Archive for the “Germany” Category
Woke up and had the van ready to go by 9, without really rushing, and with packing things up in their stuff sacks since this was our last morning, a time we’d never achieve in a tent. Then our breakfast, one of the kids’ favourite: yoghurt and granola (crunchy muesli for the Europeans):
Then, as we’d promised Sprocket, we got a bit of time in at the playground outside the medieval city walls:
Yes, as DutchBoy read there, and as Wikipedia confirms, this town of 2400 is actually a city, since it was granted city rights in 1382, and was first noted in 889. Yup, plenty old. And really quiet. We felt like we were the only people making any sound in the whole place, although we saw one mum with her kids several times, out doing her errands. Otherwise, the only people we saw were older.
We headed first for the church, where the kids just liked playing with the water sculpture:
I started taking pictures:
And eventually wandered off, leaving DutchBoy with the kids at the fountain, entranced by the tiny lanes and old buildings:
Here and there signs of that people live here now:
These towers, the round one above and this gate tower, are from the 1400s:
Inside the gate:
I wonder if this is the recessed portal where Jews were hidden during WWII (mentioned in the Wiki article).
The main street:
And a water trough:
And one of the restaurants:
Looking back to the gate:
The church (not so old, only 1800 or so, since it’s Protestent, built after they knocked down the cathedral during the Reformation):
I eventually found my family again, and we wandered around some more:
Just a reminder that even though it’s old, the people are still modern:
And the house that the Count of the area lived in in the 15th century:
And Sprockette finding more water to play in. This fountain was built by the local gummy bear factory to celebrate having been there a while, and I’ve just found out that the bern in the town name also means bear:
The tower at the other end of town:
And another run through the playground:
Before leaving town, one last look down from the parking lot we’d spent the night in:
Then on the road with a sleeping Sprockette.
When she woke up we stopped for lunch in the nearest town, Wallau, and after finding the bakeries closed for lunch (from 1-2:30), bought bread at the supermarket and got directions to a playground, where we turned into criminals:
The sign says the playground is also closed between 1 and 3 to let the neighbours rest. Ah, Germany and its rules. We ignored that and let the kids play, though we did shush them a lot.
Sprockette was her normal daredevil self:
And Sprocket also enjoyed climbing and playing:
And they both enjoyed the swings:
Of course, soon after this picture, Sprockette fell off the swing and did a perfect face plant in the sand. I went to comfort her and found that she was crying because she wanted back on the swing – she pointed to it and stopped crying as soon as I put her back, wiping the sand off her face as I did so.
We then headed back into town because I’d seen a sign for strawberry sales, which turned out to only be on Thursday-Saturday. We also stocked up on some good German bread. This town turned out to be really old as well, as we found when we parked by this well, which had been in use from 1342 to 1803:
A random shot of the city hall and some older houses:
And then we headed straight home – the kids slept for a while and then, prompted by Sprocket saying he needed to pee just as we were about to get back on the Autobahn, we had our last fast food dinner for a while in a Burger King – at least in Germany they have decent veggie burgers. At the Burger King I was surprised that the neighbouring family, also with a couple of small kids, started talking to us in English, surprised because good English in Germany is fairly rare. Of course, it turned out they were also Dutch, also heading home from vacation, theirs in Slovakia.
Then the last painful two hours home. At the Dutch border, the kids eschewed sleep in favour of crankiness and I finally broke out the emergency DVDs and played them on my laptop for the last hour, feeding the Wiggles through the stereo (a cassette player! Luckily I still have my tape player adapter thingie that you can use with MP3 players), directly to the back. And then home, in bath, and in bed, the trip a success. The van turned out to be a good choice for our travel style, and we all had fun. And we did find the sun.
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We woke up in rainy Lienz at another almost abandoned parking lot by a athletic facility only open by appointment, another find from our guidebook (though, having lent the non-Germany volume of the guidebook to our new friends since we only needed it one more night, I was going by my notes – I’d noted down only the GPS coordinates, which turned out to be wrong and led us down a dirt road to nowhere in the rain – I’ll use addresses from now on, since that also happened to us on the way to Postojna, though that road might have gotten us there, if with a broken van. Luckily I’d also written down the name of the facility and a helpful gas station attendant helped us find it, so it worked out).
And, shamefully, we headed back to another McDs for breakfast. This was because, only because, I’d seen the night before that in Austria they actually have breakfast, unlike the McDs here in the Netherlands, and the one thing I really like at McDs is the hashbrowns, and I wanted some. As it turns out in Austria they call them rostis, and they are basically the same – yay for yummy fried goodness. Threw in some Egg McMuffins (just egg and cheese) just for fun and since it’s another thing we can’t get. Not that I ever eat them at McDs home, but I used to make my own (with veggie sausage things), but since English muffins are also not findable in the Netherlands haven’t had them in a while.
Then headed over to the Lidl for bread, pastries and juice – and again in Austria the baked goods are better at the Lidl than in our bakery. Sigh.
Another taste of America was to be found in the outskirts of Austrian cities, which in their strip mall planning looked like most American cities. It’s interesting because while in other countries, not the Netherlands so much, there are big box stores (and we’re talking huge) on the edges of cities, but they are situated differently than in the US and have a different feel. But in Austria we could have been back in anytown USA. I’m sure the centre was much different in Lienz though, as I just found out from Wikipedia that it is a medieval city, first mentioned in a deed in 1030, and that it received city rights in 1242.
Anyway, having apparently missed out on medieval goodness in favour of grease, we headed out on the road in the driving rain, through tunnels and mountains to the flatter German plain. By the time we got to Regensburg for a late lunch, the rain had ironically stopped (regen being rain in German). We found green space near the centre on the GPS and headed there, finding that most of it wasn’t actually accessible but a bit was, had lunch in a bandstand and let the kids run about:
Sprockette headed off at one point with her juice cup and the three tickets from Postojna in hand, looking quite satisfied with herself and making sure she had all four things every time she dropped one of them:
Then we headed into the centre for a very quick look as the kids were getting cranky (and, as I’ve just realized from the wiki article, I can now add another thing to my UNESCO list).
Sprocket actually likes going in churches, and was taken by this statue:
And I liked this business name:
More street scenes:
And another street:
And then Sprocket thought I should take a picture of him and his feather:
And one more street shot:
Before heading off on the road, heading to another free parking space in Mainbernheim, outside of Wurzburg, which was supposed to be very charming, we stopped on the way for our obligatory German supermarket stop, stocking up on veggie baby food jars (for over 12 months – still useful in emergencies and Liam likes them too), and a few German beers, including one that’s been brewed since 1119 and a relative newcomer, only brewed since 1412. And, something very close to English muffins, called toast bread, luckily vacuum packed.
Saw this interesting cloud formation on the way, rain just in a very definite area:
As it turned out, the baby food was a very good idea, as we had something to feed the kids. The idea was to get the kids to sleep and then go get food – the book said restaurants close by, and there were two of them, but I’d gotten scared by the menus on the first scouting mission (didn’t look like much we could eat and I didn’t know if they’d do take out), and by the time DutchBoy got back down, they were closed. We thought about eating other things, but fell asleep before we could act on it. Our last night sleeping in the van – we looked forward to exploring the charming town in the morning, after our first taste of its charms:
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Leaving Oberaudorf, we took a bit of a detour to avoid a traffic jam, and were treated to another random castle. OK, it probably isn’t random, it probably has good geographical and political reasons for being there, but we didn’t stop to find out:
Then back into Austria for the straight shot to Slovenia. The kids fell asleep, tired out by their morning on the mountain, but when Sprockette woke up she wasn’t happy. That is, until we went off the highway and onto a secondary route to try and find gas (not easy on a Sunday). She stopped crying as soon as we got off the highway, and loved this bit:
And then started again as soon as we got back on and it looked like this:
We ended up stopping at a reststop and eating and playing for a bit. Then onward to Slovenia! Of course, there are no borders any more, but the toll station for the tunnel under the mountains that separate Austria from Slovenia will do:
We paid our toll, and bought our vignette (a sticker you put on your car instead of paying tolls in a country – we now have Switzerland for 2011, Austria for 10 days and Slovenia for 7). And then through the tunnel to emerge in our 37th, 35th, 16th or 11th country! Sprockette picked up Luxembourg and Liechtenstein on this trip, but for the rest of us it was the first new one in a while.
Bled sounded nice, so we decided to go camp there. And it was beautiful, though the campground was pretty crowded by my tastes – DutchBoy thought it was totally normal:
And a panorama – spot the van:
The first day we didn’t do much. Sprocket made a new friend with a cheekily cute little 3-year-old English girl who was camping next door. They got on really well:
And Sprockette also got stung by a wasp – they were everywhere. At least we’ve determined she’s not allergic. She was fine after a bit of crying and sting stop.
And the kids played with their Papa:
And we tried to set up the tent that came with the van. Another thing we probably should have done before we left home, because as it turns out, the tent is made for a different kind of vehicle, one that has a rail that’s 2.44 to 2.55 m high, not the under 2 meter tall one on the van (I found this out when I went online looking for a user manual). It was sad, and I was sad that we hadn’t prepared well, so sad I didn’t even take a picture of it because it depressed me – but here’s a bit from the panorama:
At least it provided a bit of privacy, even if we had to move it out of the way to open doors and our heads hit the top of it. Sigh. Another thing to find and buy. At least I can make sure to get one I like.
The next day, we headed into Bled, taking the tourist train around the lake (I didn’t get a picture of that either – that felt like it would have elevated my cheesy tourist quotient just a step too high – but we’re talking about one of those trains on wheels that go through zoos and the like.) It was a nice way to get into the town and we had nice views of the lake the whole way. And the kids liked it of course.
Here’s a panorama of the lake from in front of the campground, taken while I was waiting for the train:
And the regular shot:
And the panorama from the other side:
And a couple of regular shots:
And then we saw what there was to see in Bled. Not much as it turns out – the attraction is really the lake and the outdoorsy stuff around it. The town is basically a shopping area built into a hillside with shops and restaurants for tourists. We did find a tiny camping store and got some more gas for our little stove, since we haven’t managed to get propane for the bus stove yet. I know, I know. No pictures from the town of Bled either, but it wasn’t that interesting. We had some crepes that were pretty good, and then Sprocket ran around and around while Sprockette slept in the stroller. Pretty exciting stuff.
Then we walked along the water for a bit, Sprocket fed grass to a swan:
And played with the relief map of the area, making trains go around the lake and things through it:
And we found our next fixer-upper project, now that we’re so good at it:
And we just missed a train going home, which made us get back too late, but while we were waiting for the next one, we got ice cream and then DutchBoy showed Sprocket things on a map:
When we got back, Sprocket was pretty wild, which really made us appreciate this van:
We chose for another day of doing nothing much. Sprocket’s friend left to go back to England and he was not happy. As soon as he woke up he was standing outside their caravan like a lovesick teenager, waiting for her to come out and play one last time. They were really cute together.
And Sprockette got a tick. The silly thing is I’d seen it the night before when bathing her, but I had no idea what it was. Ivo did recognize it, and freaked a little. The English couple were just leaving, and gave us the (bad) advice to scrape it out. I looked it up, and found out what to do and tried my best to do it. It seemed to get cleared up quickly but it’s still scary though.
We did have maintenance type plans, like doing laundry, but when we found it was €5 each for the washer and dryer, we decided we could make do. We got some maintenance type things done, but it was a hot, sticky day, and we finally decided to head down to the lake for a swim, of course, just after the clouds rolled in. DutchBoy was reluctant to come in, but the kids loved it, especially Sprockette.
Then I got excited by seeing something that looked like it could be perogies in the campground store, and bought some. After boiling them, I found they were more like dumplings (which is also what it had said in the English translation on the package but I was so hoping for perogies), and fried them too to make them yummier. DutchBoy and I thought they weren’t too bad, but the kids weren’t impressed and wouldn’t eat them – though they’d devoured rice and lentils the previous night. Funny tastes.
In the morning we packed up and left. One final scenic shot of the church as we left:
I was a bit sad that we hadn’t gotten out to the island and the church, but the options were paying €10-12 each for a tourist boat, or renting a rowboat for €10/hour – an hour would have been enough, but with Sprockette being such a monkey and Sprocket impulsive we didn’t think it was safe. Similarly, there was a beautiful gorge nearby, with a walk through the trees and over a stream and such, but with these kids we didn’t think it would be the best idea. Even with Sprockette in the back carrier, we weren’t sure about Sprocket not trying to run and climb about. But we did have a good time anyway, and the area around Bled is certainly gorgeous – and Slovenians are nice and friendly and most, at least in the tourist places we’ve been to so far, are happy to speak some English, even if they only speak a bit. So although we didn’t do much, we might go back to the area (maybe not to Bled itself, except to take a boat out to the church), especially if I can convince DutchBoy that the outdoors is fun.
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There are two kinds of free campsites in the guide. Really free, and free overnight parking if you buy dinner in their restaurant. Austria doesn’t have either kind, but Germany is littered with both. We decided to try the second kind, in a little place called Oberaudorf, which is in Germany, in the little corner surrounded by Austria (near Munich and Salsburg). It turned out to be a good choice. The beer was local and good:
And the food was also good – fried mushrooms and scrambled eggs for me and some kind of fish thing for DutchBoy:
But the kids were done, it was too late, we should have stopped for food earlier but Sprocket was sleeping, and they couldn’t deal any more, so eventually we were back to eating one at a time while the other took Sprockette outside. Luckily that wasn’t terrible since there was a plastic cow in the beer garden outside that fascinated her (sorry, no cow pictures).
In the morning, we got a good look at where we were. Nice hotel and restaurant:
We headed out to find a bakery for breakfast – luckily in Germany bakeries are open on Sunday mornings, about the only things that are. It was in this cool building.
View walking back to the hotel:
And the sign on the hotel, saying it’s been in the family since 1441. 1441. Fifty years before Columbus did his thing. Wow.
We decided to walk to the swimming pool our GPS showed as being 450 meters away. As we were walking we were passed by this lady who has probably been wearing these type of clothes for 70 years or so:
But the swimming pool was deserted and empty, apparently for a while. Sadness ensued, though Sprocket really did take it pretty well, despite having been excited.
And we walked behind it to make sure and were treated to this vista:
I’m trying something with panoramas here – an app called PhotoSynth on my iPhone – the panoramas are hosted by them. Let’s see how that goes.
So, swimming out, we decided to go up the chairlift since it was only a few hours drive to Slovenia and the sun was gracing us with its presence. There were nice views at the top:
And, there was a playground at the top!
With a slide.
And it’s really hard to see in this picture, but those little things are people up there by the cross, and they were having a service as hikers strolled by. It is a cool place for a service.
And then it was time to go down and get on our way. First we took the chairlift down (yes, we’re lame and lazy, and have two small kids and a new country to get to):
And then Sprocket and I took the summer sledding course down – DutchBoy was going to take Sprockette, but she fell asleep on the chairlift. The sled was very cool, like a self-controlled roller coaster – unfortunately I didn’t leave enough time after the mother and daughter before me and they were very slow – held up not just me but the three young boys behind me who really wanted to go fast. Here’s the course, of course couldn’t get a pic on it:
And then, finally, towards our destination. Of course, we’d only decided on the country…
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Many years ago, my parents hitchhiked around Europe with me and my sister, then almost 3 and less than 1. They hadn’t planned on hitchhiking – they bought a car in Amsterdam and planned to drive to visit my grandparents during my grandfather’s sabbatical in Nice. But the car broke down soon after they bought it, and being the early 70s, hitchhiking was the next best thing. At the time, my sister and I shared a passport and my father made a point of getting it stamped in Liechtenstein and Luxembourg – two tiny countries for two tiny girls. Three years ago, when we were camping nearby in Germany, we made a trip to Liechtenstein, paid two Euros at the tourist office, and continued the tradition by getting Sprocket’s passport stamped. We figured since we were close by, it was now time to do Sprockette’s. So we did.
Since we’d already explored the metropolis of Vaduz (it’s tiny) on our last trip, we hit the tourist office, got Sprockette’s passport stamped, and asked them where the playgrounds were. Stopped by the public toilets and got a quick picture of the kids in front of the same model of the castle we’d gotten a picture of Sprocket at three years ago:
Had to be quick, because a bus load of Indian tourists kept jumping in front of us for the same picture. Then Sprocket wanted to get a picture of us:
Then, while I availed myself of the facilities, I saw a bus load of East Asian tourists and thought to myself – oh, if we were there the kids would be being mobbed for pictures. Then, I really had to laugh when I came out and a woman from China was busy getting pictures of the kids and her with them. I did put her to use in getting a picture of all four of us, though Sprockette was more interested in being sure to hold onto the umbrella :
Then we went to the playground and ate lunch, continuing the tradition of playgrounds in small countries as in Monaco during our trip two years ago. Rather, we grabbed bites of it between the slide and the swings. Sprockette and her sliding – girl is crazy for it:
We were the only people in the playground, despite it being Saturday afteroon. Two thirds of the people who work in Liechtenstein don’t live there – they depend on migrant labour – though having Swiss and Austrians as migrant labour does point to a certain level of prosperity. A view of the playground, with the castle looming above.
Walking back to the car – here are public buildings in Liechtenstein (church is placed under the castle, as is everything else):
And DutchBoy with the kids:
And Sprocket wanted to go in the church, but it was closed, so I got him to try and look like a gargoyle.
Then we were off. But which way to go? We’d thought we’d go through Switzerland to Italy and then to Slovenia, but using the GPS, we saw that the traffic jams going out of Switzerland were more than an hour and a half, and we’d rather not do that. See, the delays getting the car fixed had put us in Switzerland smack dab on one of the summer’s Black Saturdays, when everyone in Western Europe heads out on vacation. And Switzerland, with its passes and tunnels, tends to get clogged up. Coming in to the country we’d already seen the signs warning of delays, but hoped we’d wait them out. No such luck and there were no ways around it. We decided to head through Austria and a tiny bit of Germany instead. This is why we don’t make reservations.
Austria’s always lovely, and has random castles on hilltops:
But where would we sleep tonight?
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