Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Travels with Debi in Germany: Lets go to Switzerland!

Let's begin another amazing day of this trip, actually only the second full day there.  Germany is such a wonderful country to visit, and just one of the cool things about Hohberg/Diersberg is it is close to a few other countries I wanted to check off my list.  Actually I would like to spend more time in both Switzerland and France, but that is another discussion.  I don't actually have passport stamps from either Germany or Switzerland....  thanks a lot, Iceland,....  but I know I was there. I have a lot in my brain about all of these topics, but I won't digress- at least for now!

I was asked what I wanted to do by both of my hosts for their respective countries.  Knowing that this would be a unique trip because I was staying with "locals"  I had very few requests for what I would like to do.  I did request if it was possible to go to Zürich, because, well Switzerland ya know?  Some of this want was because I thought the Alps were closer, but no.  Not that close.  Oh well, another trip.

At the top of the mountain- with Anne-Sophie and Johann- who has a rock.  Lol
Looking out over the hills and valleys 

Because my friend Anne-Sophie- sort of unbeknownst to me- had lived lived in Zürich for a while, she was more than happy to tour  with me around the city a bit. We drove the hour plus into Switzerland and parked near the train station and took a train up the (I don't think technically this was a mountain) big old hill where we could look over the city and Lake Zurich.

The train station in Zurich where we boarded the train up the mountain

Sort of a random photo of where we got off part way up the mountain

So trains....  I spent a lot of time on various trains above and below the ground on this trip.  It was for the most part an enjoyable experience.  I guess the only not that enjoyable part was later on but you will hear about that soon.  I was sort of giddy traveling up that mountain, smiling at and talking to (listening to) Johann, looking out the windows at the houses and buildings and scenery, chatting about some information about where we were going....  I don't get at all worried about the height when I am in a train, so that ramps up my enjoyment levels a lot.  I think train travel is underused here in the US, but you know us. We like our cars!  This train was super clean and on time and well, very Swiss precision.  My impression of Switzerland and Germany is how really very clean looking it is, especially where I was.  And it is nice to be able to read some of the signage. (Sorry Italy, I'm trying but your language is not as easy to learn for me).

This was my view for lunch on Friday the 15 of June, and I think it was pretty freaking spectacular.

Anyway, we took that train up the hill/mountain to a place called Stallikon-Uetilberg according to my phone's location tagging.  (Hey, upon reading my link for Üetilberg, it IS considered a mountain, but not the Alps) **I was on a mountain**  Lol  It was spectacular!  We hiked up the rest of the way to the top, and then got to look out over the city and lake below.  It was so beautiful.  One of my favorite moments of the trip. (I am sure if you are counting or I mention them all, there are a lot of favorites and moments)   AND then we ate at a lovely restaurant, outside and had a beautiful lunch overlooking the lake and the country and we saw trains below- so much fun.  AND superb food- just superb.  

 A salad that included various veggies that I loved and that stick was indeed bread- a lovely plate, no?  And we did have some ice cream some where along the way this day as well.

After spending a few hours up there, we took that train back down again and then we went into the city.  All the while Anne was pointing out places like the Starbucks she used to go to,  and other locations that she knew around Zürich.  We walked to a river and saw swans on it, many tourists walking around getting tours, some SUPER amazing architecture and many other things I'm sure I am forgetting about.

Look at these colors...  and look- swans!  Limmat River

These buildings were so cool.  The architecture is divine.

An interesting balcony on a corner downtown- those torsos stopped me in my tracks

OK, cool things about Europe-  all the outdoor cafes and restaurants. All the fresh foods that are available all over- I want to go to a good bakery and buy a small loaf of bread every day or two.  (and pretzels because that just has to be said. AND all the plants that are hanging from people's balconies and windows.  It is everywhere.  And I am so impressed.  And the wine- mmmmmmm.  I have no pictures to illustrate any of these points at this moment, so imagine this paragraph as a loosely related aside.

