beyond the wall

Awoken early in Lübeck to an already sweltering morning sneaking in through the cracked windows, we headed down to breakfast in our hotel to find deviled eggs, oatmeal, cold cuts, and **drumroll** a TOASTER.  Yep.  Lübeck spoiled us, ice water for dinner and a toaster for breakfast.  Calming down now…

After breakfast, we trekked back through the now-familiar streets to the Marzipan store, stopping at the post office (yellow here, not blue) to mail a letter to Justin, and REWE to grab an iced coffee for me.  When the store finally opened at 9:00 our senses were overwhelmed.  The detail in the store was extraordinary, the pastries were tiny, delicate works of art, and the chocolate shaped into various fruits and veggies were unbelievably realistic.  Dad got some chocolate, Cameron got a Marzipan glass and we were on our way to the sprawling city of Berlin!

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We were aiming for a 1:00 walking tour but the construction throughout the city streets of Berlin took more time than we bargained for (the amount of construction in this city is absurd!!  They must be taking advantage of their summer months because truly every other street is closed).  Just a few minutes late, we were able to sprit along the river to easily catch up with our tour but after stopping for a few moments we decided a Tim Graham memory, Rick Steves book, and iPad with data could handle our own Berlin tour (we were right 🙂 ).  We spent the afternoon exploring Berlin:  the Berlin Dom on Museum Island, the Lust Garden, views of the East Berlin TV tower, adding a Berlin Starbucks mug to our collection, and walking on the River Spree.

DSC_0927{the dom at lustgarten}DSC_0928DSC_0930DSC_0932SAM_0797{spelled my name correctly WITHOUT BEING ASKED}

As late afternoon arrived, we set out to find our apartment where we would be staying the next three nights in Berlin.  Ten minutes north of downtown Berlin, it was a bit difficult to find (even with three GPS and four sign readers) as we figured out there are multiple streets with the same name – on opposite sides of the city.  However, the apartment was well worth the trouble!  Easily able to sleep seven, we had two bathrooms, three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a family room all to ourselves.  The rustic wood floors, ancient windows (that OPENED ALL THE WAY – we’ve had a few hot nights with windows that only cracked), beautiful views of the city, and just a lot of character in general, the apartment reminded Cameron and I of one that you would see in the movies.  We sorted out some laundry and hauled it back downstairs to the Laundromat ½ block down the street.  After getting the laundry all started in the washers, Mom, Cameron, and I crossed the street (dodging bikes, pedestrians, trains, and cars…in one intersection) to the grocery store where we picked up some things for dinner and breakfast the next day.  Cameron and I went up to the apartment to begin cooking while Mom went back to help Dad finish up the laundry. We didn’t hear the parents screaming at us to let them from the streets (oops…) but we did make a lovely meal of pasta, veggies, and chicken that tasted remarkably like pork (hey, it’s tough to shop with just pictures and Germans…your pig looks like a chicken, folks!!).  Regardless it was delicious and served as necessary fuel for our 14-mile stroll through Berlin the next day.

SAM_0804SAM_0802{our beautiful home cooked meal in the apartment with the streets of Berlin below}

SAM_0808{solid attempt at a mirror selfie}

The following morning we ate a traditional American breakfast in our apartment and made our way down to the train station directly below our apartment to catch the train into downtown.  We confirmed our route with a fellow train-goer – and it was lucky we did!  The construction we had battled through the day before also effected the trains meaning we would have to make several transfers.  We drove 🙂 Arriving into downtown Berlin, we found a parking lot next to Starbucks (theme, perhaps? 🙂 ).  We all got a coffee and utilized their wi-fi for a bit to plan our day, check on pictures of Justin, and answer some emails.

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Then we were off!  Beginning the tour at Checkpoint Charlie, we walked down by the old SS and then walked through the Charlie museum they had set up.  Charlie wasn’t named after a specific person but rather signified this was the third checkpoint (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie) on the border of East and West Berlin.  We were able to read about the how to get in and out of East Berlin and thus the checkpoint severed as the beginning of our sobering historical tour through Berlin’s turbulent history.  There were moments that I still can’t fully comprehend my own feelings of how humans could act like that; there’s just no logic anywhere and impossible to understand how some of the events of WW2 and the aftermath could have even happened.

