Garmisch-Partenkirchen Part 1

At the end of June, we headed to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in southern Germany along the Austrian border. It was our first glimpse of the Alps and it was spectacular. There are so many things to do in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area. Here is what we were able to see in our week there. I decided to break this post up into 2 different parts because, honestly, I babble on too much and there are a lot of photos to see!

Zugspitze

The Zugspitze is Germany’s highest mountain at 2,962 meters (a little over 9,700ft). Now that may not sound like much to our Pikes Peak friends, but let me tell you it is just as breathtaking. It is a sharp, steep mountain that rises from the valley floor. There is a cog railway train that takes you to the top and the view is of the Alps flowing into Austria.

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Of course we had to head to the top and we were not disappointed.

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At the “top of Germany”

Uncle Marcus (official title, kind of a big deal) was able to join us on this adventure.

Eibsee

On the way up to the top of the Zugspitze, we caught a glimpse of this beautiful lake. It was the Eibsee.We spent the next day on its shores. The water is unbelievably clear and an enchanting blue. There are hiking trails throughout this area and at the start of the lake there is a hotel, ice cream shop and a rental place to get a paddleboat, paddleboard, etc. Don’t worry this did not detract from the beauty and overall quietness of the lake. You could spend days here.

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This is a picture of O up to his waist in the water. You can barely tell he is sitting in water.

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The boys went out on the lake. The 2nd red dot is their paddleboat. Lucky for O, he had Uncle Marcus and Daddy to push him all around that lake. Ha!

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The girls stayed on shore.

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This lake is so special it has made it into our list of top destinations.

Ettal Abbey

This was a quick side trip we did spontaneously one day. It is an active Abbey and school however the big draw seems to be the beer. They brew a variety of beers on site and sell in the gift shop. The place is stunning including the inside of the church.

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However, I feel that it has turned into a tourist trap. Beautiful scenery, good beer, but don’t know if I would do it again. We went at the very end of the day and were able to avoid the rush as the last tourist bus was loading up as we got there.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle is probably the most famous castle in Germany. It is thought to be the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle.

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This is another super busy tourist area but if you have the chance you simply have to go. Once you arrive into the parking area (at the bottom of the hill) you have to decide if you are going to walk up or pay for a horse drawn carriage ride. It is a somewhat steep hike but worth it (there is a hiking path and a paved road). Takes 30-45 minutes.

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(view of the castle from the start of the path)

Hiking up to the castle doesn’t actually give you the greatest views. So you have to continue the hike up the hill to Mary’s Bridge. On the way up you will get a great view of Hohendchwangau Castle (try to say that 3 times).

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And views of the valley.

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When you finally make it to Mary’s Bridge you are greeted with this:

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Mary’s Bridge also happens to be a metal bridge with a wood platform. The wood bends and moves with the weight of all these people. I stepped on and NOPE! It totally freaked me out. I was on the bridge for maybe 30 seconds, had Marcus snap a picture and made a run back for solid ground. There is a beautiful waterfall sitting just below the bridge.

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However, everyone is there for this picture.

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Glad we went. Beautiful to see.

There are also tours of the castle that I have heard are fantastic. You must book them far in advance. We have 2 small children so …yeah…outside pics are good for us.

End of Part 1. Part 2 soon to come!

Luxembourg

Have you ever had one of those trips where you have everything planned and you know it is going to be a great trip? Then life suddenly gets in the way and everything gets jumbled. Well our trip to Luxembourg was one of those trips but we made the best of it.

Luxembourg is a small country tucked in among Germany, France and Belgium. Luxembourg City (the capital) is about a 2.5 hour drive from Wiesbaden. It has a small population with lots of open spaces and forests. It has the highest GDP in Europe and is the only Grand Duchy left in the world. It has an interesting history and was the site for major battles during World War II including the Battle of the Bulge. We planned our trip to include hiking and history.