The metal work on this door was so interesting, not to mention the doorknob placement

I mentioned in the previous post that I enjoyed seeing details, such as doors- at least I think I said that.  It is hard to write everything down that I think.  My mind is recovering a lot of details as I recount the stories and see the photos, so if I refer to something and it wasn't there- um- sorry?

Selfie on the dock!

LOOK YOU GUYS!!!  You can see the Alps WAY BACK THERE- on the left

We ended up down by Lake Zürich- which we were looking at from above- and watched people on the docks and the tourists and the little kids and I heard tales of being here several years ago.  The personal stories really brought the city to life, and I like to think that she saw it in a new way from my comments and exclamations and opinions of what I was seeing.  It was super

I would like to be living up on the top and be out in those roof top gardens
Lake Zürich

One of my favorite unexpected things was this broken accordion- I stopped in my tracks and went back to shoot it.
 I loved my side trip to the south, to Switzerland.  It was a fun drive with my friend but it was so nice to get back to the house with the lovely porch and the wonderful family and a cute little room with those open windows.  And I tucked away a whole lot of joy.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Travel with Debi: Adventures in Germany - Part 1

Gegenbach- isn't this amazingly beautiful?  From the buildings to the cobbles to the stone troughs that are used for flowers..
I won't even pretend to be a world traveler.  Somehow, the angst and worry I felt while transitioning from country to country, precludes me (in my mind) from being "seasoned".  I worry about new things that I do to a ridiculous degree.  No matter how many times I was told I would be fine, or I would ask myself what is the worst thing that could happen (um, yeah, you don't want to know what came up there) or pep talks from others or anything else did much to alleviate my worries.  I just had to go through it.  Fortunately I had many people who were patient and humored me both virtually and actually in real life- and now when I think about going through an airport I really do feel confident I can not get lost or miss a flight.  Train stations.....  I am not sure.  Paris made me very skeptical of train stations.  But I got through it and just made the train.  That can be a discussion for a later post.

Anyway, I am very proud of myself for pushing through and going on this trip.  I seriously considered (for a few seconds) canceling the trip about 3 days before I left.  I hope I did not drive all my friends crazy.  I want to thank a whole host of you for putting up with me- new things make me anxious.  But I still do them- which is sort of the travel version of clinging to trees in unusual places!
A vineyard adjacent to the castle

I guess the good thing is that I know I have these irrational fears, or I am over cautious, or I  (hold on this is a stunning revelation) might **overthink** things at times!  (some of you might stop laughing at me right this minute).  And in spite of it all I do it any way. Because I want the experiences.  It makes me think, it connects dots inside of knowledge and seeing and I get to go to museums and all the things that make life interesting for me.  And I love being in airplanes, especially the take off part.  It makes me smile like an idiot.  :D

How do I talk about Germany?  I have to preface this first of all with the statement that I stayed with a private family, in their home and I was treated so special and so well- they have no idea how much I adored being there.  In spite of a bit of a language barrier with my friend Anne-Sophie's parents, I did manage to have some conversation with them at times.  I felt so at home in that country- it felt so right.  It is beautiful and charming and I could translate a bit of German so I could understand some of what was going on around me.

Back story on Germany: when I was in grade school, my class was the last one to have German language starting in 4th grade.  It was a "specials" class as it would be called now.  I think the German teacher traveled to our school once a week or so. We had to take it in 4th, 5th and probably 6th grade with options after that.  I took it all the way to 12th grade.  For reasons that still are unreasonable to me, I was not allowed to go on the trip to Germany that everyone else in my German 5 class got to go on.  Since this was a while ago I won't air my grievances publicly but I was GYPPED you guys!!  GRRRRR  Anyway, I have a feeling for the German language and I ALWAYS wanted to go there. My uncle Bob, my dad's brother, visited Germany and Switzerland and perhaps Austria every couple years and had tales to tell and photos to show and his stories always held my interest.  So I did a Rosetta Stone course and brushed up a bit on the language (in a bit of a duh moment when I was attempting to learn Italiano, I picked up the German course as well.  Duh. Lol, I never do things the easy way- as in German for me is easy, Italian is decidedly NOT) and I was so so excited to land in Frankfurt.


