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When I lived in DC, I met a very nice British couple and when I invited them to a party at our house (a St Patrick’s Day party no less), the husband said “I’ll be in Blighty”.  At the time, I had no idea what Blighty meant and so I googled it.  Turns out it’s the name for Britain which was originally used by British Soldiers stationed in India who were trying to say bilāyatī (meaning Britain).

We’re back in Blighty after our wonderful week in Germany. Germany is so beautiful and what’s not to love: beer, no speed limit on the autobahn, lots of green open spaces, castles, snowy alps, beautiful cities and everything is very clean.  Although my German language skills are lacking, I did remember the most important phrase “Weißwein ~ trocken, bitte”

Having lived in Germany for many years, there are several cultural behaviors I’ve observed that still make me chuckle.  Just as I know people chuckle (or worse) when I commit typical American actions. Germans, for the most part, don’t have a lot of concern for personal space and I have a need for more personal space than most people.  It took me awhile to get use to that aspect of living in Germany.  The other is standing in line ~ not something most Germans do willingly.  I learned early on to guard my spot in line ~ no daylight allowed between me and the person in front of me.  Once I had an older woman in the Aldi store bump me with her grocery cart from behind.  I think she was hoping I’d step out of line so she could jump ahead, but after the third bump, without looking back, I put my foot on the front bottom part of her cart and pushed as hard as I could.  Finally, she stopped bumping me with that blasted cart.

The other day, when we got to the Easy Jet check-in counter at the Munich airport, the desk wasn’t open yet but a line was already forming.  Logan and I left John with the luggage (3 bags) and we went to get juice.  We were gone about 5 minutes and came back to see the desk was open but John was further back in the line than when we left him.  When I asked John what happened, he laughed and said he was too slow moving the bags forward so people just moved in front of him rather than wait until he moved the bags.  Never would that happen in the UK where queueing is an art form and rigidly adhered to ~ if someone dares to jump the line, they’ll no doubt be chastised.

I make these observations, not as a critique of the Germans, but because the customary actions made us feel even more comfortable being back there.  Just as we feel comfortable being back in Blighty where we know what’s the expected behavior.  Or as the saying goes “When in Rome…”

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When we lived in Germany and were flying out of München airport on an early flight, we would opt to stay at the Kempinski Hotel the night before rather than drive the 2 hours prior to a flight.  The hotel still offers their “Park/Sleep/Fly” package starting at €169 for one night, early morning breakfast, parking for 8 days and use of the 24 hour gym/spa/swimming pool. The lobby is very modern as is the rest of the hotel:

Kempinski Munich Hotel

The location of the hotel can’t be beat as it’s between terminals 1 and 2 with the car rental return conveniently located opposite the hotel entrance. Nothing quite like walking out of the hotel lobby to the airline check-in counter in about 5 minutes. We checked in thinking we would have a quiet night in our room but once we found out there was a “Winter Market” going on at the airport, complete with an ice skating rink, Bavarian curling lane, over 50 food/gift market stalls, a live band and glühwein, we headed out to enjoy. Logan and I ate the savory crepes and roasted chestnuts while John searched for the best Bratwurst. The Winter Market was a nice surprise to end our vacation in Germany.

Winter Market

Skating and curling rinks at the Winter Market Munich Airport

At the Winter Market Munchen Airport

It was a wonderful visit to Bavaria and before we knew it, we were packed up and on our way back to London. At the end of a trip, I wish I could snap my fingers and be home. I can’t complain though, our Easy Jet flight was smooth and on-time with the trains between Gatwick and St. Pancras running frequently so we only had a short wait for our train home.

Bye to Germany

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Grafenwöhr was our stomping grounds from 2001 to 2005 and it was so nice to be back in the area.  It’s a beautiful location and it’s grown quite a bit since we left but it still has several historic buildings:

Water Tower, Grafenwoehr

Water Tower, Grafenwöhr

Forsthaus circa 1909

Forsthaus circa 1909

We lived about 30 minutes from Graf in the sleepy town of Neunkirchen bei Weiden. It has two churches, the kindergarten my daughter attended, lots of walking/biking paths and much more. We met many wonderful friends when we lived there and still keep in contact with them.  A flood of memories came rushing back as we drove into town:

sign for Neunkirchen

We saw a rainbow as we drove toward Neunkirchen ~ made me feel welcomed:

Rainbow

When we lived in Neunkirchen, we had two large dogs who loved running free in the forest surrounding the town.  We went back to see if there were any changes and we’re happy to report everything appears exactly the same.

Logan in the forest

Logan in the forest

It’s important to keep a lookout for interesting things when driving in Germany, you never know what you might see along the road. Here’s a tiny chapel:

Little chapel near Kaltenbrunn

or a cross along the road:

Bench and cross near kaltenbrunn

We went to our favorite restaurant, Pegasus not once but twice. We were considered stammtisch (a regular) when we lived in Neunkirchen.  We would walk in and they wouldn’t even ask our order ~ they would just bring our drinks and food to the table.  Unless mussels were in season, then John would change his order.  If you’re in the area and get a chance to go to Pegasus, I highly recommend the Scampi Diavolo.

On Friday, we went to lunch at Pegasus with our German neighbor, Norbert and his son.  Then today, as we headed out of town and at the last minute, we decided to swing by and eat there one more time since we have no idea when our next trip to Germany will be.  Surprisingly,as we drove into the parking lot, we saw Norbert walking toward the entrance!!  Must be fate ~ we couldn’t have planned it any better.

