Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Derek was off early to another day of conferences. The kids and I got ready and left the hotel at 8:50. We headed to the Normal Children’s Museum and arrived shortly after they opened at 9:00. Abby and Cade both had a lot of fun. Abby’s favorite was the climbing part. We did a pretty good job of avoiding the field trip groups, but it reminded me how much I miss teaching … NOT! Cade played in the small kid area while Abby went to the water table. Then they played in the pretend grocery store and pizza place. After that we went up to the second floor before it got too busy. Abby rode on the combine and the red tractor and tried the climbing thing, but it was too busy with bigger kids. She kept getting trampled. We headed up to the third floor. She painted for a long time and Cade sat in the stroller. He was getting pretty tired. We went back down to the second floor and found a table in the snack area. Abby and Cade had some goldfish and dried apples. After that, Cade fell asleep in the stroller at about 11 and Abby climbed in the climbing area. Cade slept for about 1 1/2 hours while Abby went back and did her favorite things and a few things we had skipped on the first floor. She painted, rode the tractors, climbed, shopped in the grocery store, and checked out the medical center. After that Cade woke up just as we were ready to leave. We stopped in the gift shop and I got Cade a pinwheel and Abby chose a change purse.
After the museum, we went to McDonald’s for lunch. Cade picked up his cheeseburger and took bites of it. It was so cute. Between all of his coughing, it was amazing that he was able to eat at all. Both of the kids must have been very hungry and I guess it made sense because it was about 1:00 by the time we were eating. After lunch, they shared a strawberry sundae and at all of it. Cade fed himself with his spoon. He made quite a little mess, but he did a good job.

Our next stop was the Eastland Mall. I wanted to use the Kohl’s cash that Mom had given me. I found some shoes for Cade. They are white Adidas with red stripes…pretty cool, but not velcro. I am getting really tired of tying his shoes, but the other ones just look kind of dumb. I think this summer I might have to try some crocs for both the kids. I want something easy that they can just slip on. After that I headed down to Penney’s to spend the $10 Mother’s Day certificate that I got in the mail. I found a cute yellow and white striped dress for Abby. It reminded me of one I had when I was in 4th grade, so I really wanted her to have it. After a quick diaper change, we headed back to the hotel. Abby fell asleep in the car for about 3 minutes, but woke up when we got to the hotel. It was already 3:00, so I was kind of glad that she didn’t stay asleep
We played in the room for a few hours until Derek got done with his meetings at 5:00. John came over at 5:30 and brought some pizza for supper. After we ate, we walked down to the pool and then Derek and Abby went swimming for a little bit. After John left, we decided that it was time to get the kids back in their own beds and we wanted to run the vaporizer for Cade’s cough. We left the hotel at about 7:00 and Abby was sleeping about 2 minutes down the road. The rest of the night is captured on our other blog http://www.kilmartin.blogspot.com/ …. interesting stuff! 😉

