I sat by Barf Boy on the flight from Pittsburgh to NYC, returned a lost wallet containing cash and passport to a passenger before boarding NYC to Germany, watched 3 movies and a TV show in flight over night, arrived in Germany at 3am our time. We ate lunch, napped for 2 hours to make up for losing an entire night's sleep and a 6 hour time change, and hit the streets of Frankfurt for a 5 hour walking tour like bosses.
That was Day 1.
And this is Frankfurt's town square.
I'm not sure why I am so fascinated by the fact that Germans embrace their traditions so hard, but I love it. Immensely. I mean, we don't still build log cabins as standard in The States just because they're traditional. Some folks do because they're pretty, but that's not the same concept. There's talk in Germany of ditching the old for more modern buildings, but the two sides are at odds, but Germany in general is thinking that old will always have a place beside the new.
This, also, is Frankfurt. This is the shopping district where our host lived. Even in a photo, I still get the vibe that it's cleaner, quieter and friendlier than a US city is. We greatly enjoyed Frankfurt, and of course visiting with our host. Despite the 23 years since she was an exchange student with my family, it's like we just picked up where we left off. Only the best of friends can do that. It was so very nice to catch up on the past 2 decades with each other.
Frankfurt in the evening hours is a magical place that draws people outdoors. Europeans in general eat outdoors, but I think Germans take that to extremes. We were told that even in winter, if it's a sunny day, Germans will wipe the snow off the cafe tables and sit huddled with a coffee cup steaming their faces, enjoying a rare glimpse of sunlight. While all of Europe loves eating outdoors, Germans managed to take this to extremes. Italians and Spaniards scoffed at the German dedication, and wished them warmth.
In Frankfurt, we had schnitzel, sauerkraut and potato salad for dinner. Of course. Those were delicious. Blood sausage, however, was decidedly not. Neither was Apple Wine. Frankfurt in general was a fun little city. I loved the farmer's market, the flower shops, the old architecture, and the modestly dressed people. There were no leggings as pants and no pajama bottoms anywhere to be seen. It was rather refreshing.
We took a cruise up the Rhine River and toured a castle, which was an incredible second day kind of event. Castles are so very European, and Germany has the lion's share, I'm sure of it. The fun of castles just never quite wore off. Every time we'd spot another one we would exclaim like kids finding another gift under the Christmas tree. This was the only castle we toured, but we most certainly enjoyed the architecture of all that we saw, and relished in the history of it all. History older than the United States. I mean, my gosh.
Our third day in Germany was an interesting one for sure. This was the day that our host asked if we thought we might be okay going to Heidelberg all by ourselves while she prepared for all of us to leave for Switzerland the next day. We were quite apprehensive about being in a foreign country without a tour guide or an interpreter, but she assured us that the train took us directly to Heidelberg and brought us right back to Frankfurt. She'd buy the tickets for us and meet us at the station upon our return. She also said she'd go with us if we really wanted her to, but we were in Europe for an adventure, so we chose to go alone.
Heidelberg has a charming castle and historic district, as many German towns do. The Christmas shop there was by far my favorite as I have an extensive holiday collection and like to add to it as often as I can. We can experience those things at home. Thankfully many people spoke English well enough there that it wasn't an issue that we were completely clueless about the language. I did order our lunch in German well enough that the waiter assumed I could fluently speak the language, and a lot of head scratching and pointing and gesturing ensued before I finally got the point across that I just wanted a fork to eat our pastry with, please. Yes, we had pastries for lunch. Vacation rocks that way.
We took the early train back because we figured we'd just as soon wait at the Frankfurt station for our host as the Heidelberg station. Turns out, not being able to read the German signs any more than recognizing town names can be disastrous when one needs to travel. The early train was also the slow train, and stopped at every little village along the way. It was definitely the scenic route, and we were enjoying ourselves, until the train conductor collected our ticket and angrily told us we were on the wrong train as he pointed to the other one speeding past us that we should have been on. Oops. And an even bigger oops resulted from this when we didn't arrive back in Frankfurt earlier, but 90 minutes later due to all the village hopping we did. Our host was frantic and we were out of touch completely. AT&T doesn't have a cell tower in Germany, so reception was zero with our phones. We didn't panic, though, because there was a pay phone at the station. Turns out, if you can't understand the foreign language, figuring out which buttons to push to make the pay phone work is going to be a game changer. Through WiFi siphoned off a bar across the street from the train station, Sam was able to iMessage Becky back home, who was able to text Kay that we were at the station, waiting. A lot of back and forth texting and messaging happened before we finally found each other an hour later.
Don't ever leave us in a foreign country without a means of communication and/or an interpreter. But hey, we had an adventure.
We had schnitzel at a beer garden for dinner that night, because that's what locals do, and it was great comfort food. We did not, however, partake of the "dessert" drink that our host and her husband shared. I sipped hers to see if we wanted to share one for ourselves, and then couldn't help making the face that I involuntarily do when I medicate myself with NyQuil, because that's exactly what it tastes like. Germans take NyQuil as dessert. They're hard core. With dinner, Frankfurters also very much enjoy a glass of Apple Wine, and while I thought this might be something I'd enjoy as a girly kind of fruity drink, it most certainly is not. It's nothing more than apple cider vinegar, sipped from a special glass made just for the Apple Wine, and poured from a Bambl, created just to pour Apple Wine from. Frankfurt is crazy proud of their invention. Don't ever tell them that adding alcohol to vinegar isn't the most creative thing ever. They'll be totally offended.
We shopped the Farmers Market on the streets of Frankfurt one morning. I have never seen so much fresh produce, of all varieties. Being so close the Mediterranean, the vast array of produce is mind boggling, and the quality was far better than anything I've seen in the States. And I make it a point to attend Farmers Markets as often as I can. I love those places. Oddly, that was one of the highlights of my German experience. Sam and I are kind of weird foodies. Not necessarily trying all the gourmet stuff, but experiencing things local love and seeing what their grocery stores offer. We toured a grocery store as well. We were far too excited to do this, and made our host's husband laugh out loud at our enthusiasm for mundane chores. We're odd, but we embrace it.
We didn't spend a whole lot of time in Germany, as we were headed to Switzerland for the remainder of our stay with our German host, but my overall impression is of a happy people leading slower and quieter lives than ours. Technology is a thing, but they don't let it rule their lives. I love the bakeries and creameries and butcher shops on every block so locals can shop daily for their meals. Our host was out every morning before we were awake, picking up fresh rolls for breakfast after her morning run. Germany is set up to be walked a little more than American cities are. While we have sidewalks, things are big box and spread out here, rather than many repeats of smaller specialized shops all over town. It's a European thing, and I kind of loved that.