Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Whirlwind weekend

I spent most of last week in DC visiting Sara.  When I returned to Frankfurt on Friday, I already had guests waiting for me at my house.  My sister's Katie and Shelley and Katie's husband Paul began their two week European vacation with a few days visiting me in Frankfurt.  I took advantage of their arrival to knock a few items off of my German bucket list.

First up was a visit to EuropaPark, Germany's largest and most popular amusement park.  This park is like a bad mash-up of Disneyland and World's of Fun (the amusement park in Kansas City we frequented the most often growing up).  Thematically, it had a lot in common with Worlds of Fun as it had a geography theme with each area being named for a country in Europe.  We had lunch in Italy, then made our way to France, Russia, Greece, Scandinavia, Spain, Iceland, Austria, etc.

But more than Worlds of Fun, it reminded me of a bad Disney knock-off.  It has a mouse mascot named Euromaus, who talks with a squeaky voice and wears gloves.  They had a Haunted House that was exactly like Disney's Haunted Mansion except it didn't have the cool end with the ghost riding in the car with you.  Similarly, the Pirates of Batvia mimics the Pirates of the Caribbean, except it uses racist Asian animatronics instead of racist Native American animatronics.  One of its roller coasters takes place entirely in the dark ala Space Mountain.  To complete the glitch in the matrix, this roller coaster was located inside Epcot-ripoff geodesic dome.  We soon realized that much of the fun in those old Disney rides is tied up in the nostalgia of riding the classic rides rather than the rides themselves.  But once we got past that, we had fun.

The day itself was cloudy and rainy, so the park was fairly empty for a Saturday.  Although the rain ocassionally annoyed us, it allowed us to ride dozens of more rides than we would have had time for if we had to spend more time in lines.  Several of the roller coasters were quite awesome and I would recommend them in any park.  We had such a good time that we stayed until they kicked us out at closing.
The Mack family founded Europapark - a big part of me thinks they missed out on the opportunity to call the park "Mackland"

This is in no way related to Mickey Mouse

Not Epcot

Riding roller coasters in the rain

After a long day at the park and dinner across the border in France (cause, why not?), we made our way to Stuttgart on Sunday for the "Fruehlingsfest" or Spring Festival.  Everyone knows Oktoberfest, but this is its lesser known cousin.  Basically, it's exactly the same thing.  All the same lederhosen, the same beer, the same drindls, the same midway, and state fair rides.  The only real difference is that it is a bit cheaper and a bit easier to get a table reservation.  The four of us, plus a few of my friends from Frankfurt, spent an awesome Sunday afternoon "prost"ing with the Germans.  I got one more chance to wear my lederhosen (admittedly, I felt a bit odd when I was basically the only person in all of Frankfurt wearing lederhosen to and from the train station, but I fit right in at the fest).  If you are ever planning a trip to Germany and think you want to hit up Oktoberfest, I say skip the touristy crowds in September and come in late April or May and hit up the spring fest.  Same party is going on in Munich.

Beer and a Ferris Wheel with a mostly blue sky - what more could you ask for on a Sunday

How about a tent full of lederhosen- and drindl-clad Germans dancing on tables

Smiling for more beer

Pretty sure I am few beers in

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.


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.