FRIDAY MELISSA LEFT US for a girls weekend somewhere way North of here, not to return until Sunday. That left just me, Grandma (visiting from the states) and the five rapscallions to find something to do on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
I have found it sort of perturbs Melissa when we (me and some of the kids) go experience or see something new in Deutschland without her, and so although we have been itching to go check out the local Frankenstein Castle ruins for a while, out of respect we decided not to do that today.
We live about a 15 min train ride from the small town of Frankenstein (no, not that Frankenstein…unless it makes for a better story, then sure. That Frankenstein) and I drive through this little village every day on my way to work. It has a regal looking castle ruins overlooking the town, and we had always been curious to go check it out.
But, since Melissa isn’t here, we did not go see it. Specifically, we did not get on a train and head to Frankenstein. We didn’t hike up the hill and crawl all over the ruins. We didn’t check out the church and cemetery and discover a WWI memorial in it’s shadows, and we certainly didn’t take these pictures. For all of that, we will wait until a time Melissa can join us.
That’s the type of guy I am.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN, opposite of Neustadt’s famous castle Hambacher Schloss, lie the Wolfburg ruins. It isn’t a spectacular castle, but it makes for a good hike and is only couple of kilometers away, so that means it is a perfect Sunday afternoon activity.
We parked our car underneath the castle near the town pool and hiked up…and up, and up, and up. This week Melissa took up running with her friend and yesterday I sprinted through a workout with 5x400m sprints and 75 air squats mixed in, so today with each step ours legs were reminding us we aren’t quite as in shape as we used to be, but the walk was worth it.
The castle is position atop a hill that provided a fantastic view of the Neustadt valley. Some of the walls were precariously positioned, short enough one one side for kids to climb upon and tall enough on the other to make a parent nervous. Nonetheless, no one pulled a humpty-dumpty and we hiked down the hill all in one piece. We also got a few snaps of the kids in action.
There are plenty of dreary fall days in Germany, but today was fortunately not one of them. So when we took the family to check out another nearby castle – Burg Hardenburg in Bad Dürkheim – the fall colors were on full display. It was a fantastic castle in an even better setting. The pictures hardly do it justice.
There are no stores open and no work to be done on Sundays here, so we take it as an opportunity to go see this see the sights. Today’s visit was to the Burg Trifels in Annweiler, about 20 minutes away. We hiked a steep path to the castle and then explored our way to the top, stopping to take in some amazing views. We ate lunch at the top and then hiked back down and then explored the Annweiler downtown with a little bit of ice cream. And of course, we took gobs of pictures.
We like our house, but that doesn’t mean we can’t at least look for other options. We took the fam and walked through a little bungalow in Heidelberg today. It was built around 1200 AD, and has been remodeled about seven times by the French, Swedes, a few other armies (not to mention a couple of lightening bolts. It sleeps about 500, not including livestock. It had a beatuful view of the Neckar River and a nice wine cellar (that held a 55,000 gallon barrel of wine). The only problems were the fixtures were a little dated and it’s a bit of a fixer-upper for our taste. I’m also not so sure of the plumbing system. Still was fun to look through.
BTW, one man’s coincidence is another man’s providence. Whatever you like to call it, try this one: We piled our family into our van and drove 50km to the city of Heidelberg, got lost a few times until we finally found a parking garage, found one of the few open spots and pulled up right next to a family unloading their van. The mom turns to me and says (in English!) “Is your name Aaron?” I stood there dumbfounded for a second…but turns out we had pulled in next to the Van Essen family…their stats: another American family. From Iowa. With John Deere. And 5 kids. We’d never met them before, although Melissa and Kimber had traded a few emails earlier in the week. If you call it coincidence, then that’s almost spooky!
Our oldest daughter Anna is our picky one, and she was also the most resitive to moving to Germany. There had been a few tears along the way from her, even as recently as waiting to deboard the plane in Frankfurt. So it’s a nice indicator of our adjustment so far when a few minutes ago I asked her what she thought of our adjustment to Germany and she gave me a smile and a thumbs up. Even thought we haven’t hardly a posession of our own here (the cars and furniture, dishes, silverware, and house itself are rental, and all we have is what we packed in our luggage) the kids haven’t lacked for anything. They explored the house, quickly discovered the idyllic backyard, walked to the store and stadtplatz for icecream, and today toured the neighborhood castle. Four days in, its a kid paradise. School starts next Friday, however, so in the words of our settling-in agent…”Lets ask again in 4-6 weeks”.
Kids posing in front of Hambacher Schloss. Anna calls it "Hamburger Schlop".