Germany and Untold Tales

Over the past few months I have written a total of 13 posts about our trip last summer to Europe.  Wow!  And yet, there are still stories to be told, pictures to be shared, and a country to cover.  Today I am endeavoring to say it all and wrap it up with a bow.  We shall see how this goes!  I’ll start with the country.

Germany was country 3 of our trip.  We were there for only a few hours as it was a drive through situation from Austria to Switzerland.  Since we were going by, we decided to stop at the Neuschwanstein Castle on our way through.  This is the castle that Cinderella’s Castle is modeled after, so we had pretty high expectations!  Turns out, everyone else did too.  And those people were better than us at booking tickets ahead of time.  Sigh.  Lesson learned the hard way there.

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Neuschwanstein Castle

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So we settled for looking at it from the outside, which turned out to still be very crowded!  Neuschwanstein Castle draws a lot of tourists considering it was neither lived in nor finished.  My highlight of the castle was that we got to meet up with our cousin Jasmine who happened to be there with her foreign exchange family.

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A cousin meet up, in Germany!

After the castle we stopped for groceries and had dinner before we drove on to Switzerland.

Untold Tales: We have now reached the part of the post where I tell you about things we did that didn’t fit into any other posts.

In Switzerland we saw a ‘black Madonna,’ aka statue of virgin Mary that has turned black for some unknown reason.  She can be found in Einsiedeln and we went to see her per our hosts’ recommendation.  We are Christians but not Catholics, so some of the significance of it all was lost to us, but the Cathedral is in a beautiful little town.

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Einsiedeln, Switzerland

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Briana is showing us the fountain where I filled my water bottle while travelers circled it, drinking from every spicket.  I’m sure they had a reason for this bazaar drinking habit, but I haven’t the slightest clue what it would be.

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Here we see two cool dudes hanging out at the Cathedral.

In Florence, Italy we attempted to meet up with one of Briana’s friends at the Boboli Gardens and failed.  Instead we spent the hour before our train left plowing through these gardens in an attempt to ‘see it all.’  Somehow we still had time for silly poses.

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My sisters can be divas.

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You can see the Duomo from here!

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Just chillin’ by a palace.

After our train from Florence to Rome we flew to Spain.  At the airport I realized that I didn’t book tickets to the Alhambra in time (second time for this trip) and we had to rearrange our entire schedule to accommodate.  For that leg of the trip, it meant we would go directly to Granada from Sevilla when we landed, rather than traveling through Cordoba to see the Mosque/museum there.  It’s hard to explain the drama of this reworking, but we did eventually get it done.  And that decision put us on a train the following morning with views of olive orchards, old towns, and white villages nestled in the hills.  It was so very unlike anything we had seen in Europe thus far.

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The region of Andalusia, Spain from the sky.

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Olive trees for miles.

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Old Spanish town.

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Forgotten train station.

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A white city on a hill.

The other thing that happened in Spain is that I ate shrimp with their heads on.  It was delicious and disgusting all at once.  Delicious because it was yummy.  Disgusting because I discovered half way through that I was eating their GI track with their little black eyes watching me!

Travel:  I may have mentioned that we traveled for the first 2 weeks by rental car.  Did I mention how squished we were in the backseat?  Did I mention the hours of music and conversation?  What about the simultaneous girls’ nap time and boys’ history podcast time?

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Just look how our shoulders overlapped!

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Our view for 2 weeks on the road.

Group Dynamics: Before I left for this trip a few people made a comment about how it’s good I’m traveling with my family, because we can be honest with each other.  Yeah, they were right.  But as a rule, our family usually is.  What I ended up liking about our trip more than the fact that we could be honest when we needed space, was how we worked together.  On this trip everyone took responsibility for something, without being told.  This is a million times better than the typical ‘leaders and followers’ dynamic that so often happens when traveling and I definitely recommend it.

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Troy was the driver and took care of the car.

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Karston navigated, on foot and in the car.  He also helped research and book tours and restaurants.  Briana did all the laundry (shout out to Briana!) and dishes and packing and unpacking of groceries.  She also documented every night what we had done that day and everyone’s ‘highs and lows’ for the day.

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Vanessa entered our bills every night into our bill-splitter app.    And I dealt with the schedule, keeping in touch with hosts, booking (or not booking) tickets, and figuring out how the remaining details came together.

Sappy Sibling Silliness:  Three weeks is a rather long time to travel.  It brings out the silliness in all of us.  We became endlessly amused with boomerang videos and ‘millennial poses.’  We also became big fans of these chocolate covered shortbread cookies that you can actually buy stateside in Aldi.

Why you should go to Europe:

  1. It’s very American friendly.  You can eat at Starbucks, order in English, and run into cousins.  Not to say that your phones will work or that it will feel like home, just that it’s very doable, even for inexperienced travelers.  
  2. The food.  Yes, gelato is delicious, but so are hot dogs from street vendors.  Also, you can drink from the tap, refill your water from public fountains, and eat local vegetables.  That is not something you can do everywhere you go in the world and shouldn’t be taken lightly. 
  3. The history.  People told me that I would be surprised how old everything is in Europe.  I wasn’t.  Instead, I was surprised when I returned how young everything is here.  Also, because of all our walking tours, I better understand some of Europe’s history and the connections between countries.
  4. The variety.  With so many countries located so closely together, the variety of experiences is endless.  From mountain peaks to coasts to deserts, we experienced the gamut.

It seems appropriate that my last photo of all my Europe posts be the last photo we took in Europe.

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With gelato, obviously.

This was country 3 of our 6 country Euro Trip and the end of my Europe tales for the time being.

To read a summary of the trip, click here.

Country 1: Czech Republic

Country 2: Austria, read here and here.

Country 4: Switzerland, click here and here.

Country 5: Italy, read about Lake Como, Venice, Portovenere, Cinque Terre, Rome, Florence, or my final thoughts. (I had a lot to say about Italy, as you can see.)

Country 6: Spain, Granada  and Barcelona 

Next week: more thoughts on travel, stateside edition!

 

Germany

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