope that I will. Anyway, I spent most of the day resting. I felt better around noon, the stabbing portion of the pain had stopped, but it was still there just under the surface so I knew that this would not be a productive, get out there and do things kind of day. And that was fine. Sometimes you just need to let your body guide you. P.S. - Getting old sucks.

In the evening, I was hungry so we headed out to the local Pizzeria, which also serves my now beloved döner. Those things are God's gift to His children, folks for real! Anyway, I had a döner and Thomas had a döner pizza. About 3/4th of the way through the meal, the pain returned. We headed home shortly after that and I laid on the couch doing my convalescing thing. 

Friday: Thankfully, I felt better and was able to be more productive on this day. I headed into town and went to the bank and then the bakery, where I purchased berliners of course. And one croissant for lunch. Thomas comes home early on Fridays so we made our grocery list and headed to the discounter to do the weekly shopping. We planned dinner for next week - two meals and two sets of leftovers then probably one dinner out somewhere. We walked to the discounter and spotted a chicken truck out front. After shopping, we picked up some chicken and fries for lunch. Neither of us felt like making food for lunch because the walk to/from the grocery store was a bit rough since we were carrying our purchases and it was cold out. Really cold. My lungs think I'm trying to cryogenically preserve them.

Anyway, we returned home and ate our lunch then had an easy afternoon of hanging out. We planned our weekend trip to Frankfurt where we have some fun activities in mind. Stay tuned for the recap of those!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

GERMANY - Week Two (Part I)

Monday: This was an easy day at home. Sometime during the day, I visited the discounter (the local small supermarket) and bought some ice cream (Neapolitan), some Cherry Coke for Thomas, and I stocked up on the Peanut M&Ms and Haribo Gummy Frogs. I looked like an American college student who smokes a lot of pot with those grocery choices. LOL! For the record, I have never smoked pot in my life, but I have eaten like I do. Often.

At the bakery inside the discounter, I noticed they had apple berliners. SCORE! I had been hoping to find these somewhere. Most berliners have marmalade or pudding. I am not interested in marmalade at all and I had not tried the pudding ones, but I really wanted apple. I had already eaten breakfast so I decided I would return on Tuesday for the apple berliners. That did not have a happy ending. See Tuesday's entry for why.

I headed over to what I now refer to as my "regular" bakery with the intent of picking up a croissant for lunch. I saw that they had mini-pizzas and immediately changed my mind and picked up one of the delicious-looking tomato and cheese creations. Turns out it wasn't so delicious, but it was passable. Live and learn.

In the evening, we headed out to dinner at a small restaurant here that was having Bavaria week. Contrary to popular belief, Bavaria does not refer to all of Germany. Like the U.S., Germany is divided into areas that often have their own dialect, food, and customs. Bavaria is in the southeast of Germany and is the second largest "state" in the country. It encompasses Munich. I am in the state of Hesse, which encompasses Frankfurt.

Anyway, Bavarian food is pretty good, I had sausage and potato salad. We were the only customers in the place for food. This was a little restaurant with a small bar. When we walked in, a group of men were playing poker. It looked like Thursday night poker at someone's home. They were smoking, drinking, and playing the game with a lot of laughter and fun. Nice to see people having a good time!

What wasn't so nice was the deplorable service. The man who was running the place (and there was only one) took our drink orders fairly quickly, but after that, it was like he couldn't be bothered. We got menus off another table ourselves and then it took quite awhile for him to come back and take our order. I finally waved at him. He waved back and then it was at least a minute or two before he came over. I am not one of these impatient people who can't wait for a server to come over when they are busy. But this guy wasn't doing anything. He was behind the bar shooting the breeze with customers sitting there.

In any case, it was good to get out of the house and have a delicious meal so I can't really complain all that much. Besides that, I am generally loving being in a foreign country and having the opportunity to try different foods and enjoy the scenery.

We headed home and enjoyed some cake for dinner that we had picked up at the bakery on Sunday. Excellent stuff! We also planned our trip to Frankfurt this weekend. Very excited to go to the Saturday flea market, see the museum and have fun!

Tuesday: This day dawned cloudy and cold. I had planned on walking to the bakery to get a croissant for lunch as has become my usual custom, but I dumped that idea in favor of going to the discounter (the local small supermarket) because it is closer and I didn't want to be outside too long in the cold weather. As mentioned already, I had been to the discounter on Monday and spied the holy grail of apple berliners. I planned to return today to get some. But no. It was not to be. On this day, they had no apple berliners. Only marmalade. The was great. But, such is life and I bought some soup and ham for lunch. So all was not lost. 

A quick note to explain the soup situation - I am terrible with pronunciation of most foreign languages. Two years of French in college and I can barely speak a word of it, literally! My pronunciation is just that bad. But, I had made the effort since January to try to learn some German and I've gotten very good at reading and writing it. As I stood in the soup aisle at the discounter, I was fairly certain that the soup I had chosen was chicken and rice. I was about 98% sure of this because I recognized the word for chicken on the label. Or at least, I was hoping I was right. 