Unfortunately, the day before our trip both of our kiddos came down with a fever. Off to the doctor to find out they were both fending off RSV (again!). Meds, breathing treatments and a follow up visit to the doctor the next day (which is the norm here). Our pediatrician always wants to see our kiddos again within the next day or 2 to make sure everything is going well and the treatment is working. Makes you feel better as a parent too knowing that they are double-checking. This was supposed to be day 1 of our trip but health comes first. After the check-up and the pediatrician encouraging us to go on the trip due to the “fresher air in Luxembourg”, we were off.

Luxembourg is a beautiful country. Rolling green hills, small quaint towns and a true “European” feel. We spent day 2 in the Echternach area. First, we visited Beaufort Castle.

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There is a nice hike leaving from the parking lot that goes around a small pond. You get excellent views of the castle and it is a dog friendly hiking area.

Then we visited Echternach Lake.

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Great time spent outdoors getting some fresh air.

On Day 3 of our trip, I had lots of fun and exciting things planned. However, we weren’t getting much sleep due to one fussy baby so we cut down our plans again and focused on seeing Clervaux Castle in northern Luxembourg. Clervaux Castle is actually the home of 3 museums: a small museum that houses replicas of all the Castles of Luxembourg, The Battle of the Bulge Museum and The Family of Man exhibit. The Family of Man exhibit is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the real star of the show, though it is worth going into all 3 museums as it only cost 11 euros for all 3.

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Clervaux is a pretty town with nice shops and cafes. Worth spending a day here if you have the time.

The final day of our short trip was Memorial Day. We visited the Luxembourg American Cemetery outside Luxembourg City to honor those who have given their lives for our freedom. This cemetery was beautifully maintained and it was a very moving experience. There are over 5,000 soldiers buried here. Among them are 22 sets of brothers and General Patton. All died during the Battle of the Bulge and other small battles in this area during World War II.

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You can’t help but be brought to tears when seeing a place like this in person. It really helps you put things into perspective.

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Our trip didn’t turn out as planned but it was still a great experience. We loved our time in Luxembourg and are already planning another weekend getaway to explore this country a bit more!

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Photo Fails

On our recent trip to the Netherlands, my husband and I had a funny little moment. We were driving around the tulip fields trying to find nice places to take some photos. We stumbled upon this beautiful field of yellow and red tulips. They were just stunning. We pulled over to get some pictures. I am the photographer in the family but there was one problem. I was trapped in the middle seat in the back of the van between 2 sleeping kiddos. There was no escape for me to get out of the car to take photos so I asked Gavin to go snap a couple photos of the fields. As he was getting out of the car I also shouted: “Don’t forget the purple field next to it!”

He gets out, walks down to the field, snaps some pictures and returns. We drive off and I start looking at the pictures he took. Here they are:

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Ummmm…. Really!! The 2nd picture is aimed at the road and the sign that says do not walk in this field. Ha! Luckily we were looping back on our route so I asked if we could stop at that same stop on the way back. Gavin agreed but said: “What my pictures weren’t good enough?”

Here are some of mine.

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That night we were looking at the photos taken for the day and we couldn’t help but laugh when comparing his photos to mine. We still joke about it.

This photo fail made me think about all the other photo fails we have had. Of course none of these photos make it onto Facebook or the blog. Until today!

The really terrible ones always get deleted right away (which I am going to try to stop doing) but here are some of the photo fails that survived. Some of them have actually become some of my favorite pictures.

Photo posted:

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Real life:

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That is Gavin’s “It is too early in the morning to be taking pictures” face. Don’t worry I asked him if it was ok to post this one. Haha!

This picture was posted on our Tulip blog:

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The picture before it was this:

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Nice photo Roxy. The picture directly after our “nice photo”

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A swarm of bugs had snuck up on them. Haha!

E obviously has been a focus of a lot of my pictures. Here is one of the pictures that made it online:

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Here are a couple that didn’t:

Yep she is falling over in one and has become intensely focused on her drool in the other. The drool one is actually one of my favorites. It is just real life. O was not a big drooler but E is and this photo will remind me of that even after they grow up.

Easter photos. This is the one that made it online:

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Here is another version:

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I have absolutely no idea what she is doing but it makes me laugh so it has been spared from the delete button.