DSC_0951IMG_0026IMG_0030IMG_0031IMG_0029IMG_0028DSC_0942DSC_0952DSC_0943DSC_0940DSC_0938DSC_0956DSC_0960DSC_0958{the mathies at Einsteins Coffee}

DSC_0959{check out the row of segways!}

DSC_0961DSC_0965{there are pipes like this painted a variety of colors throughout the city – we googled it and I guess they run water away from constructions sites because Berlin is only 7 feet above sea level the sites would flood otherwise}

{such interesting street art}

{east germany’s tv tower}

Next we walked to Babelplatz, the infamous square where the Nazi’s burned books written by Jewish authors or otherwise deemed to carry an unfit message.  In the midst of the busy square is an opaque glass window, set into the cobblestones.  Below you are just able to make our the shelves of the underground university library, expansively empty as far as you can see, serving as a unsettling, symbolic representation of the books that were lost to history forever.  German poet Heinrich Heine wrote in 1820 “where they burn books, they also burn humans” – a quote that becomes eerily upsetting when starting in this square because we all know the Nazi’s burned the books of Jewish authors and soon were cremating the Jews themselves.  The emotion and incredible weight of history that you feel when starting in this square – I just cannot describe it.

Continuing our journey through Berlin, we next saw the Brandenburg Tor.  Built in 1791, the gate is the last surviving of the original 14 that led into the walled city of Berlin and was a symbol of peace, however the Nazi’s misused it as a triumphant arch through which to return to their capital after conquering somewhere.  It sat unused throughout the life of the Berlin Wall as it was in the dangerous ground close to the wall.  Now there is a room of silence dedicated to thinking about all the gate has witnessed.
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We crossed through the gate and next saw the Reichstag – the German capital.  The building has a glass dome, symbolic of the transparent government after WW2 – glass (and thus clear) it means the German people can keep an eye on the workings of their government.  The Reichstag offers tours throughout the year, however closes one week per year for cleaning…that week is right now so we admired from the outside and moved forward for a picturesque walk through the Tiergartens.

DSC_0973 DSC_0974 IMG_0036 IMG_0035{we could NOT figure out how they did this!!!!}

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The Tiergartens, much like Central Park of NYC, are a beautiful oasis amidst the noise and bustle of a large city.  There is an instant tranquility felt when you enter the park and the crisscrossing web of pathways is relaxing to wander.  We explored the park stopping at the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal (Soviet Memorial dedicated to the 80,000 Russian troops, American glockenspiel (gift to Germany from America), Siegessaule (Victory Column to celebrate military wins by 19th century Prussia) before taking a break for lunch at Café am Neuen See.  A Bavarian-style beer garden nestled on the shore of Tiergarten’s New Lake it was a gorgeous place for a bite of pizza, a beer, and some great people watching.  The couple behind us was speaking English and after saying hello we learned he was from Florida but had been living in Berlin for the past ten years.  He was able to give us some great advice about which pieces of the wall to go see.

DSC_0964 IMG_0037 DSC_0976 DSC_0981 DSC_0989 DSC_0990 DSC_0993 DSC_0995 DSC_1000 DSC_1001 DSC_0994{we were about to enter the nude portion of the park…oops!!}

DSC_0987 DSC_0988 IMG_0038 IMG_0039 IMG_0043{the benches where we ate are in the background}

IMG_0042{there are bikes everywhere!!} IMG_0041 IMG_0040IMG_0045{our duck friend – he had a hurt foot so we fed him 🙂 }IMG_0044 IMG_0072 DSC_1005 DSC_1003 DSC_1002 DSC_0996

Leaving our peaceful little park, we walked to Ka-De-We, which was familiarly reminiscent of Harrod’s in London – eight floors of a department store, that houses everything you could want.  We spent the majority of our time on the 6th floor – the food floor – exploring the expansive displays that housed every brand, variety, and type of food you could ever think of.

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Tracking back toward to Tiergarten, we stopped for a few hours at the Zoo Berlin, a world famous collection of animals and sights.  It was relaxing to wander among them and very fun to see different species of similar animals (while most of the animals at our zoo’s are from the Americas, the majority of these were from Europe and Africa).

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After the zoo we stopped at Tony Roma’s for dinner before heading back to the apartment for the night.  All told, we ended up walking more than 14 miles through Berlin in a single day!

Our next morning in Berlin, we rose early and fixed breakfast at the apartment before backing the car and heading back to downtown Berlin – first stop, Starbucks 🙂  We ended up going to three different ones in Berlin (this one partially by accident and due to one long tunnel…).  We caught up on some emails and walked a few blocks to the Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  Covering an entire city block of concrete blocks and called the Field of Stelae, each steale is a different height and each represents a page of names of Jewish citizens murdered at Auschwitz.  Just standing here is enough to make your stomach twist.  Throughout the Holocaust Memorial under the field I was near tears.  It just is impossible to understand how humans could act this way toward one another.  It truly is repulsive, illogical, sickening, and just sincerely beyond words.  The emotion is raw and it’s something I will never, ever, ever forget.