I got home, opened the can and found that I was indeed correct! So chicken and rice soup, ham, and some pepperoni for lunch. Not a bad meal really. Following lunch, I cleaned some dishes (we were out of forks so I just washed all of those) and peeled some potatoes in preparation for dinner. I also watched Prison Wives on Netflix. OMG. That is going to be a whole separate posting once my Germany travel posts are over. I also started reading this message board about the show. Funny stuff there, but also very sad and very true. 

Anyway, back to regularly scheduled travel topic - the evening consisted of bratwurst and potatoes for dinner followed by some Peanut M&Ms for dessert. We watched TV, I played on my Kindle and took a little nap before heading to bed for the whole night. 

Wednesday: Another cold day in the land of wurst and schnitzels! The day dawned once again cold and cloudy. It is currently 50 degrees at 11:20 a.m. I walked into town and went to two different bakeries. I had never been to one of them so I thought I would give it a try. It smelled delicious in there and I talked to the clerk a little bit. She knew a little English and I know a little German in terms of speaking (see above about horrible pronunciation) so it worked out. I bought a couple of pastries and a slice of cake. I have eaten one of the pastries for breakfast, the other will be saved for tomorrow. The cake will be dessert this evening. I went to the other bakery (my usual one) and purchased berliners. Two for Thomas and one for me. I decided to give the pudding berliners a try since apple filled ones were nowhere to be found.

DELICIOUS! The pudding is vanilla and the soft pastry dough around that filling is so delicious. I ate it on the way home. I will definitely be back tomorrow to purchase more for the rest of the week/weekend.

Monday, October 22, 2012

GERMANY - First Weekend

Saturday: The weekend was pretty easy going. Saturday was simple, I slept and played with Moritz, the resident house cat, surfed the Internet and just generally did a whole lot of nothing. Which is totally awesome when your life is pretty full back home. Just saying.

Sunday: The day dawned bright, clear, and warm. The morning started with a trip to the bakery for croissants and bread. It was a nice walk into town. The bakery was crowded, it's one of the few shops open on Sundays here. But the line moved quickly. We also picked up some homemade strawberry jam at the bakery. OMG, delicious!!!

View of Frankisch-Crumbach on the way down the hill.
We had breakfast and then did some laundry and had some do-nothing, listen to music time. We then took a walk to the forest area. It was a beautiful walk past vast fields with beautiful flowers, cows, and just generally gorgeous scenery. We stopped at the entrance to the forest and enjoyed the view from the gazebo there. It was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The walk was up a very steep hill in some parts, but it was great exercise!

We came home and listened to music, did some laundry, and puttered about. We also planned next weekend's trip to Frankfurt for shopping and the museum. Then we headed into town once again to get Döners for dinner. SO DELICIOUS!!! They give you SO much food and though I want to eat all of it, it's just not possible. We ate outside and watched people go by, just enjoying our food, the weather, and the scenery. 

The walk to the forest tired me out so I went to bed early. Starting another week now in Germany and loving every moment! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

GERMANY - Week One!

Sunday: This was the day I arrived and it was a low-key day, which is what I needed. We took the train and bus home from the airport. It was a cloudy and cool day and we rested and had a great dinner of spaghetti. We watched some TV and then it was off to bed. A good first day especially with needing to adjust to the time change.

Monday: I did nothing at all. I had planned for this to be a "get settled in" day and that is exactly what it was. I ate and I rested. I played on the Internet. I arranged things in my suitcase for easier access. Just the little things you do when you're settling in somewhere.

Tuesday: My first day of venturing out to the town! I walked into town on a beautiful path (see picture) and took photos of things along the way. I stopped at the bank to get some Euros and I found the bakery so I can return and purchase some Berliners (doughnuts with jelly inside, so good!) and bread.

Wednesday: I planned to return to the bakery for the purchase of said Berliners and also to wander the town some more. This did not happen. Instead, I laid down for a "few minutes" at 9 a.m. and woke up at 3:00 p.m. Hmmmm...6 hours is a few minutes depending on your definition of "a few" right? Right. Yeah. Oh well, Wednesday evening was spent walking around the town with Thomas and having dinner at a wonderful restaurant. I had schnitzel and fried potatoes as well as one of the best salads I've ever eaten. Fanta was the drink of the evening. Yes, Germany has many good beers, but I do not drink alcohol at all and I limit my soda drinking generally so soda is a treat for me. Dessert was ice cream with whipped cream in a glass. YUM!

Thursday: I ventured into town leisurely strolling along with my iPod shuffle. I was nearly run over by a car backing out of a driveway and then once again by a car coming down the road so I thought perhaps the iPod was not a good idea since I wasn't paying attention with it on. I took it off and continued strolling through town. It's so beautiful here, the fall weather is gorgeous and the leaves on the trees have the orange and brown fall colors.

