Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving in Germany

So I was thinking about it and I just spent my very first Thanksgiving somewhere other than the US. Spending the holiday away from my family wasn’t a big deal because it’s rare I’m with my parents on Thanksgiving anyway, but I’ve never been in another country. And you know what?

It wasn’t a big deal.

It’s just like another day. Sure, all of the Americans talk about Thanksgiving, but I live downtown and don’t have AFN on my TV. My exposure to the holiday was limited. Although, we did have a traditional Thanksgiving lunch at the dining facility the Wednesday before the holiday.

Since we had a four-day weekend, Nate and I went to Garmisch for some down time. No agendas, no itineraries, no work – it was bliss :)

We drove down Wednesday night and after a brief glitch in our plans (tell me why they would shut down an entire highway and not put up detour signs??) we arrived in Garmisch. We stayed at Edelweiss, which is a DoD resort, so there were military folks everywhere. The resort was hosting a big Thanksgiving feast the next day so I think a lot of folks drove in for the festivities.

Anyway, we were pretty tired so we called it an early night. The next day we went to Neuschwanstein Castle, which is one of King Ludwig’s four castles. It sits on top of a huge hill and it looks like the Disney World castle, not like a traditional medieval castle with a moat. In fact, they said Walt Disney designed his castle based on this one.

During the tour, we learned that the castle was never completed. Once the king died, construction ceased. It was actually only about a third of the way finished and we were only allowed to see completed rooms. The rooms we saw were amazing. The attention to detail and the sheer glitz of the rooms was incredible. I mean, we may paint our living room wall blue, but they would paint it blue and add a mural and thousands of hand drawn snowflakes. It was borderline ridiculous.

But hey, nobody wants to pay to see plain blue walls.

Besides, the whole thing is charming. Not to mention the views from atop the mountain. You can see for miles. You may be wondering how we got up to the castle (or maybe you don’t care – pssh) and t here are a couple of options. You can take a bus, you can walk (it’s approx 40 mins uphill) or you can take a horse and carriage.

There wasn’t a bus available at the time and it was way too cold to walk so we opted for the horse and carriage. I know you’re all thinking how sappy this sounds, but you ride with a bunch of people so it wasn’t just the two of us canoodling in the back or anything.

After the castle we did some shopping in town. My new kick is tea shops. I like being able to smell all of the different blends and pick my own – kind of like coffee I guess. Anyway, we spent a substantial amount of time in one of the tea shops and walked out with a new orange tea. I’m ready to try it, but have decided to wait for Nate. I know, I’m so polite :)

Although it was Thanksgiving, we passed on the feast at the resort and went to a quaint German restaurant. Thanksgiving really isn’t about the food anyway – it’s about who you’re with –

The next day was “my day”. This meant sleeping in and lots of shopping. We started around lunch time and I had to stop at the PX. Nate was nice enough to point out that it was Black Friday and I wasn’t at home. Boo.

I did find some North Face ski pants at the PX though. I know, I know – Jen on a pair of skis? What’s the world coming to? But I am determined to learn! Anyway, I bought some ski stuff and we ran in Carlten, who also happened to be doing the exact same thing. We’ll have to plan a ski trip for next year.

Afterward, we went downtown and did some shopping. Then Nate remembered he saw an ice skating rink on the map and we went in search of the arena. Actually, we more or less stumbled onto it. This led to about an hour or so of ice skating inside. I fully explained that I don’t ice skate. I can barely walk (which I proved repeatedly as I tripped over cobblestones and stepped on him). But he was convinced I would be fine.

To be fair, the ice was really choppy. It felt like the zamboni hadn’t smoothed the ice in hours and it was easy to get caught in someone else’s grooves. But believe it or not, I didn’t fall. There were a couple of scares, but the Lord looks after fools and he made sure I stayed upright. It was actually a lot more fun than I thought it would be. I think we may go ice skating at the Christmas market this weekend. Maybe these folks will believe in zambonies.

On Saturday, we went to the highest peak in Germany, the Zugspitze, which is part of the Alps. We rode a cable car to the top, which wasn’t too bad…most of the time…Every once in awhile the car would hit an area of the cable that would make your stomach drop, just like being on a roller coaster. Needless to say, I didn’t look down.

And of course, my mind works in weird ways. For example, when we got to the top, the guy who runs the car had to open the window and do something to make sure the car was secure. Tell me why my first thought was– oh hell, what if this guy has a death wish? Maybe he wants to commit suicide and he’s taking us down with him? Why did we pick this doomed car to get on? Fate is a cruel beast… -- Okay, by this time, we’re all safely getting off the car, but it makes you wonder.

