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!