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After the memorial we ventured to one of the three major sections of the remaining Berlin Wall.  Another example of the crimes humans can commit on one another for absolutely no reason.  The wall was built after over 3 million East Berlin residents migrated into West Berlin.  The first one we visited was a section of the wall that was residential – homes stood in between the inner and outer Berlin Wall were originally allowed to come and go as they pleased between East and West Berlin, however as East Berlin and the Russian forces got more intense, these homes had their front doors (which exited into West Berlin) boarded up and the residents were forced to move into deep East Berlin in the middle of the night.  It was incredible to see the more-or-less intact side of the East Berlin wall whereas the West Berlin side was bare clear to the inner wires because the West Berlin residents would chip away at the wall.  West Berliners would also dig tunnels from West Berlin to the wall so the East Berliners just had to match up one of the tunnels and could escape to West Berlin.  Despite this aid, many were shot in their bid for freedom to West Berlin.

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After walking through all the monuments and exhibits, we stopped to eat burgers and hummus before getting back in the car to visit another section of the remaining Berlin Wall – a 1.3 km stretch now dubbed the East Side Galley (not to be confused with East Side Deli!).  This piece was covered with artistic expressions right after the majority of the wall was torn down in 1989 and on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall the artists were all invited back to repaint their masterpieces.  Some were meaningful, some enchanting, some beautiful, and some just weird.  It was fun to walk and point out each of our favorites.

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The final evening in Berlin, we headed back to the apartment, Mom and Dad did more laundry, Cameron and I caught up on Suits and we got ready for an early morning drive into Messien.  Below are some random things we’ve noticed wandering the streets of Berlin…

IMG_0094{flyers on the pole thicker than my hand}

DSC_1013{the number of bikers in this city warrants their own TRAFFIC SIGNAL}

IMG_0034{<3 <3 <3}

seaport towns that are prettier than Aberdeen ;)

Breakfast this morning was wonderful and quiet – we were fairly certain that we were the only ones who stayed the night. Presented with a bottle of cherry wine upon check out, we dropped a letter to Justin in the International Mail bin they had and were on the road to Bremen via a stop at the Hannover Starbucks (duh).

Bremen is a German seaport town that was made famous by the Bremen Town Musicians fairytale (another from the Brothers Grimm) which chronicles the lives of four farm animals – a donkey, dog, cat, and rooster – who were getting older and of no use on the farm anymore. Instead of awaiting their fate, they escaped and joined on the road to Bremen, intending to live out their days as musicians in the city. Fate intervened as they surprised a gang of robbers in a cottage. The four used teamwork to chase the robbers away and proceeded to live happily ever after in the cottage. The statue in the town square pays tribute to the four and legend says that kissing the feet will bring one luck.

DSC_0817{the four of us next to the original}

DSC_0823{there were versions of the Bremen fairytale throughout the town}

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We spent time in Bremen wandering the shops in the historical district and market plaza.

DSC_0806{it’s always one of us…haha}

DSC_0805SAM_0697DSC_0838DSC_0837SAM_0695SAM_0688{the COOLEST machine that juiced the whole orange from the top into very fresh, very yummy, orange juice}

SAM_0687{fresh fruit stands dot the marketplaces – fun place to pick up some grapes or a fresh squeeze juice}

SAM_0686{our orange, carrot, apple juice}

SAM_0685SAM_0683{we are getting a knob in the cities we stop in to decorate a 9 drawer dresser we have at home – it will be the dresser of the trip!}

SAM_0680{lace, lace everywhere!}

SAM_0677{cameron wanted to purchase this…and put it in our living room….}

SAM_0674IMG_0022{we purchased a neat jar with the bremen characters on top and the only one who likes this type of candy got to fill it up :)}

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{fun street performers are everywhere – statues and musicians seem to be the most popular}

Lübeck was our next stop and our destination for the night. While Dad checked into the hotel, we watched a couple of drivers fighting for a parking space. Each had pulled in half way and neither was going to give the spot up. We watched for a good 15 minutes and neither got out of their car to fight or argue (as they probably would have in America….) just waited it out. Talk about playing a relaxed game of chicken! After loading Cameron in the elevator with all the suitcases and sprinting up four floors to meet him, we dumped the luggage in the stuff room and quickly escaped down to the cooler streets below.