Now you may have noticed there are no photo fails of me. The truth of the matter is that there are almost no photos of me period. This is an issue I think all moms face. We are always the face behind the camera and are rarely in front of it. I am going to make more of an effort this year to hand over the camera and get in front of it. I want my kiddos to remember me being in these moments with them. I want them to have pictures when I can no longer share the story with them.

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Looking back on all these photos makes me laugh and makes me think. The photo “fails” are sometimes the best picture because they really tell the story of what was going on. They tell of real life and funny moments. I am going to keep more of these photo fails and hit that delete button a little less. (Even for those really bad ones)

Tulip Tour

We had conquered flying as a family of four. The next logical step was our first road trip as a family of four. Destination: Netherlands.

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We decided to head up north to see the tulips in bloom. It is about a 4 ½ hour drive that only took us 10 hours. I am not kidding. We left the house at 9am and got to our Airbnb place at 7pm. That was due in part to a lengthy lunch break that included eating, playing at the playground and walking the dog. Oh yeah, we brought the dog too because when you are in this deep why not. We also got stuck in some traffic in the Rotterdam area and we decided to stop at Kinderdijk.

Kinderdijk is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located outside of Rotterdam. It is a collection of the iconic windmills that have become a trademark of the Netherlands.

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We got there in late afternoon (later than planned) and Holy Tourist! That place was packed. There were tour buses everywhere. Tulip time is prime time in these parts. The funny thing is that most of the tourists were Americans. Gavin even stated: “It is almost refreshing to hear a Southern accent. Haven’t heard that in a while.” Ha!

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(We weren’t being tourist at all. Ha!)

The site was lovely but we did a quick tour version as A) too many tourists B) we were approaching the witching hour (aka toddler meltdown time). I would highly recommend going during the off-season but still worth a trip.

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When we finally did make it to our Airbnb we were happy to find a nice little studio apartment located directly on a canal in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn. O loved looking out the window and watching the boats go by.

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The next day we made it out to the tulip fields. The most popular route is between the towns of Lisse and Haarlem. There is also the popular Kuekenhof Gardens in Lisse, which is known world-wide. However, we had been warned that it is insanely crowded during this time of year so we opted not to go. When we drove by the gardens at 9am there were already at least 100 buses in the parking lot with a long line waiting to get in to park and the rest of the parking lot looked 75% full. Instead, we opted to drive around the small towns and make our own route. We were able to find some great spots but only got pictures of a few fields.

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For the rest of the weekend, we spent our time exploring different areas close to our rental home. The seashore was not too far so Gavin made a request for a quick trip to see the North Sea.

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Netherlands is a really unique and beautiful place. We plan to visit again.

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Luisenpark

Spring has sprung here in Germany and it is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. It feels like every single plant in Germany flowers and the green of the grass is like from a fairy tale. Now that the sun is shining and the flowers are in bloom we have started to make our way to some new parks. Last week we visited Luisenpark.

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Luisenpark is in Mannheim. Mannheim is close to Heidelberg and about 50 minutes from our house. I read an article that suggested going there for the gardens but after doing some research I realized this park was going to be so much more than just the gardens and it didn’t disappoint.

First, this park is absolutely massive. One section is free and open to the public and the other section you must pay to enter ( 6 EUR for adults, 3 EUR kids 6-15 years, Under 6 are free). We went to the paid section only and let me tell you it is worth every penny. When you first walk in you are greeted by a beautiful flower garden.

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As you make your way through this section, if you head to the right you find yourself near the “zoo” section. Not really a zoo but there are some animals to see. There is a section with birds including penguins. There is also a farm section with sheep, cows, ponies, etc. There is also a fun playground here for smaller children (toddler). The whole playground is sand with little log houses spread throughout with some small slides. On one end of this playground is also a water play area, which is always popular here.

There is a lake in the middle of the park and little boats that cruise along it. The boats are called gondolettas and they actually move along a rope system in the water. We had too much baby stuff with us this round (We are still snapping E’s car seat into the stroller) so we didn’t get a chance to ride. However, it looked so relaxing and it is my top priority next time around.

As you make your way around the loop, you find yourself in this beautiful open area.