Monday, April 27, 2009

Derek woke up at about 6:45 and got ready for his conference. He left a little before 7:30 and the kids woke up shortly after. They had poptarts and peaches for breakfast and I had some raspberry danish from Kroger. Abby watched some cartoons and then at about 8:45, we headed out the door. Our first stop was at the McLean County Nursing Home to visit my grandma. She was very excited to see us and told us that many times. Abby told her about the hotel and how she got to swim. We visited for about 45 minutes and then it was time to be on our way. The next place we went was called Mess it Up Kids Fun Center. We went in and at first glance, it seemed awesome. There were lots of different areas for the kids to do activities and there was music and a bubble machine blowing bubbles and bright colors on the walls. The only thing was, it was just not well kept up. It felt like a garage sale or something. The toddler area was tiny and not particularly safe. It had a slide and there was a space where the kids could crawl under the slide that wasn’t padded. There were gaps between the pads on the floor and right next to the toddler area was the dino dig. We did not do the dino dig, but it had what looked to be mulch (possibly fake mulch) and it was spreading out into the other areas, like the toddler area. I was glad that Cade is mostly past the stage of picking up everything and putting it in his mouth. There was a dress up area and all the dresses had holes or rips in them. There was a throne for the kids to sit on and one of the armrests was coming off. There was a chalk wall, painting, and a sandbox table. Cade wanted to climb into the sandbox table so badly. He couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t. There was a huge climbing area that resembled a McDonald’s playland. It had tunnels, slides, a ball pit, and a rope bridge. I was told I could go in with the kids, so I did. After all, we were the only people there. The climbing area could have been nice, but there were parts where the safety nets were falling down, the pads were ripping off the slide, there were gaps by the rope bridge that I think Cade could have fallen through, and staples showing on one of the benches. It wasn’t anything where I felt like the kids were in immediate danger, but I would not have let them go in alone. I was careful to watch out for their safety. There were video game machines like racing, skeeball, pop-a-shot, and air hockey and they could play all of them for free. The only problem with those was that Abby and Cade are a bit young for any of those. There was also an inflated maze area, but it was in the dark and Abby didn’t like it. Overall, it was okay for killing some time (about 1 1/2 hours we stayed), but I didn’t feel like it was a ton of fun or anything. I forgot to take the camera, but I think all I would have taken pictures of would have been all of the things that were falling apart. We left about 11:30 and came back to the hotel. Cade was too tired to eat lunch, so I put him down for a nap. Abby had her leftover mac&cheese and I had a salad and spaghetti-o’s with meatballs. It was nice to have a fridge and a microwave in the room. After Abby ate some lunch, she took a nap and I caught up on the blog while they both slept. Cade woke up first at about 2:00 and he ate lunch while Abby finished her nap. After Abby woke up, we went for a walk around the hotel. When Derek was almost done with his meeting, I took the kids to the pool at about 4:30. We swam for just a few minutes and then Derek met us there. Cade did not like it a whole lot, so I took him back to the room after about 15 minutes. Abby and Derek stayed another 15 minutes or so. We all got dressed and got ready to meet John and some of his friends for his birthday dinner. We met at Bandana’s at 5:30. John, Troy, Lindsay, Izabelle, Tony, Emily, Nevin, Brandy, and us all ate dinner. Afterward, John came to our hotel room to visit for a while. Then it was time for the kids to take a bath and then another quick walk around the pool and exercise room. One of Abby’s favorite things was to fill up a cup at the water cooler in the exercise room. She was disappointed when they ran out of “ice cream cone cups.” Then it was time to start getting ready for bed.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

After finishing our visit with Mom and Dad in the morning, we packed our bags once again. We ate lunch and then left for Bloomington-Normal. Derek and I decided to drive separately in case I needed to take the kids back earlier than Wednesday. We weren’t sure how 3 more nights in a hotel would go, especially since we suspected that Cade had an ear infection. We left about 12:15pm and we went straight to a walk-in clinic. Derek and Abby headed to the hotel and I stayed with Cade to have his ear checked. After waiting an hour and a half, the doctor took one look and could tell that he did indeed have an ear infection. I filled his prescription at Kroger and picked up a few more snacks and things while we waited. By the time we got to the Chateau, it was almost 4;00. Cade fell asleep on the way to the hotel, so we just carried him in and put him in his bed. I went for a walk with Abby while Derek sat with Cade. Then Abby and Derek went swimming while I stayed in the room. Cade woke up at 5:00 and I took him down to the pool just as Derek and Abby were finishing up. We came back to the room and got changed for supper.

We went to Chili’s, which is just a few minutes from the hotel. Derek and I got chicken fajitas and Abby chose mararoni and cheese and corn on the cob. She ate all of the corn! She loved it. Cade got a little bit of everything. After supper we went into Best Buy to look for something, but no luck. So, we went back to the hotel. It was almost 7pm already. The kids played with some toys for about an hour and then it was time for bath. It was after 9:00 before they were both sleeping. Abby slept in one bed with me and half way through the night, Cade slept in the other bed with Derek. Abby kicked and pushed me all night. It drove me crazy! I think everyone else slept pretty good, but I felt so uncomfortable all night long!

Top 11 from Europe Trip April 2009

1-11 from our trip…the good and the bad
11. 11 days
10. 10 great nights, okay a few nights weren’t SO great, but still…
(4 with Matt, Sarah, Kaylin & Shane and 6 in Germany)
9. about “9”00…900 pictures taken!
8. “ate” We “ate” a lot of fast food, but some good local food too. (schnitzel, sneeballen, desserts)
7. 7 (or more) Happy Meal toys
6. 6 days touring Germany
5. 5 throw ups (4 for Cade and 1 for Abby)
4. 4 countries (Ireland, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria)
3. 3 airports (O’Hare, Dublin, Schipol)
2. 2 amazing castles (Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau) (Abby still talks about both.)
1. 1 unbelievable trip

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy birthday, Aunt Kelli!