I stopped at the "discounter," which is basically like a small supermarket. I bought some Peanut M&Ms and Haribo Gummy Frogs. I couldn't believe they had the gummy frogs, those things are hard to find in the U.S. sometimes and they are my favorite gummy candy! After that, I ventured through town just looking at this and that and taking photos of various buildings. I then made my way to a bookstore where I purchased post cards. The bakery is right next door so I got two Berliners and a croissant.  The croissant was lunch for me today. I also ate some M&Ms. Vacation food for sure - a croissant and M&Ms for lunch (plus a few gummy frogs).

I made my way back home where a nap seemed to be the best plan since I had been up since around 5 a..m. and I never sleep well anyway. So I napped.

We decided on Döners for dinner. Delicious meat and sauce with lettuce and tomatoes. SO GOOD! A local restaurant here has them so we got them for take-out and ate at home. I spent the rest of the evening resting and playing with Moritz, the resident cat. Well, actually, I mostly slept and Moritz slept on me and I petted him occasionally. It was a restful evening after all the food I had eaten. The Döner was delicious, but there was so much of it! YUM!

Friday: I decided to try using the local bus system to go a couple of towns over to meet Thomas at work and have pizza. The bus system is much the same as in the U.S. and I didn't find the language barrier to be too much of a problem. They basically understand what you need. I took the bus to Thomas's work and then we had pizza. It was not bad at all! I had the standard pepperoni and cheese pizza and though it was just a bit spicier than I usually like it, it was good. The serving size is fairly large as well, I could not finish it. After that, we took the bus home and I slept for a couple of hours on the couch before heading to bed. That is becoming something of a habit for me because I am so tired by the time 7 or 8 p.m. rolls around. I have been up much earlier than I normally am here. I need to get on a more regular sleeping schedule, but that is true at home too. In any case, I look forward to the weekend!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

GERMANY - The Flight

I boarded the non-stop flight to Germany on Saturday, October 13th. The plane took off at 4:40 p.m. and it was a little under 9 hours to Frankfurt from Houston. The flight wasn't bad. I had hoped to sleep on the plane, but my plans were thwarted when I got out my Sky Rest pillow, inflated it, and realized there were holes in it. Disappointment! I knew then that sleep was not going to happen. I was able to "rest" in that I closed my eyes for a few minutes here and there, but it wasn't real sleep of course.

In any case, the flight was fine. I watched the pilot episode of Sex and the City, which was available for free on the monitor behind each seat. They had other TV shows and movies for free as well. It was a nice selection and some of them were much newer than the SATC pilot episode. Surprisingly, the food wasn't bad on the flight. Dinner was chicken and rice with vegetables as well as a roll. Breakfast was fruit, a roll, omelet and potatoes. It wasn't enough food, but it wasn't bad in taste.

One interesting note about the flight - I had purchased some Mountain Dew in the airport as a treat for myself on the flight. I don't drink it often, but I love it. The German flight attendant saw the Mountain Dew and said "Oh, Go Go Juice. You know this reference? Honey Boo Boo. I just love that kid!" There are no words for the embarrassment my friends. NO. WORDS. Although the stewardess apparently likes the show, I am embarrassed that people from foreign countries are seeing things like this and that it is a representation in some way of America. UGH. Depression. Serious.

Moving on, I landed in Frankfurt in the morning around 9 a.m. It was easy to get through passport control and it went quickly. The airport was also easy to navigate. My boyfriend, Thomas, picked me up and we made our way home via train and bus and that was also easy. Germany has a great transportation system, which is awesome. I am staying in a small town called Fränkisch-Crumbach, which is not far from Frankfurt. It's a beautiful little town and I look forward to my adventures in Germany! 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Guten Tag!

This blog entry comes to you all the way from Germany where I arrived yesterday morning from Houston! I will be staying here for a month. I was born in Germany to American parents. My father was serving with the U.S. Army at the time and my mother couldn't quite make it to the hospital on the Army base so I was born in Gelnhausen in the German hospital. Consequently, I had dual citizenship for many years, although I no longer have it. 

In any case, I've always been drawn to this country and I have been here a few times before, but the last time was in 1995 when I was 19. I have spent the last 8 months planning this trip so I can take a month off from work and still pay the bills. I managed to do it and yesterday I boarded Lufthansa flight 441 in Houston for the non-stop almost 9-hour flight to Germany. I landed in Frankfurt about 9:00 a.m. I am staying in a small town not far from Frankfurt and I am loving it so far.

Come back to my blog for all the boring, wonderful, interesting, amazing details of my adventures in Deutschland!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I see the assassins have failed

I have long contended that humor is the only way to make it through both the joys and sorrows of life. So, a collection of funny things I've recently come across: