European Vacation Day 3 Plarrerfest!

I promised Aunt Uschi we would be at their house by 9:00 for breakfast.  I did wake up early and thought about moving around.  It just took a few more minutes than I planned.  I showered and dressed as I pushed Rich to the shower.  Packing and picking up the room was easy.

I did manage to take my suitcase down the double circular staircase by myself.  I was quite proud.  It is a cool feature in Mark’s house, but I’m glad it’s not in my house.  Thanks for letting us stay at your place and taking up your available space.

As we were getting packed, I knocked really hard on Mark’s door.  Time to start his day also.  Sleeping in wasn’t an option for his Mom today.  We all had to show up for breakfast.

We packed the car and drove back to Aunt Uschi and Uncle Max’s house.  Breakfast was well underway there.  Uncle Max made extra coffee so he could share with Rich.  I know Rich felt honored to share the Air Force coffee.  It reminded him of the shop when he was stationed in Germany.

Mark arrived and we sat down to scrambled eggs with ham, onion, and green pepper.  They were so delicious.  Rich got his brotchen for the day with luncheon meat and cheese.  Aunt Uschi makes her own jams and jellies.  I just couldn’t resist haven one of everything.

Too soon, breakfast was over.  We cleared the table and got everything into the kitchen.  Hamlet and his buddy, Clover, were trying very hard to get some scraps from the table.  We might not have left too much to share with them.  Sorry there wasn’t much to steal today, Hamlet.

Mark was leaving work and we took pictures outside the front door.  I got to have a picture with my Aunt Uschi, Uncle Max, and cousin, Mark.  I know I’ll be looking at for days to come and remembering some great times even though the time was so short.  Thanks for having us in our homes.

Rich and I took our leave.  It took a few minutes to get the destination into the navi.  Once we got the right street, the navi said and away you go.  We waved very hard and turned the corner to head back to the autobahn.

Now the navi is a crazy machine.  She talks to us in English, but has a very different accent.  When we got to the autobahn, she tells us that we will be “on this road for a long time.”  I find that a strange expression when you don’t want to say how long.  We find that the navi doesn’t tell you anything over 10 Klicks.

We are cruising down the road when it tells us to exit the autobahn.  We thought this was to avoid construction congestion.  However, we need to move from set of roads to another to continue moving southwest.  This route is through small villages and some very nice countryside.

I have to tell you that we went through the village of Frankstein.  No monsters though.  I wanted a picture of the village sign, but there was a really bad accident right there with tons of police cars and EMTs.  No visual evidence to support the story that we went through the village.  Again, no monsters were seen.

We cruised on.  The speed limit goes up and down all over the place out in the country.  I’m going 30 klicks and then 80 and then 100 and then down to 50 very quickly.  I think it is to keep you on your toes and awake.

The navi takes us through a series of small towns and jumps from minor country roads to smaller highways.  Finally we reach the next stretch of autobahn heading toward Augsburg.  Then we get a low tire pressure warning.  Darn!  I was hoping we didn’t have a flat.  The car felt fine, but we got off the autobahn and found a gas station.

I don’t know how you would find someone to do real work on the car.  I can’t tell what a garage would look like.  I see plenty of car dealers.  Mark says that the Skoda is the lower end of the Volkswagen brand.  I guess that would be my next place to try.

Rich goes in to try and communicate with the staff to find the air hose.  He comes out and motions me over to the station.  There is a can of compressed air that you use to fill the tires.  We did find one of the tires a little low.  We fill it up and head back out.  Once on the road, Rich clears the warning and it stays off.  That must have done the trick.

We are cruising along yet again.  We are getting closer to Augsburg.  The town name starts showing up more and more on signs.  Then we hit a slow snag.  The traffic is creeping along very slowly.  When we get to the problem, we see a Porsche Boxster pointing in the wrong direction on the side of the road.  It is burnt to a crisp.  I think the pain might have been red, but I couldn’t be sure.