We woke up at about 6:15am and got ready to head to the airport. The car was packed the night before so there wasn’t much left to do except shower, get dressed, and have a little something to eat. We planned to leave at 7 and I think that is exactly when we walked out the door. We said goodbye to Sarah and the kids and Matt drove us to the airport. Sarah and Kaylin stood in the window and waved. I sure had a great time with them and I knew I was going to miss them. Matt dropped us off at the airport and we said goodbye again. Abby was tired and wanted to stay in the car, but I somehow persuaded her to get out. I think I told her that we were leaving on the airplane and if she stayed in the car, she would still be in Amsterdam when we were at home. Anyway, we made our way into Schipol Airport and the confusion set in…first on our part and later on AerLingus/KLM’s part.

When we walked into the airport, we were confused as we could not find a desk for AerLingus. I saw an information desk and asked them and they said to use the KLM desk. Okay. We weaved our way through the lanes that were set up while other people cut underneath. Frustrating. We stood in line for just a few minutes and then it was our turn. I’m not sure what took so long, but we were up there for a long time. Other people came and went and the line behind us grew longer and longer. We finally got our bags checked and our boarding passes for our flight from Amsterdam and Dublin. We had to take the carseat to a different check in and after that I organized our documents. Wait a minute. There is a boarding pass for Cade in Amsterdam, but not in Dublin. Here we go again. On our way there, Cade did not have a boarding pass and they just wrote INF (infant) on my boarding pass. But then in Dublin, they asked where his boarding pass was. Good question. They let us on, but they didn’t like it. I decided to go back to the check in desk and ask for one. The only problem was that the line was LONG and both kids were already a bit restless. I decided that it was their fault I didn’t already have a boarding pass. So, I stood on the side and when someone left, I entered from the side. I explained to the man, who was right next to the woman I began with what had happened. He tried to reprint. Didn’t work. He tried other things with the computer. Didn’t work. He called AerLingus. He tried something else. Didn’t work. He called again. He tried again. Didn’t work. I am not kidding that I probably stood there for 20 minutes while Derek tried to keep the kids entertained off on the side. Finally the man walked me to the little AerLingus desk and he talked to the woman in Dutch. She tried something. Didn’t work. Seriously! I couldn’t be the first person traveling with an infant on my lap. She finally printed a piece of paper showing that Cade was in the system, but she could not give me a boarding pass. Fine. Whatever. So, I went and found Derek and the kids and we made our way through security. Then we walked and walked and went through a passport check. Then we walked and walked and were almost to the gate. The kids were both out of drinks, so we decided to buy some water and oj. I filled up their cups with water and there was just a tiny bit of milk at the bottom of the cup, so it made it cloudy water. Oh, well. We then had to stand in line at the gate because we had to go through security. I thought we already had, but apparently we had not. We stood in line for about 20 minutes. We couldn’t even sit down at the gate before we went through the security. We got to the front and I put the kids’ cups, the bottle of orange juice, and our one quart sized baggie of liquid medicine in the bin. That is what we had done every other time and it was fine. Well, this time, evidently, it wasn’t fine. The man told me we couldn’t take the oj on because it wasn’t sealed. We hadn’t opened it yet, so I said, “Yes, it is.” He said that it wasn’t and I said, “We haven’t opened it. It is sealed.” He pointed at someone else’s bag and said, “It has to be sealed.” Apparently we had to have it in some plastic bag that is sealed. I don’t know where the bag was from, but we didn’t have one. So, I said, “FINE.” He took my oj. I figure he was just thirsty. Anyway, then he said, “You can’t have these either.” He was referring to the kids’ cups. What?! Every other time through security, they have let it go. Well, I was holding Cade and Derek was trying to keep track of Abby and all of our other stuff. I looked at the man like, really?! I just stood there. Finally, I said, “Is there somewhere I can dump it out?” I needed the cups for the flight home. He pointed to a garbage can in the corner. I just stood there. He finally asked if I wanted him to do it. “Could you, please?!” He started to walk over to the garbage can and I don’t know if someone told him or what, but he came back, with the cloudy water cups and said that it was fine to take them on. !#$%^&*&^*%$#! So, I got to take the two sippy cups of cloudy water onto the plane, but my factory sealed oj was too dangerous. Whatever! I don’t usually get frustrated with security because I know it is to my benefit, but that was dumb. Well, then we got into the gate area and had to stand in line again to have our passports checked and board the plane. We finally got to the front of the line and drum roll please…….they didn’t have Cade’s passport information in their system! Are you kidding me? So, we had to step aside while the man assured us, “It will be okay.” Oh, it better be! Five minutes later, we walked onto the plane. Schipol sucked.

