Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Day Trip to Luxembourg

Easter is a four-day holiday in Germany, but with a CODEL (congressional delegation) coming to Frankfurt on Sunday night, I was unable to travel for the long weekend.  Not wanting to spend my entire weekend cooped up in my apartment, I decided to take a day trip on Saturday to Luxembourg.  I had never been to the tiny duchy and it's less than 3 hours from Frankfurt.  I packed Bailey and some snacks in the car and left early Saturday morning.

My first stop in Luxembourg was the Mullerthal trail in the north part of the country.  Known as "Luxembourg's Little Switzerland", the region features miles upon miles of hiking trails through beautiful forests.  Although Saturday morning was quite rainy, Bailey and I still went out for a 90 minute hike.  It was very quiet and peaceful, gorgeous and green.  The calm was only broken by the occasional car on the nearby road, the wail of songbird, and the roll of distant thunder.
A nearby farmhouse on the trail

Bailey exploring the muddy path

The green moss practically glowed neon.

The Shiessentuempel bridge and waterfall.  None of my photos come close to capturing the beauty.

Schiessentuempel

Some Wildflowers

The trail I took left the forest and ran next to a golf course.  Not surprisingly, the course was empty this morning.

Then, suddenly the trail was covered with all of these woodpiles.  Over a dozen in total.

Mullerthal trail
Bailey and I finished our hike muddy and tired.  Not sure who was muddier, but he was definitely more exhausted.  He crashed on the floor of the car and just passed out.  I made my 20 miles away to Luxembourg City.  The city started as a virtually impenetrable fortress atop a steep cliff.  Although the city has outgrown those original walls, you can still see how impossible it would be take the town by force.  Delicious soup for lunch hit the spot perfectly, warming me up from the chilly hike.  The town was full of french-looking government buildings and cute shops, with coffee and pastry shops on every block.  No singularly impressive building or square, but a very European feel.  After a few hours walking around town, we drove back to Frankfurt and I crossed my 31st country off my list.
A view from the top - you can see parts of the old city walls to the left of the photo.


Sometimes I am still twelve years old.

Soldier outside the palace

Beautiful stained glass windows inside the Cathedral.

Another view of the deep valley below.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Keukenhof

For my birthday, Sara surprised me with a trip to Amsterdam.  I had been to Amsterdam when I was 20 and I remembered having fun in the city.  Like everyone else, when I hear Amsterdam, I think coffee shops and the red light district.  Well, I am not 20 anymore and don't really care for coffee shops or the red light district.  It turns out that Amsterdam is still freaking awesome.  This city is amazing.  The canals are adorable and the architecture is great.  The city is very walkable.  Great food, great museums, friendly Dutch people, eclectic style.  Not sure what the housing situation is like in Amsterdam for FSOs, but if it isn't horrendous ro stuck in some boring suburb, Amsterdam jumped up to the top of our dream post list.

City Hall at Dam Square

Skinniest canal house in Amsterdam.  The owner walked out like two minutes after I took this picture.

Some famous building where students and artists have squatted for decades

Canal
The primary reason we went to Amsterdam this weekend was to visit the famed Keukenhof garden.  This is the largest spring garden in the world and features thousands of tulips and other flowers.  This was opening weekend and following a chilly winter and spring, not many of the flowers had bloomed yet.  None of the huge tulip fields were blooming, but the park was still gorgeous.





Check out the bee














Most of these photos taken by Sara

Zoo fun

Yesterday, a group of young officers volunteered to chaperone a zoo trip for an international kinderhaus.  Almost all of these kids are children of immigrants.  Some of them are born in Germany to immigrant parents while others came to Germany as children.  This is a distinction the kids regularly made themselves.  None of them speak German at home.

All of these kids were amazing - they're ability to communicate and play with each other, often without a common language was amazing.  They were also very forgiving of our minimal German.  It turns out my German is about on par with 8 year old German-Moroccan girls who speak only Arabic at home.  These two girls had me wrapped around their fingers.  They wanted to see the elephants, we went straight to the elephants.  Next up were the kangaroos.  They begged for ice cream, we broke down and bought them ice cream (I didn't cave first).  I think the kids had fun, but I KNOW that I had a blast.  I need to make more of an effort to spend time with local kids at each post.
These kids loved to give the peace sign in photos
Selfie on the bus home
Two weeks ago, I had a work event in Stuttgart and I decided to stay overnight and spend a day exploring the town.  The highlight of the weekend was the trip to the awesome Stuttgart zoo (way better than the Opel Zoo we went to with the kids).  My zoo had a ton of babies including some adorable baby giraffes.

Aligator

These monkeys chased each other around this cage for 30 minutes - flying across these bars.

BABY RHINO!!

Baby chimps

Polar bear cooling off in the water


Giraffe
Giraffe and a Half