We are cruising along again.  We are in Augsburg.  The navi takes us off the autobahn and we start working our way into the old part of town.  There is construction everywhere.  It is difficult to turn where the navi wants to go.  After several redirects, we make it down a very torn up street and turn into the alley where the hotel is located.  The courtyard is tiny and full of cars.

We park and go in to register.  The explanations are made about how to find our room and we get a key to the garage at the back of the hotel.  Unfortunately, you have to drive a quart of a mile out of the way because of the construction.  The lady gives directions and explains how to store our car.

Wait!  Did she said to use the key to move the rack down and park on the top rack?  Yep, those were the instructions.  We get to the driveway and see a car parked in front of a door.  Now how do we get in?  Rich hits the button on the key chain he was given.  A garage door on the side opens to show four sets of racked cars.

We decide on a spot and Rich inserts the key into the lock and begins to lower the first rack into the floor.  It disappears and the top rack is ready to accept the car.  It’s very tight and takes me several maneuvers to get the car backed up onto the rack.  It is tight.  And I didn’t smack the old Porsche sitting next to the spot I was using for the maneuvers.

Rich turns the key and the rack starts to go back up.  Our rental is now on top and the lower rack locks into place.  Pretty cool apparatus.  Now eight cars can fit into the space of 4 slots.

We get our luggage up to our room.  As we figured, there is no air conditioning.  This is going to be common in Germany and Poland.  The weather doesn’t look like it will cooperate for our trip at this point.  Still hot and humid.

After resting and cooling down, it was time to try to find the Plarrerfest grounds.  We were able to pinpoint the location and it looked walkable.  With map in hand, we headed off down the alley to the road, to the way, to the main street and to the fest grounds.

Germany is very bicycle oriented.  The roads and sidewalks are set up for bicycle traffic and there is lots of it.  We discovered where to walk and where to stand at lights to stay out of the way.  Other times, you just dodge as they fly by you.

At one corner, we caught sight of some people dressed in traditional German outfits.  We were pretty sure they were on their way to the fest.  We kept them in sight and finally saw the gates with large rides behind them.  We made it.

We entered and walked around the grounds to scope out the rides, food, and activities.  There were three large fest halls for eating and drinking traditional fare while listening to bands and talking to your friends.  Rich was just going to have to talk to me.

We made our way around and Rich picked the tent he wanted first.  The beer there was the Hasen Bier.  That translates to Hare Beer.  We entered and stopped someone to see where we could sit.  The answer was anywhere.  Most of the tables were empty, but had reserved signs on them.

We found some young kids and asked to share a corner of their table.  There was an older man at a table by himself, but he was also very drunk.  Rich was a little leery of sharing that table.  The kids begrudgingly said yes.

The bar maid got our order for beer and came back with two large steins of the requested beers.  I had asked for a Radler, which is a Shandy to us.  Unfortunately, that’s not what I got.  However, I was hot and thirsty.  Anything tasted good.

We ordered pretzel to help with the beer consumption.  I have to say that the pretzel we got at the Hoffman Estates Beer Garden was much better.  We ate most it and rather quickly.  It was good to get some food in us.  We ordered henchmen (fest chicken) and schnitzel.  The food tasted great.  I felt like I had enough beer by the time I was halfway done.  Rich volunteered to finish it to prevent obvious alcohol abuse.

We finished off our beers and headed back outside to wander the fest ground.  We stopped at the bumper cars to watch the strategy of the Germans.  Most of them just went round and round.  Only a few guys were trying to bump into cars and push people around.  You pretty much can ride around in the car as long as you keep feeding it tokens.  We say a few takers who made three or four trips around the floor.

Rich got bumped by someone.  His first reaction was someone trying to pickpocket him.  Turned out to be a couple of teenagers within a larger group trying to fight.  Let me back up there.  It was one particular guy trying to pick a fight.  It almost looked like a couple of gangs who bumped into each other.  No shots were fired, but I wondered where security was during the whole thing.

