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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mama Mia comes to Duetschland

Well, well, well. I couldn't decide if I should name this post the way I had originally intended or title it REWIND because my Mom was actually here three months ago now. As you can see I went with the original title.

This was my Mom's first time to Europe and we were excited to show her a good time. If any of you have talked to her since she got back I'm sure she eagerly expressed that she did in fact have a very good time.

We were planning to meet her after we got off work at the Hauptbahn Hof in Munich, but unfortunately her luggage was left behind somewhere and so she waited at the airport for a later flight to bring it. It was nice of someone at the lost baggage counter to help her call my phone. Although Ryan and I were already at the train station waiting we jumped in the car and were able to greet her at the airport.

We headed back downtown to our hostel in Munich where we had arranged to stay for the night. From the moment we got out of the car she was taking pictures. And to be honest I think she was a little star struck because the buildings she was taking pictures of weren't even the pretty ones (although she'd argue that statement).

We checked into the hostel, dropped our bags in our rooms, moved the car to a different street the hostel told us was free parking, and started walking into the center of town. We took my Mom to dinner at the Hofbrauhof. This is a very old very famous beer hall and restaurant. This was our first time there for dinner, we've previously been for lunch, and it was extremely busy. There was a live band playing Bavarian music in their lederhosen. And lots of noise from tourists and locals eating and having a good time all around. It's a good thing we got my Mom a radler I think because I don't know if I'd want to see her after a mass (1 liter) of full Bavarian beer in her after getting off such a long flight. :) A radler has a very low alcohol content since it is half beer half lemon soda.

After dinner we walked back to our hostel for bed.

The next morning we got up and checked out of the hostel ready for our drive to Nuremburg and then on to Dresden. We took our bags to the car and.... there was no car. This was not good. We went back to the hostel and they called the police but weren't able to find anything out. At that point we thought the car was stolen. At the hostel they said they never tow in Munich unless you are in a fire lane and we didn't believe we were in a fire lane. The nice guys at the hostel let us store our bags there and directed us to the nearest police station. In the rain we walked to the police station. At the station it took some searching because we didn't know the license plate number, but finally found out the car was not stolen. It had been towed because we had parked in a fire lane. So the officer explained how to get to the S-bahn (subway) to get to where the car had been towed. When we arrived it was just a parking lot. They towed us to a parking lot across the city. We got in the car a drove away. There was a ticket (soaking wet) on the windshield, but we didn't have to do anything right then. That turned out to be less of a hassle than it could have been. And at that point we would have paid a lot just for the car not to have been stolen. Praise God.

We drove back to the hostel, told them what happened, collected our bags, and were on the road. We arrived in Nuremburg and we were hungry. Ryan and I fell in love with the falafel we had here the last time we came to we headed straight for that. It was just as good this time. We walked up to the castle with my Mom that we'd been to once before that led us through their market square with tents selling various products. On the way back we stopped and Ryan and I got another falafel to share because it really is that good. Then on the way back to the car I spotted a shop I'd seen in my Rick Steve's book, Vom Fass. So we stopped in. This store sells oils, vinegars, wines, and liquors all from the tap (that is what Vom Fass means "from tap"). So we got a couple half bottles of honey wines and my Mom got some truffle oil to take home to a friend. At check out we mentioned we live in Garmisch and learned Vom Fass is a chain and there is one in Garmisch. To this day we haven't been to the one here, but I keep meaning to go. Ryan and I think we should open a similar store at home in the States. My Mom got on the net at home and saw that Vom Fass has just recently entered the US market with their first store in Jackson Hole.... what are the chances?

From Nuremburg we headed to Dresden. Thanks to the long summer nights we had back then it was still light when we arrived. We checked into our hostel and moved into our room. As we were settling in another guy sharing our room came in and we chatted with him a bit. His name was Jens Von Holzen (what a cool name) and he was from Switzerland. We were ready to go to dinner and invited him to come along. At this point it was POURING rain. I put that in caps for a reason I don't know how to better explain how the sky had opened itself up and dumped every ounce of water it could squeeze out of itself. I saw on a map an Indian restaurant but once we got all the way to the end of the street realized that I don't think it was there anymore or we just couldn't find it. We walked back up the street and stopped in a Kebab place, but then Jenz commented that he thought it smelled funny so we asked if he wanted to leave and he said yes, so we did. :) It was kind of funny. We ended up all the way at the opposite end of the road pretty close to our hostel but by this time we were all soaked to our core. I actually enjoyed being wet because it wasn't cold and sometimes I think it is fun to be wet from the rain and today was one of those days. The other people in my party though I don't think shared the same feelings. The meal was quick and after that we went to the bar right across the street from our hostel and all had strawberry daiquiris. We had seen they were on special on a sign when we arrived for only 4 euro (super cheap for a cocktail in Europe) and they sounded good. Jens had a beer, but we thoroughly enjoyed our daiquiris. Then we walked across the street to our hostel and got ready for bed and fell asleep.