So I have discovered that airports sort of all look alike, so its not like you magically feel like you are in another country until you get out of there.  Except  in Iceland, that airport was different as it is kinda small.  Sort of like a parking lot for airplanes and you do a lot of your own stair climbing off and on the plane- in other words, there is no boarding bridge thingie.  Anywho, I was so relieved that I was able to get my bags quickly (thank you Icelandair) and find Anne-Sophie and Johann waiting for me.  The first thing I did was ride in a car for 2 hours to their house in Hohberg on the Autobahn.  I knew we were sort of on a freeway, and people were moving right along, but that particular realization didn't hit me until later- like later in days.  Lol.  I am not sure what I thought the autobahn was going to be, but that wasn't it.
I love how flowers were everywhere!

So the house I stayed in (I have to say this whole area was a postcard.) was a really cool big house that looks just like you think German houses look like - white with dark brown trim that looks nothing like US houses.  Which was awesome.  Anne-Sophie's dad has an office in the house on one end and there was lots of beautiful traditional looking furniture and a super cool creaky massive stair case and lovely little deck, a formal front entrance and a quirky little back entrance to the house.  It was full of so many interesting things, and I fell in love with the espresso maker.  I have to do some research and see what I can find.  I WANT ONE!!  And it is **ahembirthdaymonthcough* a good time for mid year gift giving!!! AMIRITE???

This was some fine kaffee this machine produced!

So one of my favorite things about Europe is how you get to leave your windows open and there are no bugs sucking your bodily fluids totally dry.  It was amazing- no mosquitos or june bugs or moths or what have you fluttering in and driving you crazy. No screens.  Magical I tell you.  Also interesting is the fact that where I was in Germany (The south- west corner) is geographically farther north than we are in latitude and their weather is so much more mild- both in summer and winter.  It must be something with the mountains - or a mysterious climate thing.  There are japanese maples every where and sweartogod types of palm trees.  How does this work??  I have to do some research into the reasons behind this but haven't yet.  I can't stop for now and read about it because these posts take a ridiculous amount of time to write and edit.  I think the personal commentary is more fun than, first we did this and then we ate that and then we went to bed.  right?  Well, it is for me. :)
Oh my this is a sleepy Debi

So a little of the we did this and ate that business, lest I forget- the first day that I was there I hadn't slept in god knows how long- someone could figure it out for me, or I guess I could if I shut my eyes and concentrated, but it was a long time.  Ok, hang on.  - _ - From 6 am Tuesday CST to 8 pm Wednesday, which would be (minus  the 7 hours) 2 pm Wednesday our time-  for a grand total of 32 hours....  huh.  no wonder I could barely keep my eyes open.  Anyway, after getting there and being introduced to the family and seeing the house and putting my stuff away and finding a lovely stash of chocolate in my room and all this wonderfulness that made me feel so much at home, we went out to eat at a little restaurant in a nearby town.  I had wine- which was wonderful- and risotto- and some peach wine and I believe there was good bread and I was almost incoherent by that time.  I tried really hard to figure out the conversation, but after about 45 min my brain gave in and quit. So I attempted to go to sleep about 8 and woke up in a panic about 10:30.  I had to solve some blanket issues, as in I needed a lighter one, and then I was able to relax and stay asleep for a while.  Talk about being thrown off your game.  Your body doesn't know what the heck is going on- do you sleep, do you stay awake, is it time for pretzels again??  lol.

Ice cream with Johann!

The nonfunctioning waterwheel behind the Backeri 
A pathetic aside about pretzels.  Our supermarket must have known I was wanting pretzel buns badly (she says in her deluded way) and I found some on the bread rack.  I stared wistfully and didn't bother to buy them (after some poking at them through the plastic) that they just weren't worth my money.  I knew that was disappointment wrapped in plastic on a tray.

Schloß Ortenberg

An example of the beautiful roses that were literally everywhere
Anyway, The next day, chances are good it was Thursday, I was introduced to the luxury of freshly ground and brewed espresso.  And the pretzel affair began.  And we took our time and I sat out on the back porch and walked around a little and generally acclimated myself in a leisurely way.  We went to pick up Johann from school and then we did our first little day trip to a BEAUTIFUL nearby town for ice cream!  It was so good- gelato style!  AND they have this crazy thing called spaghetti ice-cream. (Spaghettieis)  I did not have it, but I could kick myself for not.  It is vanilla ice-cream that  is extruded to look like spaghetti and the toppings arranged so it looks like sauce  and parmesan cheese- I kid you NOT! The bowls are huge, which is why I didn't have it, that is more like dessert for supper situation.  It was awesome.  We walked around and it was so incredible - so beautiful.  The houses and shops were so "German" and there were beautiful parks and all sorts of interesting places to see.  We stopped and got bread at a "Backeri", Johann got to play at a park,  and then we went to my first castle!!  This castle is literally a few miles - less than 5 is my guess- from Anne's house.  This particular castle is partly old/refurbished and partly recently rebuilt to house a hostel.  You can't get to all of the buildings because they are open only for the guests, but you can get into parts of it- including a spiral stair case that leads up!  And it opens up to a spectacular view of the vineyards that are plentiful in this part of Germany.  I asked her about the Black Forest and she realized that really they live right by it.  Literally you can see it out the windows of her house it is so close.  The forest is on the big hills there....  I'm still speechless over it all.
Some cannon balls- used for protection I take
Some of the breathtaking view from above

This part of the Schloß has been reconstructed and is the hostel 

Anyway I was in a castle and it was pretty cool.  I have pictures and they are adequate and all, but i found that I was really enjoying the company and the looking and the being very much thrown off balance and I am sort of disappointed with how they have turned out.  I am very critical of my own photos, so this is no big surprise.  But here some are anyway.  I have so much more, but I will stop here.

I have a thing for doors...

Beautiful stone work- the grindstone or gristmill or whatever its called is pretty interesting 
It is already the 13 of July- birthday month is almost half over.  I have done a pretty good job catching up on my flower gardens, putting my house back in order, doing some nice cooking with great produce....  even went to Bayfield with the MA on July 4!  So it has been an enjoyable summer so far- and a LOT left to go. Don't let anyone tell you other wise!  ;)  And find all the joy, all the time.

The vineyard
 A little backstory on the castle- it was built in the 11th century and then destroyed and rebuilt a few times through the years.  In the early 1900's it was rebuilt and used for various things.  In the 1940's I believe it started being used as a hostel.  There is all sorts of info about it here

The little fountain that wasn't running

Who ever looked out these windows?

A view of the castle from the road

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Summer time, birthday month and travels with Debi

Hello strangers!

Lol, well I am the one who has been a stranger, so forgive me for that. 
Somewhere above Canada.... the stories begin.

So it is summer time and school is done (YES) and I have been traveling or preparing for travel or cleaning up/recovering from travel during the entire month of June.  And I have to say, that is just how life should be.  I got back to some blazing hot weather- hotter than we have been here for at least 6 years.  And while Friday was crazy hot for this area- 95- yikes- we will continue to have warm summer weather for the next 10 days, for the most part.  Tonight we have been blessed with little reprieve time - it is, thankfully, almost cold right at the moment.  I'll take it!  The weather in Germany and London was downright delightful.  The last day I was in London was pretty warm- but it cooled off in the evening.  No complaints there.  The only time I got rained on was when I was changing planes in Iceland, and I couldn't see the beautiful country from the air.... boo.  Oh well.

EMILY!!!!  Graduation girl
Nice blurry picture of me, Rose and Joanne- Emily's Grandma

She did it!
I left my home June 8 to go attend my niece's graduation---  Emily is graduated from High School!  WHAT??  Anyway - (there were 739 kids in her graduating class, more than our entire school)  (and they had the ceremony in the ice arena for the U of M hockey team.)  it was an interesting change from graduations I usually go to!  Then I helped out with the grad party a bit the next day and saw my brothers and my sister in law, and just generally had a nice afternoon.  