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For the next few hours we completed a walking tour throughout the beautiful sea town of Lübeck, beginning with the ancient and impossibly thick city walls.

DSC_0850{the gates to the city}

DSC_0845DSC_0855DSC_0852DSC_0859{the old salt store warehouses}

DSC_0862DSC_0870SAM_0725SAM_0729{our ever fantastic tour guide leading us on a tour of the city}

SAM_0700{urban dictionary says that ausfahrt is the largest city in europe 😉regardless, the word means exit and makes us giggle every time}

SAM_0699{they have mirror guards – speak volumes to the width of their streets and their driving habits!}

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We ate dinner at a wonderful little restaurant – both the ambiance and the food we all agreed was our favorite so far this trip. Nestled in a peaceful and decorate courtyard off of Huxstrasse, OHANA had great, recognizable food (pasta, salads, burgers, schnitzel) but this was the kicker…water….with ICE! Like real ice, people. We are incredibly spoiled in the US in case anyone was wondering ☺ Our server, Jeremy, spoke superb English and was very helpful. He also loved talking to us, asking us what we call silverware and picking up on colloquial tendencies that I suppose you can only learn by talking to a native speaker. He helped us with our German and brought the best meal of burgers, salad, and potatoes (wedge fries).

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After dinner we finished the city tour – having walked entire perimeter of the island city.

SAM_0775SAM_0773{well, they tried.  forever 18 is down the street….}

SAM_0768SAM_0756SAM_0776{i’ve been fascinated by their buggies – the babies lay completely down!  finally, i asked a couple if i could take a picture of their stroller haha}

SAM_0755{hidden courtyards are private escapes from the city streets}

DSC_0920DSC_0918{the view from our hotel window}

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The famous Lübeck candy company, Marzipan chocolate, was closed so we checked the hours to come back after breakfast the next morning.

traveling through fairytales

We began the day with breakfast in the bottom floor of the castle, a heavenly breeze drifting in the open window – Germany is having a major heat wave!  A bowl of plain yogurt, cold cuts, and a few hard-boiled eggs later we hit the road.  Destination:  Sleepin’ Putey’s Castle (ohh how we miss Justin!  That was how he said Sleeping Beauty as a toddler).

DSC_0765{statues mark the fairytale route}

DSC_0770{sleeping beauty’s castle inspiration}

DSC_0774{awww love…also, we must remember to take multiple shots!}

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A quick stop at the castle and we continued driving; the driving around this area is indescribably beautiful.  Zipping through the German forests, on roads that are pushing it to be classified as one-lane, it’s strange how familiar and unfamiliar they are at the same time.  The miles of tress and constant spectrum of green is – while pretty – nothing out of the ordinary for us.  However, the absence of ground cover and the scraggly pine make it easy to imagine the Brother’s Grimm writing down tales the cautionary scary stories that have become our children’s fairytales.  History tells us that the Brother’s Grimm would travel the area, stopping at the local pubs, listening to the tales of 19th century, and writing them all down – a gift for future generations.  As we traveled the fairytale route, the stories take a new life and it becomes easy to see where the inspiration was drawn (much like the life that was given to the Harry Potter books when we traveled throughout the UK).

DSC_0783{exploring the forest}

DSC_0786{the nettles got him :/}

DSC_0790{this road is for both directions}

DSC_0791SAM_0659{there were many houses in all the different towns we drove through that had these sorts of inscriptions above the door}

Back on the road, we stopped in a small German village just before Furstenberg that was in the midst of their annual strawberry festival.  No one spoke any English but we managed to purchase a few baskets of delectably fresh strawberries before continuing into Furstenberg.

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We searched the entire town but found nothing open, nothing!!  It has been a surprise to find that Sunday is truly a day of rest – everything from cafes to pubs; grocery stores to Starbucks are closed on Sunday.  All of us now hungry, we continued into Hameln.  Entering a café with charming outside patio on a pedestrian only street, Cameron asked the waitress if they had any open seating and English menus.  Apparently his German was so good she thought he was fluent because she quickly jabbered a paragraph back to him – not the yes or no we were hoping for and our blank faces gave us away.  She switched to English telling us to go out the patio and she would bring some out.  Ah, so close 🙂

The boys managed to get their beer order correct to get the kind they wanted and our food was wonderful.