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There are chairs and loungers sprinkled around the grass. People are having picnics and playing soccer. It is just a wonderful scene. We also found this playground.

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I don’t know who built this playground but they made O’s dreams come true. He is absolutely obsessed with running up and down ramps. This playground is literally just a bunch of wooden ramps with 2 slides. He played on it for 40 minutes straight!

The next section of the park is the Chinese gardens. There is a teahouse that is open for lunch only. This is towards the back of the park and was very peaceful despite the ever-increasing Sunday crowd.

By the time we had reached the back of the park, O was getting tired and E was asleep so we didn’t get to play with the next section, which was disappointing for me. The next section was a sensory area (my physical therapist brain was loving it). There was a barefoot walking bath that had all different materials along the way. A balance bridge that rocked as you walked across it. O did do this part. I was worried he was going to be scared but he absolutely loved it and it really challenged his balance (which of course I loved). There was also a small creek running through the area and kids were encouraged to play in it (barefoot of course!). They had a “sound garden” area where different music was played. They also had instruments made from wood for the children to play with. The motto for this section of the park from the Luisenpark website is “eyes open, ears open, and feelers out”. It was a child’s paradise and a physical therapist’s dream.

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( not the sensory section but you get the idea)

These are just the areas we were able to get to during our time at this amazing park. They also have a massive indoor playground, which I hear is very popular during the winter months. They had a gigantic bounce house. Though it was in a permanent structure so no fear of it flying off! There was also another water play area, a castle themed playground that was more suited for older kids (above toddler age), a small aquarium, a butterfly house, and multiple restaurants including a wine cellar/beer garden.

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If you are ever in the area I highly recommend Luisenpark. Check out their website for details: www.luisenpark.de Tip: If you use Google Chrome as your browser it will automatically translate the page to English for you non-German speakers (like me).

Traveling as a Family of Four

The time had come. Time for us to dive in to flying with two kiddos under 3. Here’s how it went down.

Our first flight as a family of 4 was to London to see Gavin’s cousin get married. Quick trip and only 1 hour and 15 min flight. What could go wrong?

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(Umm… we are just going for a long weekend right??)

We got to the airport with no trouble. We have a fancy new stroller (Chicco’s Bravo for 2 stroller) that holds both kiddos so no one is running around dangerously as we maneuver through parking lots and crowds. We get to Lufthansa’s check-in desk. Everything is going smoothly so far.

Lufthansa actually has a family check-in desk at the Frankfurt airport, which is nice in theory. However, when we got in line we got to stand and witness the slowest moving person I have ever seen. Have you seen the movie Zootopia? You know the sloth that works at the DMV? This check-in lady was the real life version of that sloth. I wasn’t even mad (we had plenty of time). I was more amazed by her dazzlingly slow movements. Words fail me in describing the scene.

We finally get checked in and head to security and this is where things started to head south. The nice security people let us skip to the front of the line with our kiddos. We get all of our stuff up on the belt to go through the X-ray. Last step is to get E out of her car seat so it can go through. I pick her up and I instantly feel wetness on my hand. Oh. No. Say it isn’t so. We are ushered over to the metal detector. At this point, O has decided that all of the security staff are scary and starts screaming. The security guard then asks me to hand E to my husband so I can go through the detector first and then the kids can go through. Poor Gavin! Like a champ he is holding O in one arm (mid-tantrum) and is holding wet from unknown causes E in the other arm. I wish I could have taken a picture. I go through, I get handed wet baby and then they decide to pat us down. Luckily for the security lady she was wearing gloves because E was sharing that wet grossness with everything she touched.

O then comes through (still screaming) and they pat him down, causing even louder screams. At this time, we are officially making a scene. You must remember that German children never make any noise in public. Seriously…never. It is like the Loch Ness monster. You have heard stories and maybe seen a blurry photo or 2 but no one has actually seen in real life a German child throwing a fit in public. It is simply not done. We are not German though. We are Americans and we are experts at tantrum throwing in public. EXPERTS!

