Rüdesheim

Hey we are starting to get out of the house! Evelyn has passed the 3 month mark and the temperatures are starting to warm up. This perfect storm means time to get back on track of discovering Germany.

A few weekends ago we decided to check out the town of Rüdesheim that sits on the Rhine river west of Wiesbaden. This is the heart of wine country. Beautiful vineyards cover steep hills that descend down to the river. Rüdesheim is considered part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site due to being part of the Rhein River Gorge.

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Even though it is a cloudy day you can still see the absolute beauty of this area.

Rüdesheim is about a 40 min drive from our home but we are able to drive through Eltville (another great wine town that sits on the river) and along the river during this drive.

(In Eltville on a separate trip)

Our first stop once we arrived was the Niederwalddenkmal (or Niederwald Monument). This huge statue sits on the hill above Rüdesheim and was made to celebrate the Unification of Germany. The large female is Germania and apparently she is facing France (“the enemy” at the time). This statue is just gigantic.

You can hike up to the statue, take a gondola, or drive. It is still winter so we opted for driving. As a bonus, we got there so early the parking attendant wasn’t there so we got to park for free. There are some benefits to having children who get up before the sun.

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After the monument, we headed back down into town. We went to the Drosselgasse, which is a famous shopping street near the water. Mainly shops and restaurants, with very few of them actually being open due to it being the off-season. I have heard that during the summer these streets are extremely crowded with tourists. The area did open up to this charming square with church.

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It also had a fantastic chocolate shop. O made out like a bandit with a chocolate car. Look at the size of this thing!

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(In true toddler fashion, he had one bite and was done with it)

We finished our visit with a walk by the wine museum and then some lunch.

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(When in wine country….. Yes the glass did survive lunch and that is bubbly water)

I am really glad we visited Rüdesheim in the off-season. We were able to enjoy the town still in its winter slumber without the massive crowds and all the chaos that goes with it. I am sure we will be back here again. There are still several castles and ruins in the area that we didn’t get to on this first trip.

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Off to the next adventure!

St. Martin’s Day

On November 11th we celebrated Veterans Day but also for the first time we participated in St. Martin’s day here in Germany. St. Martin was a Roman Soldier who became baptized as an adult and became a monk and eventually a bishop. He was known for his quiet life and considered a friend of children and patron for the poor. St. Martin’s day is always celebrated on November 11th and is considered the end of harvest/start of winter. It is also considered the unofficial start of the Christmas Holiday season.

St. Martin’s day is fun for the children as it is tradition for the kiddos to parade in the street carrying lanterns being led by a man on horseback dressed as St. Martin. At the end of the parade is a bonfire and music. Basically it is a big party.

Let’s start with this lantern. Two weeks before St. Martin’s day all the parents were invited to O’s school to make lanterns for the parade. Picture this: 10 children (3 years old and younger) and all their parents put into a small room around a very low child size table. I am 8 months pregnant and getting down to the floor is near impossible. The gathering time was the end of the day so O of course thought I was coming to pick him up, not participate in craft time (despite us talking about it for several days before). He is not impressed by crafts and wants to leave immediately. Once everyone is gathered, the teachers start explaining how to decorate the lanterns and put them together. Of course they are explaining this all in German and my German skills are still terrible. The 2 teachers who speak English aren’t there for this event and the only other parent I know there speaks Italian and some English. So we have a cranky toddler who wants to go home, a very pregnant mom who can barely reach the table, limited understanding of the instructions and lanterns and tissue paper as far as the eye can see. Needless to say…hot mess express! O ended up tearing up some tissue paper and gluing it to his lamp after much debate and we ended up leaving early (to avoid a major meltdown), which is a No-No in German culture. You are expected to come exactly at the time invited and should leave at the time that the event is indicated to end. So if you are invited to something and it says from 3-4pm then you are expected to arrive at 3pm (not a minute later) and stay until 4 pm. I think I got away with it because I was 8 months pregnant but the teachers made sure to announce to the rest of the group why we were leaving early.

We headed home covered in glue but I felt good that O had tried to make his lantern including tearing up paper and using some toddler scissors. Well a few days later I see the other lanterns the parents and children had made. Apparently, it is ok for parents to basically build the lanterns for their kids at this age. The parents had made super fancy looking lanterns with names cut out in tissue paper and one had a forest theme with finely decorated leaves. Then there was ours…. And well it looks like a 2 year old put it together. The teachers called it “shabby chic”.