We took another circuit of the grounds.  On our first walk through the grounds, we saw the Bier Go Round.  It was basically a round bar in the center with seating around it and little balconies on the outside.  A few people were sitting or standing on it.  On this pass, that thing was so full, it could hardly move.  People were hanging off everywhere.

We saw a booth where they had an open pit fire.  Then they clamped boards with fish attached and were cooking fish the old fashion way.  Rich tried to talk to one of the guys, but they didn’t speak English.  It was kind of cool to watch.

We got a bottle of water at one of the stands.  After paying, we received a token.  We had to ask what the token was for.  When you return the used bottle to the station, you get a few cents back.  It was one way to encourage to recycle and not to throw the bottle in the trash or on the ground.  Pretty cool idea.

We circled the grounds and watched the people.  Rich wanted to do one more beer from a specific bier stand.  It was on the other side of the park, but near where I needed to return the water bottle.  Rich went after his beer while I collected our deposit.  It was interesting to note that all beers here come in real glasses.  They say they don’t get too many broken and you do have to pay a deposit on the glass when you pay for your beer.  You get the deposit back when you return the glass.  I didn’t see any broken glass so the deposit idea must be working.

Time to walk back to the hotel. It was just starting to get dark.  I was tired and felt the hike was going to ask a lot.  We are on vacation and this must be done.  We head out the gate and say good night to whoever is listening.  We walk back toward the hotel, but decide on a different street than the first one we took.  There was something strange and scary there.  It bothered both of us.

We stuck to the main street and the one that Rich wanted to try looked like it had a lot of traffic so it should be safer.  We walked up Grotten to Karlstrasse and then found Hohner Weg.  This was the street that ran right by the Dom Cathedral.  We knew where this was.  However, on the way, Rich saw an Erdinger bar.  I said no and he didn’t fight it.  Erdinger is one of his favorite German beers.

We got back to the hotel and could easily see how to get around from there to some of the other sites for the next day.

At the hotel, it was still hot.  After showers, it was a little cooler.  I settled in to get caught up on my blogs for the last few days.  However, my brain was not in a mood to cooperate.  So I gave in and went to bed.  There’s always tomorrow.

 

Ausfahrt is Exit.
Ausfahrt is Exit.
Entrance to Dom Hotel.
Entrance to Dom Hotel.
Our car up on the parking rack in the small garage.
Our car up on the parking rack in the small garage.
Our room in the Dom Hotel.
Our room in the Dom Hotel.
The other half of the room.
The other half of the room.
Our bathroom at the Dom Hotel.
Our bathroom at the Dom Hotel.
Dom Cathedral down the road from Dom Hotel.
Dom Cathedral down the road from Dom Hotel.
Birthplace of Mozart's father just down from our hotel.
Birthplace of Mozart’s father just down from our hotel.
Poster for this year's Plarrerfest.
Poster for this year’s Plarrerfest.
What we saw when we entered the Binswanger and Klempt fest all.
What we saw when we entered the Binswanger and Klempt fest all.
Rich settling in at the Plarrerfest in Augsburg.
Rich settling in at the Plarrerfest in Augsburg.
Pretzel time to help soak up the beer.
Pretzel time to help soak up the beer.
Bar maid with a load of beers coming through.
Bar maid with a load of beers coming through.
The kids seem to love to stand on their seats at the fest.
The kids seem to love to stand on their seats at the fest.
The young kids stand up in their seats for the music.
The young kids stand up in their seats for the music.
Bier Go Round at the fest
Bier Go Round at the fest
Teens waiting to kill others in bumper cars.
Teens waiting to kill others in bumper cars.
Schwabian Derby skeeball game.
Schwabian Derby skeeball game.
Outside of the next fest hall as we walked around the grounds.
Outside of the next fest hall as we walked around the grounds.
This was Rich's favorite fest hall back in the day.  I thought of it as the Thor tent since it was Thorbrau.
This was Rich’s favorite fest hall back in the day. I thought of it as the Thor tent since it was Thorbrau.
Booth cooking fish over an open fire.
Booth cooking fish over an open fire.
One of the rides on the midway.  It looked scary.
One of the rides on the midway. It looked scary.
Very full Bier Go Round at fest
Very full Bier Go Round at fest

European Vacation Day 2 Mosel River Valley Tour

I woke up at 7:15.  That’s about midnight back home.  The rain was coming down lightly, but it was still humid and warm out there.  Oh well, rain stopped a Zurek Family vacation in the past.  After lazing around for a bit, I got into the shower and back out.  Next, it was time to push Rich off to the showers.

Once we were done, we worked on getting Mark started.  As we waited for Mark, his cellphone was ringing and ringing.  Pretty soon, Uncle Max came through the door looking for us.  I explained that Mark was moving and we’d wait for him to get done, since our Skoda was blocking his garage.

Back at the house,  Aunt Uschi had breakfast ready and waiting for us in the 3 season room.  I explained that I had been slow to get moving.  I had held everyone else up.  I’m sure the guys wouldn’t get going until I did.  We had eggs and bacon with brotchen (rolls) and an assortment of toppings.  Rich found out that Uncle Max had Air Force coffee.  I think it made Uncle Max’s day that someone else liked it.

We cleaned up the dishes and headed out to tour the Mosel River Valley.  This is Aunt Uschi’s home area.  They produce a great deal of wines with their vineyards growing right up the side of the mountains along the valley.  Mark drove us out of Ramstein and off on the adventure.  The rain continued to come down, but only lightly.

Our first stop was Bernkastel-Kues.  These two towns are fused together with the river running between then.  Bernkastel was the side we chose to park.  The town appeared to be full of tourists and people were walking everywhere.

We walked into the downtown area.  Right in the middle of town is the market square.  This wide area provides the stage for functions put on by the town.  Today, the tourists were walking, sitting, and just seemed to be everywhere.

Bernkastel has a house that molded itself into its surroundings.  It goes up and then juts out, and bends around the houses next to it without touching them.  I’ve seen many pictures of it and paintings.  I was able to take that picture myself. Today.

We ambled along the streets with the other people.  An occasional car would drive up the street.  Even though they are cobblestones, many houses line the street and these are the actual residents.  There is a castle in ruins above the town.  Many of these relics appear up and down throughout the valley.

Rich saw the mention of black bears throughout the town.  We discovered that the valley was the home for many of the population.  Bern in the name of the town actually started out as baren for bear.  Fountains and flags throughout the town continue to honor the bears in the original name.

The shops were full of wonderful things to look at.  Since I was limited on space in my luggage, I was afraid to look.  I saw a lot of things I would love to have.  Prices are still pretty good for us in Europe.  I wonder how much that would have added on to the vacation price in the end?

We continued to wander around and found a nice biergarten at the top of one hill.  We went in to sample some of the local wine.  The ruins were overhead of us with the steep hill leading down to the Mosel.  We had a great view of the river and Kues across the way.

Back in the car, we headed up river to explore and see what we could find.  Rich had done supply runs from a base just west of the river and had come down to Zell in the valley to buy wine.  We were able to see the place he went.  It brought back great memories for him to see the Schwartz Kat zellars.

Construction knows no bounds.  We had to shift back and forth from one side of the river to the other.  It was amazing to see all of the bicycles, camping, and general enjoyment of the river environs.  With the rain cleared up, we had sunshine and nice weather for our tour.

We got to Cochem at the near top of the valley.  A weinfest was in progress.  We parked and walked around to see what the fest had to offer.  Rich saw a fischbrotchen shop along one of the streets.  It was on his list to get one of these.  It must have been good.  He didn’t stop talking about it.  I’m still hearing from him about that sandwich.

We walked to the old wall of the town.  From the backside of the wall, you could see the opening used a toilet by the wall occupants.  Yep, it just fell to the ground right on the street.  Glad that doesn’t happen anymore.

As we wandered the streets, we looked up one side street to see an SUV headed down the steep mountain side.  Well, people live up there also.  I did get a picture of the car coming down.  Slow and steady is definitely the battle cry there.

Aunt Uschi, Mark, and Rich stopped for potato pancakes.  Right there, the fountain was spraying out colored water.  It was supposed to harken back to the fest days when the fountains really did put out wine and you just had to stick in your cup to catch the goodness.

We walked among the rides, people, and activities until we got back to the car.  This side and the other side of the river were all dressed up in flowers and flowerboxes.  It was really beautiful.  Somehow, it is all idyllic and presents such a beautiful world for visitors.

Going out of town, Mark stopped so we could try to get a picture of the very nice castle in the mountains above Cochem.  With the sun down so far, it was really hard to get anything that wasn’t too dark.  I need to see if I can make the picture show the beauty that we could see.

The road leading out of town was on the other side of the river, but construction soon forced over the river.  We got to a place where we could turn toward home.  This way took us through farm country and little villages where house and barn were one and the same building.  It was a nice way to end the tour of the valley.

Back at the house, Uncle Max was home and waiting.  We loaded the Brittany spaniels, Hamlet and Clover, into the car and went to dinner.  Up the hills over town is the Schloss Hotel.  Above here is the ruins of a castle in the area.  It was very warm inside the restaurant, but we managed to enjoy dinner with some very good German specialties.

Then Uncle Max wanted ice cream for dessert.  In town, they took us to their favorite Italian ice cream shop.  It appeared to be about to close.  The clerk was sweeping and talking to someone.  We came in and ordered.  The ice cream was tasty.  I was totally full and still managed to eat every bite of mine.

It was dark and very foggy at this time.  We went out to the hunting land that my uncle manages through the state.  Hunters help to control populations, other hunters, and general well being of the animals and land in an assigned area.  It’s a great idea to let the people who use the land help with this control.  Hamlet and Clover went about their business and enjoyed some time on the property.

At the house, we continued to talk.  An earlier conversation had been about the Civil War and my uncle had an album of songs around the history and personal stories of the Civil War.  We listened to a few tracks before the Hazelnuss liquor was poured.  I can image this warm and part of something sticky and sweet.  My aunt says it’s popular over ice cream.

Finally, it was time to say good night and return to Mark’s.  The three of us settled in and continued to talk.  We got all caught up and shared stories.  Before I knew it, it was 1:00 AM.  Where did the time go.  I was so tired.  Jet lag was still with me.  I said good night and moved to the stairs.

It was a great day.  I like talk to Aunt Uschi, Uncle Max, and Mark.  Tomorrow would be too soon to leave.

3 season room in the backyard
3 season room in the backyard
Backyard at Uncle Max and Aunt Uschi's.
Backyard at Uncle Max and Aunt Uschi’s.
Patio at Uncle Max and Aunt Uschi's.
Patio at Uncle Max and Aunt Uschi’s.
Castle ruins at Bernkastel.
Castle ruins at Bernkastel.
Kuse on the Mosel River
Kuse on the Mosel River
Aunt Uschi and Rich strolling along one of the Bernkastel streets.
Aunt Uschi and Rich strolling along one of the Bernkastel streets.
Hard carved supports to the structures in town.
Hard carved supports to the structures in town.
Structural supports on one of the houses.
Structural supports on one of the houses.
Famous structure in Bernkastel
Famous structure in Bernkastel
Family story on outside of their house in Bernkastel.
Family story on outside of their house in Bernkastel.
Joy, Rich, and Aunt Uschi in Bernkastel.
Joy, Rich, and Aunt Uschi in Bernkastel.
Market square in Bernkastel
Market square in Bernkastel
More street scenes in Bernkastel
More street scenes in Bernkastel
My companions walking around Bernkastel.
My companions walking around Bernkastel.
Vineyard right outside of the city gate in Bernkastel.
Vineyard right outside of the city gate in Bernkastel.
Restaurant and gasthaus from as far back 1438.
Restaurant and gasthaus from as far back 1438.
Beautiful structure in Bernkastel
Beautiful structure in Bernkastel
Vineyards surrounding the town of Bernkastel.
Vineyards surrounding the town of Bernkastel.
Walking the main road in Cochem.
Walking the main road in Cochem.
Story of the town of Cochem on the wall.
Story of the town of Cochem on the wall.

Weinfest in market square in Cochem

Part of the old wall in Cochem.
Part of the old wall in Cochem.
Original toilet opening in wall in Cochem.
Original toilet opening in wall in Cochem.
A stage for the Weinfest in Cochem.
A stage for the Weinfest in Cochem.
Street performers in Cochem.
Street performers in Cochem.
SUV coming down the hill in Cochem.
SUV coming down the hill in Cochem.
Beautiful gasthaus in Cochem.
Beautiful gasthaus in Cochem.
Castle above Cochem.
Castle above Cochem.
Opposite side of the river at Cochem.
Opposite side of the river at Cochem.

European Vacation: Day 1 Flight and arrival

After months and months of planning, the day finally came when it was time to climb aboard that plane and fly off to Germany.

On Wednesday, I got up earlier than normal.  The night before, I was trying to copy files over to the server and make sure I had information moved to where people could find the source.  Unfortunately, it was taking forever to move files.  I gave up around 11:00 and went to bed with a set still rolling up to the server with two hours left to go.

I called in for my last meeting before vacation.  Hopefully, I was just going to listen and not have any work or assignments that needed to be done before noon.  I’m pretty sure I skated by unscathed.  I can’t say I was really listening that hard.

At 9:00, it was time to gather up Sascha and take her to the kennel.  She would be safe and well cared for there.  Virginia assured me Sasch would have more than enough attention.  Sascha is always glad to arrive and see everyone, but she never wants to stay.  It was all the attendant could do to drag the dog to the inside where the kennels are.  Sascha was doing her best to escape out of the front door.

Back at the house, we started to prepare for leaving the country.  We gathered up things.  The new trees needed to  be watered one last time. I prepared the yard so that Brad next door could mow the yard, if it were to actually start growing again.  If I guess that meant it would rain at the house first.

Around 12:15, the Black Cab Taxi showed up to take us to the airport.  It was going to be easier to get a ride.  Brian, the driver, was very entertaining.  He talked politics, getting around Chicago, and just in general covering any silences.  After getting around the construction, Brian was able to deliver us right to Terminal 1.

Once inside, we found we were right in front of the Lufthansa check-counter.  So our journey started with a few less steps.  We each had a bag to check and our carry-on bag.  We sailed on from check in to the security line.  Oh my gosh, the line was so long!  We got in line and it took maybe half an hour to get to the document check.

Then we got in line to be scanned.  It’s been years since I’ve flown anywhere.  I was all worried about what was in my carry-on bag.  We had tablets and a computer.  They used to make you turn on the computer and proved it worked.  I checked with the gentleman giving directions.  Tablets were not a problem.  We filled four trays with our stuff.  Almost forgot the belts.

I stepped into the scanner and lifted my arms.  It was like 3 seconds and I was told to step out again.  What was I worried about?  We gathered our stuff and moved off to seats so we could get dressed again.

Rich wanted coffee and headed over to one of the stands.  I sat back and took lots of deep breaths.  After watching people for five minutes, I forgot all about my stress for the scanning.  I should have remembered how much airports are to people watch.  I’m almost giggling by the time Rich came back.

Rich arrived with coffee in hand.  We gathered up the carry-on bags and moved down the terminal to our gate.  We had passed a sandwich shop on the way down and went back to grab some late lunch.  Two sandwiches and a couple of bottles of water later, we sat in front of the window to watch the planes come and go.

Pretty soon, the attendants began calling for boarding of the aircraft.  Business class and those requiring more time to board went on first.  Boarding then began from the front of the plane.  We were part of the second group called.  However, the line was still pretty long.  Shuffling along, we got our boarding passes checked and headed to the jet way.