Pegasus at the flugplatz ~ our favorite restaurant

Pegasus at the flugplatz ~ our favorite restaurant

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Neunkirchen is very close to Weiden which is a very pretty German town with a lovely pedestrian zone (Fußgängerzone).  It looks even prettier with Christmas decorations.  We met with our friends, Nadja, German and their two adorable daughters for dinner in Weiden:

With Nadja and fam in Weiden

More of beautiful Weiden at night:

Arch to Weiden

Archway to Weiden

Weiden

This was less of a sightseeing trip and more of a chance to reconnect with old friends.  From the looks of our photos, we ate our way through Germany!  Good food, Great friends!

Lunch with Youngs, Gilbertsons

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Eating our way through Germany

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We landed in Munich, after a little over an hour flight from Gatwick Airport (London).  Once we got on the Autobahn, the Audis (and one Aston Martin) were flying by, making our car shake as though we were standing still. No doubt they were trying to break the sound barrier.

We traveled extensively during our 5 years living in Germany and several of those trips were spent in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  As always, it was great to see the mountains as we drove into Garmisch:

Garmisch Mountains

All the sights, sounds, and smells brought back a flood of wonderful memories.  My heart was a little heavy as I remembered our last visit to Garmisch which was New Year’s Eve 2005.  My mom spent the week with us at the Edelweiss Lodge and it was a magical time.  There was lots of snow, fireworks, trips to Neuschwanstein Castle and other local historic sites. For years afterwards, my mom would frequently tell me how much she enjoyed that particular vacation. Made me miss her more than usual.

Sadly, as we drove into town, we could tell there wasn’t a lot of snow.  Our main purpose for returning to Garmisch was to ski so we needed to chase the snow.  We found it in Ehrwald, on the Austrian side of the Zugspitz, which is the tallest mountain in Germany at 2962 meters.  It’s only a 30 minute drive from Garmisch,  20 minutes if you can drive like a German.

Admittedly, I’m a snow snob.  If it’s icy or slushy, I’d rather not go through the expense or pain (those boots are torture to me).  John learned to ski in Ohio so his idea of a good snow day is any snow at all. John and Logan hit the slopes with a smile on their faces:

John and Logan at base of the mountain

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On our way out of town, we stopped at the Olympic Ski Stadium where the 1936 Winter Olympics were held. The stadium has hosted a variety of ski competitions and also has a ski jump school.  The ski jumps make my stomach queasy just looking at them:

Three Ski Jumps in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Reading the signs in German are always fun ~ trying to decipher the words that have been cobbled together.  I actually figured this one out:

Ski School Sign

Logan sat in the old seating:

Olympic Stadium seats from 1936

Garmisch is a beautiful Bavarian town with lots to do whatever the season.  We’ve been to Garmisch over half a dozen times, at different times of the year, and it’s always been a fun time.   We’re heading north today ~ back to the Oberpfalz (Bavaria) where we lived for four of our five years in Germany.

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Last year, I was a parent chaperone on FG’s class trip. We took a leisurely boat ride up the Main River from  Würzburg to Veitshöchheim, Germany ~ about a 3km ride. It was a gloriously beautiful spring day. I almost didn’t make the trip due to my allergies with the blooming flowers. May is my favorite time of the year in Germany because it’s so beautiful but my sinuses hate it.

Once we got off the boat, we had a picnic at a playground which was located along the river. We then walked to the Summer Palace of the Würzburg Prince Bishops to enjoy the Hofgarten. The Summer Palace was built in 1680 and the garden has lakes, water fountains, a maze, over 200 Rococco style sandstone sculptures and wonderfully blooming flower beds.  If anyone reading this still lives in the Würzburg area, PLEASE take a trip to see this town ~ it’s well worth it.

One of my favorite sculptures ~ a boy and a goat:

The tower:

And here’s the BEST 2nd grade class 🙂

What a great trip!

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Easter is a holiday I would prefer to spend at home but we always seem to be traveling, mostly because spring break falls during that time. Our last Easter celebrated at home was in 2002 and it was a really wonderful Easter.  Standing room only at mass because all the twice a year Catholics attended.  After church, there was a quick Easter egg hunt and then we went to brunch with other expat friends:

We’ll be in Tokyo for Easter, but that’s OK, my 2002 Easter memory always brings a smile to my face and I’m REALLY thankful we spent Easter at home with such special friends.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Easter weekend!

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Flashback Fasching

Fasching Party at Kindergarten 2003

At dinner the other night, we asked FG where she wanted to live next and she immediately answered with Germany. In fact, her wish would be to move back into the same duplex we lived in when we were in Neunkirchen. 

One of the things she enjoyed so much about Germany was all the fun traditions. Fasching was a favorite! Both her school and her dance class always had a fun costume party for the kids ~ in 2003, my FG was a princess but the next year she decided she’d rather be dressed as a pig! 

I didn’t participate in the adult festivities but I did observe a few “cutting of the men’s ties” on ‘Weiberfastnacht’ which is the women’s carnival night. On this day, it’s traditional for women to cut off the tie of any man and kiss any man they want to.

Hope everyone we know in Germany has a fun and festive Fasching!

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