Sunday, July 31, 2011

Schloss Ludwigsburg

We wanted to go and do something on Saturday but it couldn't be too far a drive.  And it had to be something the kids would be interested in as well.  So we chose Schloss Ludwigsburg.  It should have been about a 30 minute drive but I managed to mess up the GPS directions and then parking was, um, interesting until we found a parking garage about a block from the palace.

Once there, we realized there was a small fest of some sort taking place that day.  Which worked out fine for us as it meant there were people in period costume, performances on a stage in the courtyard and, most importantly, food and beverages available! 

Our first stop was the Kinderreich, or Children's Realm.  For 2 hours, children (of all ages!) could dress up and get a taste of what life in the palace might have been like.  It all began in the ulitmate dress-up closet room:  Lots of clothes for boys and girls, wigs, hats, jewelry.  Big Sis chose not to dress up (being too old and cool for that sort of thing now she'll be starting middle school) but Devil Pup had a grand time of it.  She loved sitting on the throne, looking regal.  She learned to curtsy and had to approach the "king" (one of the dads was recruited for the role), curtsy and make a request.  Then we were shown a miniature theatre where the kids were shown how to change the scenery, change the lighting (including making lightning), use a wind machine (to make the sound of wind), and make thunder.  Then they got to get up on stage and put the skills to use.  After that, we were taken into a dining room, set with real china.  There the kids were taught about royal dining etiquette.  Since Devil Pup had seated herself at the end of the table, she was the "queen."  She quite enjoyed making everyone else pick up their glasses to "drink" everytime she did!  Then it was time to return the dress up clothes.

Afterward, the families were given a tour of the king's and queen's chambers of the palace.  Due to the fact that all of this took a little over 3 hours, we made a huge tactical error in not feeding everyone before-hand.  As soon as the tour was over, we made a bee-line for the food stalls!  There we found bratwurst in brochen and Big Sis found heaven in meat on a stick.  While we ate, we watched a sword fight between some Musketeers and villains followed by various little girls performing on the stage.  By the time we were done eating and ready to explore the gardens, there was a pirate act performing. 

 Then it was time to explore the Marchengarten, or Fairy Tale Garden.  The Frog Prince, Hansel and Gretel, the Magic Mirror from Snow White, Ali Baba, and more were to be found here.  And of course, as you can see by this picture, one had only to shout, "Rapunzel, Rapunzel,... Let down your hair!" and down came the tresses from this tower that overlooked a baroque garden.

We spent almost 7 hours at the palace and in its garden and I'm sure we didn't come close to seeing it all.   Even though I know we'll be living here for the foreseeable future, I can't help feeling that there's so much to see and do and so little time!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tourism: The Eagle's Nest

Today's adventure took us to Kehlstein, otherwise known as the Eagle's Nest.  We boarded the USO bus a little before 5 a.m. -- yes, that was a wee bit painful!

We had a large group so we split into 2 smaller groups with one going up to the Eagle's Nest first while the other group toured the Dokumentation center.  After lunch, we switched places.

We were lucky enough to be in the first group to ascend the mountain via bus to the tunnel that led to the elevator that took us to the Eagle's Nest perched on top of the mountain.  The skies were pretty clear and the views were amazing!  I was particularly grateful for this since the forecast had called for a 70% chance of rain!  I'm not sure how much of the history the girls absorbed but Stretch and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

It was clear enough that we could see Salzburg, Austria, in the distance.

Later, we toured the Dokumentation center with audio guides in English.  While familiar with World War II and the atrocities committed by the Nazis, it was still a horrifying and sobering reminder of what occurred.  The tour also included exploration of a bunker system under the center.  Frankly, the place gave me the heebie-jeebies.

Our adventure continued after we left the area.  Clouds began to move in and it finally began to rain as our bus made it's way homeward.  And we got to experience our first stau, or German traffic jam.  I was particularly grateful that neither of us were driving and we could sleep through it!  As a result, our return was later than planned but it was still a great trip.

Friday, July 15, 2011

1st Week in Country... Come On, Weekend!

It's Friday!  And what a full week it's been!  Since arriving on Sunday we've managed to check off the following items from our to-do list:
  • Check in with Housing
  • Procure Housing
  • Entered our IDs into the local system so that we can enter US installations here 
  • Unlocked Stretch's phone and have a local number with prepaid minutes
  • Start the check-in process (Stretch), which has included a lot of classes for Stretch
  • Register kids with Child and Youth Services (CYS)
  • Sign kids up for School Age Services (SAS) for 2 days next week so I can attend Stuttgart Newcomers Orientation (SNO)
  • Enroll kids in school (this involved going to 2 schools at 2 installations), including the eldest at middle school for the first time.  This mama is still having a issues with that one!
  • Stretch passed his drivers' test (I'll take mine next week)
  • We have our vehicle!  Albeit with temporary registration but that will be rectified next week.
  • Attended a local festival downtown Monday night with our sponsors
  • Spent an afternoon moving rooms (while Stretch was in class, of course) because our first had sprung a leak, while simultaneously doing laundry.  Of course the laundry rooms were not on the same floors as either our first or second rooms.  But while my gremlins have struck again, I got the last laugh.  They moved us to larger accommodations allowing the girls to sleep in a bed instead of a sofa-bed and also giving us 2 bathrooms (hey, this is important for a family of 4!)
  • Water on the floor of our room from the leaking A/C unit
  • Ventured out to a local Italian restaurant (it's German serving Italian fare and was the only one we'd heard of within walking distance of our hotel!) where we practiced our non-existent German and enjoyed a lovely meal that was NOT fast food!

(at right) Big Sis peruses the phrasebook while Devil Pup decides whether to try Dad's sparkling water or Mom's spezi first.  She tried both and decided the spezi was tastier.  Mom agrees!  It tasted just as good as I remembered from my childhood time in Germany (when my dad was stationed in Bavaria).

I'm tired... bring on the weekend!  And our tour of the Eagles Nest on Sunday!

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Dragonfly has landed in Deutchland!

    We arrived Sunday morning and have tried to hit the ground running.  Well, as much as possible while still jet-lagged!

    Our first stop Monday morning was the housing office, where we updated our status and were given the possibility of an apartment on Patch Barracks, our first choice!  We were given keys to look at a similar apartment in the same building but the one we were offered is still occupied and will be until the end of the month, so we'll be in the hotel for at least a month.  Stretch started his check-in process and we got all 3 ID card holders entered into the system here. 

    In the afternoon, we took the bus to Patch to check out the new neighborhood. The kids fell in love with the apartment (we kept reminding them that it was NOT the one we'd be in!), the neighborhood and the post.  And we kind of liked it, too!  Afterward, we wandered the post a bit before meeting our sponsor who took us to downtown Stuttgart for the Fish Fest.  While fun, it made for a late night (well, late for those dragging with jet lag!). 

    That was just our first day and a half in country!  We are already signed up to take our first USO tour this weekend and hope to have at least one licensed driver and our car by next week.

    My record with housing difficulties continues to hold (and I'm not even in housing yet!).  We had a leak in our room due to issues with the A/C unit and its drip pan.  Stretch is finally a believer in my gremlins!  I'm not complaining, though, as it led to us being moved to a larger room!