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On St. Martin’s day, everyone gathered at the school with their lanterns and lantern sticks (a stick with a little battery powered light at the end). Side Note: Apparently they used to use little tea candles in the paper lanterns, so the joke was that no St. Martin’s day is complete until you have a parent stomping out a lantern on fire while a child is crying near by. The children were given this big pastry called Stutenkerl. It is kind of like a sweet bread that looks like a gingerbread man. O LOVED this and it fueled him for the long walk.

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(O with lantern, stick and bread in mouth. Ha!)

O’s school group walked down to a local park where other schools in the area had gathered and then everyone as a large group paraded down the street to meet at a large school yard/open space. This was actually a rather large parade and the police had blocked the roads to allow everyone to pass.

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At the end of the parade in the large open space was a bon fire, music and more food (mostly pretzels). O danced and didn’t want to leave. St. Martin’s day success! We really enjoyed this celebration and look forward to participating next year.

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Driving Germany

Ah Autobahn how I love thee! My husband and I have both successfully passed our German driving course so I thought I would chat a little about driving in Germany. First, not everyone has to take a German driving course to get a driver’s license in Germany. In fact, our Colorado Driver’s license is accepted as a direct transfer here in Germany. You can go into the German “DMV” and just trade them out. However, the military requires that all active duty military, staff (including contractors) and their families take the written test. It is a 3 hour class followed by a written exam and you actually need to study before hand because German road signs can be tricky (mainly because the words are in German. Duh!). I am actually really glad we had to take the course because it gave me a much better understanding of the rules of the road here and I feel much safer.

Ok that stuff is boring. Let’s get to the entertainment. Fun German Road signs:

ausfarht-sign

Ok I just had to get it out of the way. A$$fart signs everywhere!

streetlight

This one isn’t a sign but a streetlight marking. If you see this painted on a streetlight what it means is that this particular streetlight is not left on all night. So it may be turned off at like 9 or 10 pm. If you park under this streetlight overnight you are expected to leave your parking lights on all night to make up for the no streetlight. Cars with European specifications can do this but US spec cars are not made to have the lights on all night so don’t park under these streetlights at night!

curb-park

Parking on the curb is permitted. I feel like this sign should just be everywhere because parking on the curb is the norm around here.

rough-road

Ok here is my junior high humor again. I saw this sign and I was like why is a bra laying down in the road? That is not a bra but a rough road sign.

water-exit

This sign just cracks me up. In the manual it states that this is posted in “areas where there is danger of the vehicle leaving the road and entering a body of water”. Um, what?? Like does the road lead directly into the lake or is this an area where your GPS is going to say “drive straight” but really that’s a river not a road. Apparently it has happened enough that there is a sign.

Ok final one.

minion

This is my favorite one. To me it looks like a Minion wearing a party hat. It actually means that this road has priority but only at this intersection so the other cars are supposed to yield to those on this road. Boring! Much more fun to think about Minions having a party.

All in all, German rules of the road are very straight-forward and easy to understand. The American system is way more complicated and has even funnier signs.

The big difference with driving in Germany is that EVERYONE follows the rules. Ok let’s say 99% because there is always that one guy, the tourists, and the Americans that are always bending the rules. This is more of a cultural thing but it makes driving on the roads really nice here. Everyone follows the rules and so you know what to expect. It also creates this very smooth flow of traffic particularly on the Autobahn. You are expected to move over for people merging. The whole “zipper rule” (you let one car in to the lane to merge and then the next car merges behind you like when 2 lanes are becoming one) is law so you are required to be nice and let someone in which in turns allows the traffic to keep moving. You NEVER pass on the right and slow traffic keeps right. No Colorado road blocks here (read 1 car is passing another car at 1 mph faster than car being passed resulting in back up of cars for a mile or 1 car sitting in left lane going 10 mph below the speed limit preventing anyone from getting past).

You do have to watch out for fast cars. Germans love their sports cars and since there is no speed limit on sections of the Autobahn they like to go really fast. They can sneak up on you quickly if you are not paying attention. On the flip side, it’s like going to an auto show everyday. There is always some really nice, fancy, and super expensive sports car zooming by me everyday. Fun to watch!