Is my mind twisted because of the books I read? Or is it society? With all the bombings and terrorist attacks and high school shootings you can just never be sure what someone’s true intentions are, you know? I blame the media. HAHAHAHAHA – that was for my public affairs family.

Anyway, we make it to solid ground and I venture a peek down the route we just came up. After a brief wave of nausea I decide it’s a good idea to quit torturing myself. Especially since we have to take another cable car down to the next level where the runs are.

It’s really crowded because the season just started. In fact, half of the mountain wasn’t open yet because there wasn’t enough snow. We’re just there for sight-seeing this time so we walked around a bit and stopped for hot chocolate – you know, freeze in the snow... We only spent a couple of hours up there, but it was gorgeous. It increased my resolve to learn how to ski.

On the way back down we took the train, which actually runs through the mountain. So naturally, my thoughts are something like – I wonder what’s going to happen if the mountain caves in? Would it be quick and painless or would we suffocate? I know they’re talking about emergency exits, but let’s get real, could we get to them? – Yeah, it was a long ride down the mountain.

At which point, Nate decides to share that he thinks the mountain would be an easy terrorist target.

Thank the Lord he didn’t mention that until we were off the mountain.

I swear.

Since it’s mid-afternoon we decide to head back to his place in Sulzbach because it’s going to take a few hours to get home and we really didn’t want to drive in the dark. We got back safely and just relaxed. Sometimes it’s just nice to lounge and check email and watch movies.

The next day we met up with Archegan at the big Christmas market in Nurnberg. It was ridiculously crowded and I was glad we only stayed a couple of hours. Although my Belgian waffle in the shape of a heart was well worth the trip.

From there our group had to split up. Megan and I were driving back to Heidelberg, Archie was going to pick up their new puppy and Nate was headed home.

But first, we had to find our car.

And I have a poor sense of direction.

We decide to leave the gang in one area and walk to our car so I can get my bags. Since Nate was listening to me, we went the wrong way and had to backtrack. I don’t think he’ll make that mistake again.

Once we were headed in the right direction (I still thought it was wrong – pssh) we started running into a bad part of town. We were where all of the whore houses are located. Say what?!

All along our left-hand side there were windows facing the street. In each window there was a woman on a stool (usually reading a magazine out of boredom) waiting for some guy to purchase her services. It was like a train wreck. I couldn’t help but look. Nate kept telling me to quit making eye contact, but I couldn’t help myself!

I mean, some of these women must’ve been 60 years old. Anyway, eventually I was able to tear my eyes away. Mainly because it was sad. I can’t imagine living a lifestyle like that. Sad.

Anyway, we make it to the car eventually and Megan and I head back to Heidelberg. Overall, it was a fantastic weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Cheers,
Jen

PS – Okay so ending a Thanksgiving blog by talking about whore houses isn’t exactly in the holiday spirit, but hey – whores are people too!

The wait continues

Still waiting for TKS more than a month later…

So I’m sitting in my semi-frigid apartment waiting yet again for those damn TKS bastards to show up. This time, they’re coming to install an outlet so that I can have a phone and Internet. I have been living without net access at home for about two months now and it is not pleasant. Not to mention my wireless card keeps teasing me by saying that I’m connected. Pssh.

Things are still chaotic here in H-berg. I was out of the office most of last month doing TDY stuff and Joint Commission and whatnot. Not to mention all of the holidays! I swear I only worked about 10 days last month. Needless to say, I have huge pile of work that is in dire need of attention. So what better time to take half a morning to wait for TKS?

Sigh.

To be fair, I have been doing work from home for the past hour or so.

Other news – my parents are flying in Thursday morning. It’ll be nice to see them and I know they need a vacation. I have to work, but since they lived here before I think they’ll be able to fend for themselves.

My military ball is also this weekend. It brings me back to days of sorority formals. Mainly because I’ve waited until the last minute to do everything. I dropped my dress off yesterday for alterations and she promised it would be done by Friday. Fingers crossed. I bought some jewelry last night on the way home and now I have to figure out what I’m going to do with my hair. I haven’t gone to any of the stylists here and now is not a good time to start experimenting. There are a lot of balls in the air right now – I hope I don’t drop any of them.

Where the hell is TKS?

Cheers,
Jen