We survive the security point and make it out with all of our belongings and most of our pride. Next up was a mad dash to the nearest bathroom to fix the massive blow out from E. Please refer back to my traveling with toddler blog as my Ziploc bag obsession and a stashed additional outfit saved the day.

The Frankfurt airport is actually very family friendly and there are family bathrooms everywhere. The one I stepped into had a changing area, a seat for breastfeeding, adult and child height sinks and a stall that had 2 toilets in it (one adult and one child size). I felt like it was well thought out.

The flight for the most part was uneventful. A couple crying episodes with take off, ears popping and landing but overall a smooth flight. The flight attendants gave O a puzzle and E a small stuffed animal. They also gave us a booklet documenting all the info of E’s first flight. Lufthansa did a great job and I am glad we used them for our first flight with E.

We had a great time visiting family in London and the return trip went much smoother. The travel gods must have thought we had enough the first round.

Nothing left to do now except book our next flight

How to Recycle/Take Out the Trash in 23 Easy Steps

Taking out the trash in Germany is no simple tasks. There are multiple trash cans, a millions rules and strict schedules. If recycling was an Olympic sport, Germany would medal every time!

Getting used to the German trash schedule has been a daunting task for us. It all started when we initially rented our new home. The relocation agent made sure to go over the trash schedule and she even provided a handout for us to read1. The handout also had a website2 that provided more detail about what item goes into each of the 4 trash bins. Yes that is a 4! Let’s break it down…

  1. Bio Bin (brown bin)3– this is where all the food scraps go. In addition you can add paper towels, tissues, tea bags and coffee grinds. Basically, stuff that can decompose in a giant compost heap somewhere out there. Yard clippings/ waste can also go in here.
  2. Plastic bin (yellow bin)4– This is where the majority of your food containers go, Ziploc bags, plastic wraps, candy wrappers, aluminum cans, tin cans, etc.
  3. Paper bin (blue bin)5– newspapers, printer paper, cardboard, etc.
  4. Regular trash (grey bin)6– basically anything that doesn’t belong in the other bins with a few exceptions.

This seems reasonable until you really start thinking about everything. As the relocation agent was reviewing this all with us I had a question.

 

Me: “So what about the milk carton? It has a plastic spout but the rest of the container would qualify as paper.”

Relocation Agent: “If you are a good German you will cut out the spout.”

I laughed…..she didn’t.

I am not a good German.

 

Our first stop was then the store because we had to get some kind of organization going for all of us. We purchased this trash can7:

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For some reason the blue bin is green but oh well. We also have a trashcan for the “regular” trash.

Ok we are ready to go. Let’s try to recycle this lovely tea box:

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Lets say you just used the last tea bag. After you have made your tea, you are going to drop that tea bag into the brown bio bin. For the box, you need to remove the outer plastic wrap and place it in the yellow bin. The box itself will go into the blue bin. We are getting the hang of this! Now lets try these:

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Ha! Trick question! The answer for these items is none of the above. The blue plastic bottle in the middle probably made you think yellow bin. You can technically put the bottle in this bin but then you would be missing out on the refund. For some plastic and glass bottles you can return these items to the store8 and get a little money back. So we have a separate container9 to store those items that need to head back to the grocery store. Now the other 2 bottles in the picture are glass and are not eligible for the refund at the store. So where do they go? They need to be recycled at one of the glass recycling containers that are positioned around town that look like this:

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Notice that there is a bin for white glass (or clear)10, green glass11 and brown glass12. Yet again we have to have a separate container13 to store these items until we make it down to the glass recycling center. Now before you run off to recycle your glass you have to remember a few rules. First, you can only recycle glass when it is not quiet hours (remember those from a few blogs back). Which means, not before 7am14, not between the hours of 1pm-3pm15 and not after 8pm16. Also, no recycling on Sundays17 and German Holidays18.

Now that we’ve managed to separate everything into its designated bin, we now have to get it out to the curb in time for its pick up. Here we go…

The Bio bin is picked up every Monday19 except December- March20 in which it is picked up every other Monday. It is picked up every week during the warmer months due to the smell (not joking).

The regular trash is picked up every other Monday21. It is the same Monday as the bio bin is picked up during the Winter months or the week opposite the Plastic (yellow bin) pick up.