We were in the second to last row. So after banging the kids and the bags the whole length of the plane, we sat down and one hour later, we landed in Dublin. We went through one security check and lucky us, our bag was picked to have the lady rummage through. It was our bag of breakable souvenirs. So, she opened up about 3 boxes before giving up and telling us we could be on our way. If she’d looked in every one, we would have been there for an hour. We found a little restaurant and had some lunch. Then we waited before going through a US pre-customs check. I’m not sure what they checked, but anyway. Then we went down some stairs and waited. Over the intercom, “Would passenger Kilmartin please make yourself known to an AerLingus representative?” What now? Again, they didn’t have Cade’s passport information. So, I gave her the information and supposedly we were all set. We bought some pop for me and Derek and juice for the kids and tried to relax. About 10 minutes before it was time to board, both kids fell asleep. That made it quite interesting to lug our bags, both kids, and get out the passports one more time before it was time to board the plane. They both woke up right after we got through the passport check. At that point, my travel machine idea was sounding better and better. We got on the plane. Our first good news of the day was that we had 5 seats again and each seat had its own tv screen with about 15 movies to choose from, tv shows, games, and flight information. We were on our way back over the ocean. Abby watched Diego, Spongebob, Horton Hears a Who, and played some Disney games. We ate and played toys and finally with about 2 1/2 hours out of the 8 hour flight, both kids fell asleep.

When we landed in Chicago, we gathered our bags and walked right through customs, even though I had bought tulip bulbs in Amsterdam. They didn’t even ask to see them. We found a pay phone and called Mike and Toni, who were waiting at the Oasis. We could hear Toni, but she couldn’t hear us. We tried again with the same result. We hoped that she would know it was us and we waited. About 15 minutes later, we saw our Dodge Grand Caravan come around the corner. Toni had packed us some food for the ride home. I didn’t even realize I was hungry until I started eating it. She even brought me a nice cold can of Coke. Derek drove us to Mendota and we dropped off Mike and Toni. I fell asleep on the way home and it felt like I blinked and we were home. We pulled in the driveway at 8:10pm, which is 3:10am Amsterdam time. We had left Matt and Sarah’s 20 hours earlier. Both of the kids had been sleeping for at least an hour. We carried them in to their beds, and we were in bed not long after. What an amazing trip.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!
It was a slow going Easter morning. During the whole trip, especially with the kids being sick, it was reall difficult to get them going in the morning. It was a little easier, being Easter, but it wasn’t the usual. Anyway, Derek went to the car to get some things, or at least that is what we told Abby. He actually went down to the hotel garden and got the egg hunt ready. I brought the kids down a few minutes later. They each had a little felt Easter bag and marked eggs to look for. Abby’s eggs had a sticker with an egg and a chick on them and Cade’s eggs had just a chick on them. It was nice to be outside and Abby had a lot of fun finding the eggs. Cade wasn’t sure what to make of it all, but he was glad when Abby handed him eggs for his bag. There was also a chocolate bunny for Cade and a chocolate chicken for Abby. Abby watches a show called Max and Ruby and in one of the episodes, the Easter bunny brings a chocolate chicken. I was so excited when I found the chicken in the grocery store near Neuschwanstein. I just kept hoping that it wouldn’t melt in the car. Luckily, it survived and Abby was excited to have it. Actually the night before, she asked me if the Easter bunny would bring a chocolate chicken. I might be in trouble next year 🙂

After the egg hunt, we went back up to the room and finished packing up. We left the hotel mid-morning and were on our way. After entering The Netherlands, we stopped at a McDonald’s(again!) along the interstate. It was a pretty easy drive and uneventful. We pulled up to Matt and Sarah’s by about 1pm. While we were gone, the Easter Bunny left baskets for Abby and Cade (so nice!). Abby took a nap and we visited. We decided to skip the canal boat tour since we were pretty tired. We visited with family on Skype and learned that Derek’s sister Kelli got engaged on Friday! 🙂 Later on, we enjoyed a fabulous Easter dinner cooked by Matt and Sarah, which Cade threw up right at the table. Ugh! Derek and Matt went to the 2nd half of the Amsterdam Ajax soccer game while Sarah and I stayed with the kids. Abby and Kaylin decorated paper eggs. Kaylin sent hers home with me to give to Papa Bud and Mana Jane. It was sweet! We spent the evening visiting and packing up our bags and the car. It was a fabulous trip, but I was ready to go home. Someday, I want to invent a travel machine that you can simply push a button and go to anywhere in the world. More and more, I do not look forward at all to the airports, airplanes, etc… Anyway, after the kids were sleeping, the adults stayed up for a while visiting and then it was time to get some rest.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