The plane was nice and the seats weren’t bad.  We got to our row and found a gentleman in my seat.  He was Polish and having a hard time understanding the conversation.  He only said his seat was 25A.  I made my way back to an attendant.  It was just a misunderstanding and she was the best one to sort it out.

Yep, his connection from Frankfort to Krakow was in seat 25A.  She helped him move back down the aisle to his seat for this flight.  I settled in and found lots of room.  This flight was going to be good.  I didn’t have to touch elbows with Rich unless I wanted to.

The plane backed away from the gate and we were in line on the runway.  Pretty soon, we were heading up and away.  I was sitting just over the wing.  I turned to Rich and said in my best William Shatner impression, “I hope the flight was uneventful.”  The impression probably wasn’t that good.  If you don’t know Twilight Zone, it’d take too long to explain.

I watched The Avengers Age of Ultra until dinner.  Rich was making his way through the entire music catalog.  Dinner came and wasn’t too dried up.  Wine was served with dinner.  I wasn’t driving anyway so I had a little bit of wine.

I realized after dinner that my claustrophobia wasn’t bad at all.  I had gotten some pills to help with anxiety, but I didn’t need them.  It was probably all the room I had around me.  I was hemmed in and no one was trying to lie in my lap from the seat in front of me.  Premium Economy was worth the money.

As we sped on into the coming night, I found I couldn’t sleep.  The pillow was way to flat.  I just couldn’t find a good position to stretch out into.  So I was awake the entire 7 hours and 14 minutes.  It was going to be a long day.  If it helped at all, Rich said he didn’t sleep either.  How did that help me? I’d rather have slept!

We could follow the flight path of the place on informational screens on the TV.  We turned and went over Nova Scotia and the out over the ocean just below Greenland.  The next time I reviewed the information, we just south of Ireland and heading into Wales before the plane turned to the English Channel.

About 2 hours out from Frankfort, the lights in the cabin came on.  Breakfast was being served.  We got a roll, luncheon meats, cheeses, juice, and coffee.  It was a good German start to our day.  Not long after breakfast, they started to prepare for arrival.  The flight was almost over.

I looked over at Rich’s TV and he is watching the scenery below the plane.  Turns out, there was a camera mounted below the plane and you could watch on from the informational channel.  It was pretty cool to watch the small towns, rivers, and highways around you.  I wanted that until the plane landed on the runway.

Once we made it to the gate and everyone started to disembark, we gathered out stuff and headed to the door.  Inside the terminal, we were at the end of one long arm that seemed to be miles from the main terminal.  As we hiked through the urban jungle of shops, terminal entrances and ads, we began to think we had landed in another world.

I noticed the people in front of us were the same ones from the plane.  I figured since they were German, they had done this trip before.  I set my sights on following them without letting them know that I was using their trail to keep from getting lost.  It worked.  We found our way to baggage claim without much trouble.

I had realized on the plane that I didn’t have Uncle Max and Aunt Uschi’s address written down and with me.  Darn!  Now what.  As we waited for the baggage to be offloaded and sent down to us, I started trying to send email or find a way to contact them.  I didn’t have a cell number either.  No luck with raising anyone.

We got our bags and headed to the car rental.   There I found out I had scheduled pick up in downtown and not at the airport.  Another hit to the planning.  This location only had one automatic in stock.  We agreed to accept that one.  I had heard of a Skoda, but I didn’t know why.  I would have taken the manual transmission, but it was going to be a little difficult to get used to in a short amount of time.

Down in the garage, we were supposed to meet the tech who would help us put the navigation into English.  It was a nice car, just a little bigger than I had planned.  Oops!  Another hit to the planning.

Rich managed to get the navigation, or navi as they call it here, to English.  We were working on getting at least the town name into the navi when the tech appeared.  She barely spoke English, but was helpful.  She couldn’t believe we didn’t have a proper address.  She didn’t think a town name alone would get us there.  She couldn’t understand us when we gave her the town name, but Rich was able to show her on the map and she plugged it in.  It was to leave the safety of the garage and hit the autobahn.