The plastic bin (yellow bin) is picked up every other week on a Wednesday22. This is the alternating week to the regular trash pick up as mentioned before.

The paper bin (blue bin) is picked up once a Month23, usually the 3rd week of the month. It is always a week that the yellow bin is being picked up but the paper bin is picked up on Tuesday and the yellow bin will be picked up the following day on a Wednesday.

Of course all of this is thrown out the window when it is a German Holiday.

Needless to say, we have a print out of the trash pick up days stuck to our fridge because I can’t remember the day of the week most of the time let alone what trash needs to be out.

Ok we have made it! And that is how you take out the trash/recycling in Germany in 23 easy steps!

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(Another way to recycle the bio)

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!

Missing America

We have made it to the 6 month mark! We are slowly but surely settling in to our new lifestyle and are adjusting to the German ways.

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(Like living in a snow globe)

There are some things we love about Germany and some things we miss about the US. So here is a list of a few things we truly miss about the good old United States of America:

  1. Target- This one is pretty self-explanatory for all the Target lovers out there. I miss having a huge store that has everything there from food to diapers to clothes. Somewhere I can just stroll around in and do one stop shopping. There are a few places like that here but it just isn’t the same as my favorite Target.
  2. Parking Lots- Speaking of big stores, I also miss the big parking lots. Parking is at a premium here. So when there is a parking lot (or more likely a parking garage), the parking space is tiny. I have 2 kiddos that I have to get in and out of the car with one in an infant car seat. I need some space! I miss you American parking lots!!
  3. Drive-Thru- Specifically I need a Starbucks drive-thru. I am not much of a fast food eater so that doesn’t impact me but I would love, love, LOVE to get some caffeine via a drive thru. Particularly right now with a newborn (aka Midnight Crib Raver) and a toddler, it would be awesome for someone to hand me some hot caffeine directly into my car while the 2 of them are strapped down in their car seats. Oh well. At least we are saving some money by not buying as many $5 drinks. Ha!img_0921                                              (Kinder Eggs make everything better)
  4. Ice- I know I have mentioned this one before in previous blogs but it is worth mentioning again. They don’t serve ice in drinks here. I still find it strange and every once in a while you just want a super cold drink over ice.
  5. IPA Beers- This one is from Gavin. Germany has great beer don’t get us wrong but they are not into IPA beers. We aren’t being depraved here of awesome beer opportunities but Gavin would love a few IPAs in the mix.
  6. You- Most of all we miss our friends and family. It is fun being on a new adventure but we also miss all of the good times with all of you.img_6148                                                              (The fun continues)

E Arrives

Baby #2 has arrived! Ok most of you know this because it has been over a month but hey time flies when you are having fun. Some of you are probably wondering how giving birth went….German style!

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My first birth experience was a little traumatic. This time around, I was looking forward to having everything a little more organized and hopefully a lot more calm. We had a set date and we knew it was going to be another c-section so that takes out some of the guessing. However, giving birth in Germany is a bit different compared to the US so lets dive in.

First, I talked about this before but we had to pay everything BEFORE the birth due to our private insurance. We had to pay the hospital’s chief physician (even though he wasn’t going to be doing the procedure), the hospital itself and the anesthesiologist. Here is where it gets shady. I had to pay the anesthesiologist in CASH the day before the scheduled surgery. On the positive side, you get to meet the doctor the day before and discuss everything. This gave me the opportunity to explain the complications I had last time so that we could hopefully avoid those issues with this birth. During this meeting I also found out that blood is apparently VERY expensive (this is probably true everywhere but no one tells the patient). The doctor made a point to explain to me that they would give me blood if I needed it but it would be an absolute final option due to the price. That makes you feel good right before a big surgery. Ha!

Day of the surgery, we showed up early and walked up to labor and delivery. The operating room is actually on the unit and is set up just for c-section procedures. Everything started on time and went well. Well…better than last time. I was able to be awake for E’s birth and she got to do some skin to skin with me right after birth. That was a win for me and was all I wanted. There were some complications and they did end up putting me under (more anesthesia) to complete the procedure but I wasn’t intubated or anything so again I think that is a win.