We woke up after a good night’s sleep and had some fruit for breakfast. We ate a lot of fruit on this trip! We thought the plan was to get on a hop on, hop off city tour bus. After getting ready, we walked back over to Museum Island. We waited just a few minutes and one of the buses pulled up. I asked the driver how much it was and could I pay him. He told me something in broken English and all I got was that I could not buy my ticket from him. I’m not sure where he told me to go to buy it, so we were kind of stuck. Finally, we decided just to get on a city bus and ride down the road to Brandenburg Gate, which we knew was just down the street. We stayed on one stop too long and actually ended up at the Reichstag, the parliament building. Derek and the kids looked around while I tried to consult with Trudy (the GPS) as to exactly where we needed to go. While I did that a man started talking to Derek and it turned out that he is a tour guide in Berlin who is originally from Ohio. He was waiting for some clients so he talked to us a little bit about the Reichstag and the other buildings in the area. Then he gave us a tip about where to go next. So, we headed through a park area and ended up coming out right behind Brandenburg Gate. The last time I was there, I was freezing and this time, we had the most beautiful weather. We looked around, took some pictures, and saw some guys dancing. Next we cut through a student art building (tip from the tour guide) and bought a pretzel on our way through. It was pretty good, but we were still hungry when it was gone, so we decided to have lunch. We found a nice little Italian restaurant right next to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. We ordered a pizza and bought a fruit cup. As soon as we were done, Cade sat right there in his seat and threw up his whole lunch. I threw away my sweatshirt, since that is where it all landed and the only bad part was that all of my stash of Kleenex was in the pocket. Oh, well…could have been worse. We still were going through about a box of tissue every day. Anyway, Cade fell asleep in the stroller so we did a little souvenir shopping and then made our way to Check Point Charlie. It was quite a walk, but we didn’t have or know another way. So, we did it. It was quite a busy place and pretty neat to see. The kids had their pictures taken with some people dressed up as soldiers and then we made our way back toward our hotel. Again, quite a walk, but we didn’t have another way. I’m not for sure, but I think we were walking right along where the wall used to be. There was a pole at what I thought would be the height of the wall that stretched for most of our walk. I was pooped out by the time we got back to the hotel, but I was glad that we had seen all that we did. We barely scratched the surface of a city packed with history, but for us, it was a wonderful visit. Cade woke up and we did some diaper changes in the hotel bathroom before getting our car from the parking garage and heading on our way. Before we left the city, we drove by the East Side Gallery, which is where a long portion of the Berlin Wall is still standing. We just pulled to the side of the rode, jumped out, looked, and took some pictures. After seeing the top of the wall, it made me pretty sure that the pole we saw earlier was, in fact, the top of the old wall. We were on our way again, and it took less than 3 hours to get to Hannover and we found our hotel with no problem. The kids slept part of the time and it was an uneventful car ride…the best kind! After Derek checked us in, I unloaded the car while Derek took the kids up to the room. I was a little disappointed that the kids didn’t feel up to swimming. There was a pool on the 17th floor overlooking the city and I never even made it up there. Congress Hotel am Stadtpark was probably really nice back in the 80’s, but it was still okay and very clean, just a little dated. For 60 Euro, though, it was awesome. Derek went to pick up some supper and I stayed at the room with the kids. Cade fell asleep and Abby watched some German cartoons. When Derek got back, much later than I expected, I found out that his outing did not go quite as planned. He had used Trudy to go to Subway (yes, the food place.) Well, what it did not tell him was that it was in a huge train station and there was a soccer game in the area. He had to park in a garage and set off an alarm when he pushed a coin return button. After getting that figured out, he headed inside and ended up at a different sandwich place instead. They ended up being okay, but not as good as Subway. Then he went into Aldi and bought some juice, milk, and fresh fruit. When he got it back, he realized that the apple juice was carbonated, which Abby did not like. It was not the first time we ran into that problem. Derek really could not tell the difference between the still and carbonated apple juice and evidently it is easier to find the carbonated because that is what he almost always ended up with. Abby drank milk instead. Anyway, we ate supper, played some toys, and then it was time for bed. After all, we had to get to sleep so the Easter Bunny could come!