DSC_0793{finally, the proper kind of beer!}

DSC_0794{and still water for the girls}

DSC_0795DSC_0796DSC_0798DSC_0800{pied piper}

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In the midst of our dinner, another German tourist tapped my dad on the shoulder and began speaking in German, gesturing quickly toward his wife and holding his camera.  Without missing a beat, Dad jumped up, mumbled a few mmhmm’s, and walked to the middle of the street to take their picture.  The man continued to talk to him in German, giving him instructions on how to use the camera and what to take in the picture (we think…) while Dad just nodded and said sehr gut.  Taking the picture and handing the camera back to the man, he sat back down and the man walked happily away.  The three of us were dying with laughter – the man had not a clue that Dad didn’t speak any German and Dad didn’t do anything to correct him.  It was absolutely hilarious.

Leaving dinner we headed our to our hotel for the night, a quaint B&B in the Hameln suburbs.  The B&B also served as a sort of petting zoo with several animals and a myriad of bird species.  We walked around a bit before heading to bed; ready to continue to Hanover the next day.

cruisin’ the Rhine

We left Cologne far too early, stopping at the local grocery store REWE for a quick breakfast.  The German people have been incredibly kind and accommodating everywhere we’ve gone – I’m amazed at how many of them speak English and those that don’t work with you to get it figured out for the most part.

The drive to Bacharach was gorgeous.  Already a hot morning, the sunshine lent a special kind of magic to the impossibly steep grape fields and countryside that rolls down until it bleeds into the Rhine River.

SAM_0649 SAM_0644{a peak at the Rhine below}

SAM_0643{excuse the pictures, taken from a moving car ;)}

SAM_0642IMG_0005{grape fields for days}

IMG_0006{cobblestone roads make for bumpy rides :)}

DSC_0677{entering Bacharach}

DSC_0681DSC_0678IMG_0009{original entrance to the walled city}IMG_0008IMG_0007

Upon arrival, we purchased our tickets for our 10:15 Rhine River cruise and paid 0,50 each to use the wash closet.  The boat arrived and we hustled our way up to the top deck to get seats on the edge.  It was a beautiful day in the sunshine as we cruised down the Rhine River.  We began where we were going to stay that night – in Bacharach with views of Stahleck Castle (Burg Stahleck).  The town of Bacharach was – and remains – famous for producing some of the best wine on the Rhine.  Local wine makers love to brag that the medieval Pope Pius II ordered Bacharach wine by the cart.

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One of my favorite views on the cruise was the Pfalz Castle (in the river) with the Gutenfels Castle in the background.  The Pfalz Castle was built in the 12th century and was used by the town of Kaub to tax medieval river traffic.  When boats came through, the Castle would raise its chains and refused to lower them, thus allowing the river traffic on through, until the merchant had paid Kaub a tax.  Those who didn’t pay were thrown in prison.  The Pfalz Castle is also famous for the role it played in Napoleonic history.  In 1813, as Napoleon fought his way back to Paris after his failed Russian campaign, he stropped at Mainz with the hopes of fending off the Russians and Germans chasing him by controlled that strategic bridge.  German General Gebhard von Blucher tricked Napoleon by building the first major pontoon bridge of its kind at the Pfalz Castle.  Blucher managed to cross the Rhine and outflank the French.

DSC_0692DSC_0693{pfalz castle}

DSC_0695{gutenfels castle}DSC_0694DSC_0698DSC_0700DSC_0707DSC_0704{dad says that it is a law that the church must be the highest thing in the city…we think he is full of it but we haven’t found a contradiction yet!}DSC_0703

These imposing slate rocks are drenched in medieval legends and stories of warning.  Named The Lorely, this cliff of rocks rises 450 feet over the narrowest and deepest part of the Rhine.  The rocks also marked the spot of the killer reefs, nicknamed the “Seven Maidens” (the seven spoiled princesses who were turned into stone when they ran away).  The killer reefs caused many ships passing through to crash, making this slate cliff the last thing they saw on their voyage.  Sailors blamed the misfortune of the reefs on wunderbares Frulein, a siren whose long, blonde hair almost covered her body.  Legend tells the story of a count sending his men to kill the siren after she distracted his sailing son who crashed and drowned at this point of the river.  When the soldiers cornered the nymph in her cave, she called to her Father Rhine to save her.  Huge waves rose from the river and carried Lorely to safely.  She’s never been seen since.