After some time in the recovery room, they then moved us to our room on the mother baby unit. It was about noon and I was starving since I didn’t eat since dinner the night before. They finally bring in lunch and it was this:

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Yeah that is boiled potatoes and eggs. I am not a huge fan of hard boiled eggs so potatoes it was for lunch. Luckily I was warned about the food and had brought some snacks.

Speaking of food, it was interesting to adapt to the traditional German food during a time when you just want comfort food. For breakfast and dinner, it is common to have bread, deli meats and cheese. There is usually fruit and yogurt available in the morning and in the evening there is something similar to potato salad. Everything is cold. Lunch is the warm meal of the day and you were able to order what you would like. Breakfast and dinner was available buffet style and your lunch was left on a tray with your name on it down the hallway in a “dining room”. The nurses strongly pushed for everyone to be up and walking as much as possible after birth and I think this food set up was used to force people to get moving. On the day of surgery, the nurses did bring me all of my meals. I was up and walking that night so the next day no one brought me my breakfast. Nothing was said to me it was just assumed that since I had been up and walking in my room that I would then walk to the dining room. Don’t you worry I figured it out quick. No one can keep me from food!

I am up, walking, and finding my food all within 24hrs of having major abdominal surgery, which means PAIN! Our cultural training coach had warned me about pain control in Germany with regards to childbirth. Her exact words were “you must be in pain to be a good mother”. This is the straight truth. The hospital only offered Ibuprofen (seriously Advil) for pain control. In the US after my first surgery, I had an on-Q pump (pain pump that offers local anesthetic to the surgical site) for 48 hours, which basically made the area numb. I also had Tylenol with codeine and stronger Ibuprofen (stronger than regular dose). Back to Germany, Ibuprofen only and they gave me a stronger dose of Ibuprofen for only the first 2 days. Then they only offered the regular dose (you know how the bottle of Advil says take 2 pills every few hours). Not cool Germany. Not cool!

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(Worth the pain!)

Oh and they give you all of your pills for the day at once (at least at this hospital). I got a little pill box that was labeled breakfast, lunch, dinner and evening. They would fill it up at night for the next day and you were in charge of remembering to take everything. I would typically see a nurse 2 times a day (at shift change) when they were doing their rounds. The rest of the time I was cared for by certified midwives who would check on the baby and I throughout the day and answer the call bell. They would take the vitals and do the everyday stuff.

I also had a special guest come and visit me during my stay: a physical therapist! The day after my surgery a nice physical therapist came to provide me instruction on how to get in and out of bed after abdominal surgery and to help me walk around. I was already up and sitting in a chair when he arrived and I had been walking around (to scavenge for food) so I got discharged pretty quickly. Apparently, every person who has a c-section is provided physical therapy. You know I loved that!

Popular topic: How long did you stay in the hospital? With our first kiddo, we were discharged from the hospital at the 72 hour mark which is how long you are required to stay by law (and how long your insurance will pay for it unless there are special circumstances). Here in Germany, we gave birth on Thursday morning and discharged Monday afternoon by my request. The nurses wanted me to stay until Thursday because most women who have c-sections stay 7-10 days. In Germany, the birth is billed as a single procedure. So it doesn’t matter if you stay 3 days or 10 days the bill is the same to your insurance and there is no pressure to get the patient out the door. This allows mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding, who need more time to recover, or just need more support before they take on the mom role full time to stay in the hospital longer. Mom is happy and baby is happy. This was actually really nice. There is no pressure to get out of the hospital and everything seems less stressful. Everyone gets to follow the timeline that works for them.

Overall, we were pleased with our experience. The skill and knowledge of the staff in Germany was on par with their counterparts in the US. The system here is set up to be more supportive of mother and baby and allow more time for recovery. I am glad, however, that this was not our first child or our first c-section experience. The cultural differences and the communication issues would have been more overwhelming/upsetting if we had no idea what we were doing (like we were with the first kiddo). We came home with a happy and healthy baby girl and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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