Friday, April 10, 2009

We got off to a slow start on Friday. We figured with Abby throwing up the night before and Cade not doing too well in the car when he is tired that we would just go slowly. Everyone was up by about 8 am and we made some toast in our little kitchen. The kids had some fruit too. I tried to finish cleaning up from the events the night before. I tried to dry out the pillow case with a hair dryer but it pooped out after a few minutes. Oh, well. I decided to just leave it hanging in the bathroom, damp. We finally made our way out at about 10:15 and were trying to get all loaded into the car. The owner came running out of the house and asked, “Has there been some mistake?” Huh?! was my thought. She continued by saying that one of the pillow cases was missing off of a pillow and had they not put one on. I think that was her nice way of saying, “Where the hell is the pillowcase?” Anyway, I told her that Abby had gotten a little something on it (okay, a lot of something on it) and that I had washed it out and it was hanging in the bathroom. She said that was nice of me and I didn’t have to do that. I thought, “Oh, lady…yes I did!” Anyway, we finished piling into the car and just before we pulled out, the owner’s husband came running out. “Wait!” he said. “You left some things in the bathroom…clothing.” We kind of laughed and said, “Oh, we are done with it.” “Trash?” he asked. “Yes, or you can have it. Whichever.” He smiled and headed back inside, probably thinking we were crazy. I thought they would figure it out when we stacked stuff on top of the garbage can. Anyway, for those of you who don’t know, when we travel we take old clothes and leave them behind. This leaves room for souvenirs and when we get home, less laundry! We had gotten rid of a lot of things because of the throwing up the night before. I hadn’t intended on throwing away Abby’s pjs, but they weren’t worth trying to wash out when she has about 7 more just like them. Well, for not really doing anything, it was an eventful morning.

We were finally on our way toward Berlin and the direction Trudy took us this day was much faster to get to the autobahn. We went along for about an hour and suddenly came to a complete stop. Traffic was backed up. The only time we’d inch up is if someone decided to exit. We sat there for almost a half hour before we decided to make it into the right lane and exit as well. Trudy took us back country with about 5 other cars to the next entrance onto the autobahn. There had been an accident about 15 cars ahead of us. The detour was meandering to say the least and as we crisscrossed back and forth over the autobahn, we saw that traffic had started up again…shoot! Oh, well. At least we were moving. We finally got back on the autobahn and drove awhile before we stopped at McDonald’s for lunch. There was another neat play area with basketball and a maze. This McDonald’s had free refills and ice, which is not common in Germany (well all of Europe, as far as I can tell.) We were on our way again and it was exciting to pull into Berlin. We tried one more time to get a green badge for the “umwelt zone” with no luck, so we just drove in. Trudy led us to the Novotel Mitte in central Berlin. It was easy to find and we rolled in about 4:10pm. For some reason they still needed 10 more minutes to finish our room. So, Derek went and parked the car and the kids played in a little toy area in the lobby. Our room was nice, but crowded. They had pulled out the pull out couch for us and made it into a bed, but that took up a lot of extra room. Abby watched some German cartoons and we relaxed for a little while before heading out into the city. We walked a few blocks and found ourselves at Museum Island. We were looking for the DDR Museum and thought we knew where it was, but didn’t quite. We asked and they pointed in the direction. The problem was that it was a very little building behind a great big building and we ended up at the great big building. We finally kept walking and saw it right along a canal. The museum taught about life in the former East Germany and there were displays and drawers and cabinets to open. There was also a living room and kitchen to show what a typical East German apartment would look like. The only problem was that it as stuffy in there and there were a lot of people. For anyone who knows me, you know that is not a good combination. I did not feel very good at all. At least now I am smart enough to recognize it. So, I sat down for a little bit and then made my way through fairly quickly. The best part was Abby pretending to drive an East German car. After we left, we bought some wooden Easter eggs from a street vendor and then found a little place to get some dinner. Derek and I each had a brat and we also got an apple crepe. The brat reminded me of the one I had nearly 20 years earlier at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin when I was there with my parents and brother. It wasn’t as cold outside this time, but it was still very good. I wish I’d taken a picture of it. It is really long, on a hard little bun, and had spicy mustard on it. Yum!Neither of the kids felt like eating, so we ate quickly and then headed back to the hotel. When we got back to the hotel, the kids had some fruit and crackers and not long after that it was time for bed.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