Lunch at the gardens!

I spent the next few days with my delightful seester Rose and fam, before flying out of the Minneapolis airport Tuesday.  We did some shopping and eating out and went to the Botanic Gardens and other amusements. 

Who can NOT LIKE origami horse sculptures???  
I flew on Icelandair, which I highly recommend.  It was a really pleasant experience and they gave me VERY good vegetarian food!  A+ for them!  We flew north and across Canada to Iceland, and I didn't sleep, as about 2 am midwest time we had to change planes.  So I didn't bother.  It was morning there, I think, and so it just seemed like a long day.  Since I didn't get on the plane until 7:30, it really was a long day.  It (as previously mentioned) was raining a bit in Iceland and there was a lot of cloud cover, so I didn't get to see much as we flew over Scotland and England.  I did see a bit, but it was disappointing not to be able to see Iceland- much.  Ah well.

Any airline that give me Prosecco when I walk on the plane is ok with me
Here is a bit of Iceland as we were coming in for a landing... 
I landed in Frankfurt and was picked up by my friend Anne-Sophie and her little boy, Johann.  Who I adore, lol.  He is such a joyful little boy.  It was a couple hour drive down to Hohberg where she lives in the south east part of Germany.  Her village has like 4 or 5 names, from what I understand it is an area that has several little villages near each other and so you can use multiple names.  

At the family home in Hohberg- Anne-Sophie's dad raised the American flag in their yard in honor of my visit!  To say I was flattered is an understatement.  How nice was that??

Johann and his Eis! (ice cream)

The back of the beautiful house that was my home for a week.

It is SO beautiful there, on the edge of the Black Forest.  There are vineyards and BIG hills/gentle mountains that are covered in forest.  And CRAZY narrow roads.  So narrow they can't pass each other side by side on some of the little lanes, you have to pull over and let others go through.  SO different of course than our roads with our behemoth cars and trucks.  There are not very  many cars that can be considered full size by our standards, so that was interesting to observe.  The Autobahn is a different story- normal sized, 3 lanes and yes they do cruise right along.  It is fast, but I didn't think it was crazy fast.  

The formal walkway to the house- so beautiful!
So, Germany was playing in the World Cup and we celebrated in a few ways!  Including wearing of oversized jerseys.  lol

I have so many things to talk about from this trip, so I am going to be going slow and covering things as I edit the pictures and think about things to say.  This was such a different trip from my tour to Italy.  Staying in private homes and not being on the go 16 or 17 hours a day was a pleasure.  

If I could have these pretzels and buns every day for breakfast for the rest of my life I would.
I cannot explain how good they are and how different from anything I have ever had in the US.
Ja, eine andere Brezel bitte!
I  had 2 very different vacations in one.  The first in Germany was in - as I have indicated- a village with a family in a spacious home.  It was very quiet and yet fun with a little kid with us and a lot of people in and out of the house.  We went and visited some places in Germany, and also France and Switzerland!  WHAT??  It still astounds me.  It was relaxing and enjoyable, and I found I could understand a reasonable amount of German.  I would be able to be pretty fluent in a short period of time if I was there for a few months!  It was pretty cool to be able to figure out a lot of things being said and posted and such.

One of my first stop in my tracks views....  a teaser

The other trip I had was in the literal center of London in a tiny basement flat, sleeping on an air mattress in a room that filled up all the space not taken up by a desk.  It was just as amazing in different ways.  I rarely stay in a city, and to be in such a small space was also not my norm.  But it was so much fun.  But that will be coming in later episodes of Travel with Debi!  

I would like to say confidently where we were, but I would be guessing!
eta- I looked on my  phone- Westminster, west end!

Alrightie, I have been working on this post for a while now.  Finding phone photos and shifting them to the computer (thank you air play) and sizing and captioning and writing takes a long time!  So I am going to leave you with this beginning and add more tomorrow.  

Thinking about all I did and the stories that come up is so fun- definitely revisiting some joyful times.

See you soon!  muah!