I got out of the garage without banging up the car or anyone else’s car.  At the first light, the car motor stopped.  I threw it into Park and started it up again.  What the heck was this?  We got around the corner and stopped at the next light when the car died again.  I pulled into a business driveway to figure it out.

Rich remembered reading that Europe was looking at using this method to control pollution and gas consumption.  Sure enough, I took my foot off the gas and the car started right up again.  That was cool.  It would have been nice for the guy at the desk to mention it though.

Back out to the street, I turned to find the on ramp.  We were on the autobahn before you knew it.  The cars were speeding along and I was trying to stay out of the way.  Reading the mph in kpm wasn’t tough.  I just did what they told me.  I only had a couple of cars blow by me so that I couldn’t tell what color they were.

I drove along pretty well.  The Skoda handled well and felt great to drive.  This was fun.  After an hour and a half, we reached our turn off.  We got onto the secondary road and headed for the center of Ramstein.  Once we reached there, we had some decisions to make.

I parked in the grocery store lot to try and figure out where to go next.  Rich went in for coffee thinking he could pay with his credit card.  That didn’t work.  A very nice lady paid for the coffee.  Once outside, his eyes got big as he walked up to the side of the car.  “What did you do?”  I didn’t understand.  When I got out, I saw the long scrape and white paint along the rocker panel from the front to the back.  “Not me,” I cried.

We saw that we had to move the car.  The grocery lot was private.  The gravel lot next door looked to be public.  I moved the car and we determined to walk to the city center to find a bank and see what our next steps were.  Along the way we figured we would stop and ask people where Uncle Max and Aunt Uschi lived.  How would that sound?  Wo ist Tante Uschi?

At the bank, we used the ATM to get Euros.  Rich was still drinking his coffee.  I thought maybe my Uncle and Aunt were in the phonebook, if there was such a thing.  I went back into the bank to ask for a phonebook.  Sure enough, they were listed.  The day was saved!  Back at the car, we put in the address and found we were less than a quarter of a mile away from the house.

We found the house with no problems.  It was nice beautiful.  We rang the bell and Aunt Uschi opened the door.  Mission accomplished on arriving in one piece to the right place.

After talking for a bit, Aunt Uschi took us to Mark’s house, where we would be staying.  It was time to take a shower and relax for a bit.  Rich lay down for a bit.  I figured I would keep moving until the evening.  Then we drove back to my Aunt and Uncle’s house.

Aunt Uschi took us into the air base, where my Uncle Max and Mark worked.  First stop was to check in with Mark at the Apple Store.  He had a customer so we had to wait for a few minutes.  I got a hug and Rich got introduced for the first time.  Then it was off to find Uncle Max.  He found us first.  We walked around the PX and the mall surrounding it.

We stopped off for lattes and coffee.  The entire time, we are talking and getting acquainted with each other again.  Uschi is one of my favorite aunts.  Then it was time to drive around the base and see the sites.  The place had really grown over the years.

Back at the house, Uncle Max had gotten home and settled in.  Rich got a beer and they proceeded to talk and grill up dinner.  Rain started to come down a bit, but the grilling was getting done.  We sat down to grilled bacon-wrapped pork, bacon on a stick, and chicken kebabs.  It was a feast!  Mark came in from work and we ate up all we could get.

After hanging out and talking for a while, it was finally time to call it a night.  It was 11 o’clock and I was exhausted.  Unfortunately, it was still pretty warm and humid.  That was unusual for Germany at this time of the year.  Mark set up fans for us since there is no air conditioning in Germany.  It just not supposed to be that hot.

It was a great first day into Germany and with my family.

Shatner seat on the plane.  Watch out for gremlins.
Shatner seat on the plane. Watch out for gremlins.
Sunrise as we fly over Wales and England.
Sunrise as we fly over Wales and England.
Camera view from the bottom of the plane.  That's Germany down there.
Camera view from the bottom of the plane. That’s Germany down there.