If any day went the least like I thought it would, this is the day. We started with a typical, but good, European breakfast at Gastehaus Weiher. Frau Oswald served us with rolls, cold meat, cheese, hot hard boiled eggs, room temperature yogurt, hot chocolate, and orange juice. Abby started by not wanting anything, but after sitting there awhile, she joined in too. We pulled out by about 9am and were on our way to Munich. We thought it would take less than 2 hours to get there, but we were on some back roads and did not make great time. We knew that it might be difficult to get into the city center because of the “umwelt zone.” In many places in Germany, the cars have to pass an emissions test and then they get a sticker for the windshield. It is supposed to cut down on traffic in the city and help protect the environment. Well, we pulled into a gas station and asked and she either indicated that we didn’t need one or that she didn’t sell them. Regardless, we decided to say, “Screw it,” and we drove into the “umwelt zone” without our green badge. Trudy, the GPS, had been wonderful up until now. She had us curving around tiny little side streets no bigger than an alley. We wanted to get to the Marienplatz by 11am to see the Glockenspiel (giant clock) chime and the people to come out, much like we had seen in Rothenburg, but on a much bigger scale. Well, we hit traffic and it was clear that we weren’t going to make it when we were still driving at 11am. So, I made an executive decision and told Derek, “Let’s get out of here.” We got out of the city and headed for Dachau Concentration Camp. It is just NW of Munich and it only took about 20 minutes to get there. In the city of Dachau, we stopped at a Burger King for lunch. The playland was locked and we asked if it could be opened, but it was closed. Bummer. We ate and then I asked at the counter how to get to the Concentration Camp. Now, I know “Concentration Camp” is not German, but I figured they would know what I was talking about. I asked one lady and she held up a finger to indicate, “Wait.” A man came from the back and I asked him. He looked at me and said, “No English.” Oh, well, we were on our way to see what we could find on our own. Luckily, just down the road we saw a sign and it was just a minute away.
The camp was larger than I had thought it would be, but once we got walking around and I thought about how many people were living there, it felt small. It was the same kind of feeling I had at the Anne Frank House. The gate on the way in that reads, “Arbeit Macht Frei” which means, “Work will set you free.” I thought about all of the people that read that as they arrived at Dachau and how work had nothing to do with it. It was very powerful. We saw some cells and walked around the grounds. We stood where they had roll call and went into a recreated bunkhouse. There were only 2 standing bunkhouses and the rest we could just see the concrete slab with rocks where they used to stand. They were so run down that they had torn them down. We were there quite a while and the kids were tired so with a drive still ahead of us, we did a quick diaper change in the parking lot and were back on the road again.

We weren’t far on the autobahn when traffic pretty much stopped. It was bad! We finally left the right lane for the exit and got back in the left and just drove. We thought that maybe Trudy could find another way, but she wanted us to make a u-turn. So, we did. We drove a few miles up the autobahn, exited, and drove back down to the exit we were supposed to take. Luckily from our direction, it was hardly backed up at all and it wasn’t long until we started moving along pretty good.

I had found all of our places to stay on the internet before we left and we had reservations for all of them. The great thing about a reservation is that you know you have a bed waiting, how much it is going to cost, and generally what type of place it is going to be. The bad thing about a reservation, especially one that you have to pay in advance, is that you might not want to drive that far that day, or you might not be able to find it. Without Trudy, I don’t think we would have found this one. On the internet, it seemed to be not too far off the interstate. Well, that wasn’t exactly so. We were driving through beautiful countryside, but I just kept thinking, “Is this right?” I was sure hoping so because I was so ready to get out of the car. We finally found the small town of Konigstein and asked a lady for Haus am Markt. It was just down the street. Derek checked us in and the owner’s husband helped us with our bags. He showed us to our apartment upstairs. That’s right…an apartment. It was great. We had an entry hall with a bathroom, a bedroom with a large bed, a living room area, dining table, and small kitchen. The kids liked having some room to move around and we turned on German cartoons. I headed down the street to the market to pick up some things for supper and breakfast. I got to the town center, it was small, but I still didn’t know where the market was. I first almost went into a liquor store. I headed one direction and didn’t see anything. I found three old ladies sitting on a bench. I smiled and asked, “Market?” They all just looked at me and shook their heads. I motioned like I was eating and said, “Food?” Still nothing. I waved and moved on. I found the market the other direction than I started and went in. It was hard to shop for things and not be able to read the labels. I could guess some of the things because of the picture, but some I wasn’t too sure. I was looking at spaghetti sauce and I didn’t know if it was meat or tomato or what?! I mostly bought fruit (canned and fresh), Easter candy, pretzels, and milk. Oh, well…it worked. We ate dinner, watched German cartoons, and got ready for bed. Derek slept with Cade in the bedroom and Abby and I slept on the pullout couch in the living room. We weren’t sleeping but a few minutes and Abby threw up all over the pillow, her pjs, me, and giraffe-e. Oh, my…mandarin oranges. I got Abby calmed down, gathered the items that needed to be gathered and got Abby cleaned up. As I was getting her changed, she said, “I want that banana for breakfast tomorrow.” I had to laugh and told her that was fine. I got Abby settled back into the 1 sheet, 1 blanket, 1 pillow bed and started rinsing and washing. I decided I needed help and got Derek. He sat with Abby until she fell asleep and I made a sink full of soapy water. I washed out the pillow case, Abby’s t-shirt, part of the sheet, and giraffe-e and decided to throw away Abby’s pjs and my pj pants. Ugh! Luckily it wasn’t too late and Abby slept fine the rest of the night.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