DSC_0714{slate cliffs} DSC_0713DSC_0711DSC_0715DSC_0710{markers that line the river help us know what we are looking at}

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This is the Katz Castle.  A wealthy Japanese man purchased it in 1995 for $4 million.  He had grand plans to renovate but his plan was made incredibly difficult by the town that fought him every step of the way.  Eventually he abandoned the castle, which now sits empty, known as the Japanese Ghost Castle.  The amount of Japanese tourists that got off at this boat stop made it evident that it remains a Japanese’s tourist destination.

DSC_0719{katz castle}

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Folklore tells of these two castles that were owned by brothers – each wanting to outdo the other in an attempt to impress the fair maidens of the day (this is all stuff of fairytales, I’m telling you!).  In an effort to dampen the hostility, the brothers built a wall between their castles.  Apparently, it didn’t work as the tale continues to tell of how they killed each other at church one day…

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Some of our fellow passengers were obviously in the midst of a stag party, thoroughly enjoying themselves even though it was 11:00 in the morning!  I wish I spoke German because I’m certain they were hilarious.  However, I have my own entertainment 🙂

DSC_0728{clearly the groom, he was offering to take pictures with everyone in many different languages.  Cameron took him up on it :)}

The passengers that were sitting next to us were taking turns taking partial family pictures so I asked the daughter if she spoke English.  She did so I offered to take their picture as a family and her boyfriend told me that they lived in Germany but his girlfriend’s parents were visiting from Portugal.  He said he loved to talk to a real American as many Germans love to speak English but often only have other German native speakers to talk to so they never know if their English is really that good.  When I told him we were from Seattle he replied “oh yes! Kurt Cobain!”.  Good to know what we are really famous for. 🙂

IMG_0013{our 8 euro bottle of water…WHY is water so expensive here??!  Even at grocery stores it is incredibly difficult to find still, non fortified bottles of water}

As we went to disembark the ship we discovered a Subway on the bottom deck – as we had all been hungry on the top deck!  {Tip for any future Rhine River Cruisers!}  We walked into Brubach and stopped by the visitor’s center for a German restaurant recommendation.  We trekked up the hill to a wonderful lunch on the front patio (really the street…) where Cameron, Dad, and I had schnitzel again (Cameron mushroom, Dad fried egg, I plain) and Mom had a turkey steak.  It’s been a pleasant surprise to find most restaurants have English menus available once they figure out we are American.  At lunch, I had a question about one of the menu items and our waitress didn’t speak much English, however, the patron next to us quickly jumped in and offered help – he works for an international company and said that he was always grateful for a chance to practice his English.  Cameron, however, has been our savior throughout the trip.  He insists his two years of high school German don’t mean much but he knows how to say nearly everything we ask and can decipher menu items, signs, etc.  He’s amazing!!!

DSC_0742{the boys non-alcohol beer = result of language barriers! 🙂 dad asked for a “local beer” which we figured out sounded like “low-alcohol” or “no-alcohol” to our witness who didn’t speak much English.  Cameron figured out how to say local beer in German and their next meal they did much better}

We finished up our meal and headed back toward the water to catch the train north for a quick jaunt into Koblenz (for free, after trying to figure out how to pay…and failing).

DSC_0696DSC_0743{we sleepy kids}

The Koblenz station was bustling and we purchased tickets back south into Bacharach.  37 minute train ride later we arrived, collected the car, and went up to our hotel for the night, a.k.a. the castle on the top of the hill!  A youth hostel, we had a private room that was incredibly reminiscent of that darn dorm room I once lived in.

DSC_0748{views from the castle wall}

DSC_0750{entering the hotel}DSC_0752DSC_0758DSC_0759DSC_0761DSC_0751

We hooked up to Wi-Fi and got everything set up because tonight was THE NIGHT!  After three longggg weeks we finally got to talk to Justin!!!!  He left the Air Force Academy on Doolie Day Out where he got to go to his baseball coaches house to spend the day resting, calling family, and enjoying a MUCH deserved break from Basic.  It was the best part of the day to talk to him over Skype (international rate = nicht gut) for a few hours.

After he wanted to go take a nap, we left our castle perch and went back down into Bacharach for dinner at a Greek restaurant (none of us are very decisive so it was the first parking space we saw).  The food was okay but the owner was a hoot.  Finishing off the night with some Rick Steve’s recommended gelato we went back to the hostel and crashed until we got to spend a few more hours on the phone with Justin around 1:00 am.  Back to sleep in our stuffy, hot room and to begin on the fairytale tour the next day!  We have such an amazing travel agent taking us around – everything meticulously planned and wonderful!!  All we have to do is follow along, eat, drink, and see the sights!

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And onward bound!

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