We woke up early at about 7:15 am and left the room by 8:00. We needed to get to get to the ticket office to pick up our tickets that we ordered online for the tours of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein Castles. Derek drove the kids and me there and dropped us off. It was only about a 2 minute drive. Then he drove the car back to the B&B and ran back to meet us. Yes…we are cheap. We didn’t want to pay for parking. The kids and I picked up the tickets and were just coming out of the building when Derek came walking up. We started our march up quite a hill to get to Schloss Hohenschwangau. It is the castle where King Ludwig II of Bavaria grew up with his parents and his brother. We got to the entrance and had about 20 minutes to spare until our tour started at 8:50am. I sat down to rest and the kids and Derek took a look around. When it was time to go in, I put Cade in the sling (which totally saved my arm) and Abby marched up the stairs to the entrance. We had our tour and the castle was pretty impressive. There were only about 10 people in our group, which was nice to be able to move around a little and the tour was all audio. I think a lot of people skip it and just see Neuschwanstein, but I am glad we took the time and energy to see it. After some more photos, we made our way back down the hill and into the town to find the carriage ride up to the top of the mountain (okay, not quite the very top, but it would have been a heck of a trek, especially with the kids.) It was well worth the 12 Euros! We enjoyed the ride up and Abby sang a Backyardigan song to entertain the rest of the people in the carriage. We’re going to the top of dragon mountain, she sang. We got to the carriage drop off and still had a bit of a hike to the entrance of the castle. After taking a few pictures, we only had to wait about 10 minutes until it was our turn to go in. We were on the tour with a bunch of (I’m guessing) high school students from NYC, I think. One poor girl was sick and threw up into a garbage bag in the middle of the tour. We booked it to the front to avoid any germs and tried to steer clear of her for the rest of the tour. We had enough issues without getting any flu germs! Neuschwanstein was built by King Ludwig II and it was only partially completed (11 rooms, I think) before he died at about age 40. Please don’t take any of this information as complete fact. I’m just working off my memory! Anyway, he only lived in the castle for about 176 days. The rooms that were completed were amazing. We couldn’t take pictures inside the castle. I think that Neuschwanstein Castle (inside and out) is one of the most impressive places I’ve ever been. It ranks up there with the Great Pyramid in Egypt and the Great Wall in China. We bought some souvenirs in the gift shop and started to make our way back to the carriages. On the way down, we stopped at Schlossrestaurant Neuschwanstein for lunch. I had some good schnitzel, which was just like a giant pork tenderloin without the bun. Abby had some more margherita (cheese) pizza and Derek some potato soup. Cade just eats a little bit of what everyone is having. On our way out, we bought some Sneeballen, snowballs, which are donuts with powdered sugar. They sure were good! We rode the carriage back down the mountain, which was only 6 Euros this time and again, worth every cent. Back in town, we did a little souvenir shopping and then made our way back to the B&B. Abby and Cade slept and Derek and I sat on the balcony. When it was almost time for supper, we decided to go to Austria. We ended up at a McDonald’s, which was only about 10-15 minutes away. I figure someday when Derek or the kids are in Austria and someone asks, “Have you been here (Austria) before?” They will answer yes and then they’ll ask, “What did you do last time you were here?” It will be kind of funny to say, “We ate at McDonald’s.” hahaha Well, we made it back to the B&B and we were all beat. We sat on the balcony in our pjs for a few minutes and then we all fell asleep. What an amazing day!