The next day was meant to explore Dresden. We checked out of our hostel in the morning, stowed our luggage in the car, and headed from the New Town where we were to the Old Town across the bridge. The most interesting and unique aspect of Dresden it that the "Old Town" is actually quite new. Dresden almost completely burned down during the war. It was so different to go into churches that you would expect to be thousands of years old that were actually finished a mere five years ago. They did try to recreate an old look. In fact some of the building use stones from the original buildings that were salvaged from and used in what they claim in the exact same places in the buildings today.

Another unique characteristic of Dresden is that this is where Martin Luther is from and where he started the Protestant movement. So instead of the largest church of the city being a catholic church it is a protestant church, although there is also a catholic church in the city as well because it still is Europe. :) We visited all the churches. And we saw a statue of Martin Luther.

It was raining just as much on this day as the night before so we were very wet and soggy. It was raining so much that when I ran through a fountain I barely noticed a difference in how wet I was. :) And it was really fun.

In my travel book I found a restaurant right across the street from the last church we saw that was known for oraganic food, tea, vegetarian food, and soup. I'm so glad we ate here. It was so delicious. We shared a delicious pot of tea and a couple bowls of soup. Oh I would go back just for this restaurant. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm I'm hungry just thinking about it.

We got a little turned around on our way back to the car, but found our way with time. We stopped at a sewing store for my Mom. My whole life I'm used to stopping in sewing stores of children's stores. In fact now I often will wander into children's stores on my own to compare and contrast with out store... but not so much sewing stores.

Back to the car it had stopped raining and we were trying to dry out. Soon we were on the road to Prague.

In Prague we stayed at the cheapest places I've ever stayed. I was so excited to find it. It was outside of the Old Town (city center) but that was okay because we benefited from free parking and the one day tram pass into town was cheap and easy to use. We were staying at a Penzion this time which was sort of more like a hotel except the bathroom was still in the hall and our room was still a four person dorm. The first night there was someone else we never met in with us, but the second night it was just the three of us.

We wanted dinner and there was virtually no where to eat around our Penzion, because it was all residential, except for the restaurant attached to the Penzion which didn't interest us. I'm so glad we decided to go into the Old City. When we arrived it was sunset and the orange sun made the pinkish buildins glow. I felt like I was standing at a square inside Disneyland. It was gorgeous. We had to exchange some money and then set out to find a vegetarian restaurant in my travel book. It took awhile to find and when we got there they had just closed their kitchen but said we could order cold dishes or quesadillas. My Mom and Ryan had quesadillas they really enjoyed. I had soup and I think we had hummus and another appetizer. It was all really good. If I go back to Prague I'll definitely go there again. After dinner we had to get back to the tram to catch the last one of the night back to our Penzion.

The next day we got up and had coffee in the lobby just to find out it wasn't in fact free like we believed, so we had to pay... oh well... it was good. :) Then we went to catch the tram into town. We went to a bakery (surprise surprise) to get some breakfast before we were going to meet the free tour group. There ended up being two companies doing free tours. We went with the one leaving a little earlier just to get on with our day. I actually didn't love this tour though. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood. I had trouble understanding out guides Czech accent though and I didn't think she was very entertaining. When I go on a tour I looking for information in an entertaining way, not just information. My Mom enjoyed the tour though, which I was glad of so she didn't feel like her time there was wasted since the tour was three hours. We started by watching the clock strike 11 and then little figures popped out and did things and then it ended with a man blowing a trumpet off the top of the tower. We walked around the whole city from the Old Town to the Jewish Quarter. I don't really remember a lot of what we saw or learned because I wasn't enthralled with any of it. Mom if anything sticks out in your mind that you want to share you can post a comment to this post.

After the tour we went to lunch at Bohemian Bagles and had bagel sandwiches that were delicious. Then we caught a tram back to our Penzion where we got in the car and headed an hour out of town. I'd heard, from friends who had been before, about a bone church that was really cool. It was a nice drive although the rain had gone and it was very hot and sunny (we loved it) so the windows were our AC since the car doesn't have any. We arrived in a super tiny little town. The church seemed small too from the outside and it wasn't big by any means, but once you entered it did drop down a level and opened up a little bit. It was crazy to see so many human bones nearly 40,000 bodies worth. And it wasn't gross at all... at least to any of us. There was no mass slaughter they simply ran out of room to bury people outside and they started using the church as overflow. Some monks went to Palestine and brought back some soil and sprinkled it around the church, so during the 30 Years War everyone wanted to be buried here because of the soil from the Holy Land. Since I love scull and cross bones I took a lot of pictures of the skulls with bones crossed under their chins. I tried to pick my favorite skull. They had ever single bone in that church that we have in the human body. In fact there is a chandelier made out of bones hanging from the ceiling that they said has at least one of each bone of the body. If you are interested in reading more about the history of it check out this website I found or you can google it yourself. So after we'd been there for awhile and took a lot of pictures we drove the hour back to Prague for the night. We went back into the city and walked all around. I got us a bit lost but we finally made it back to our beds by the end of the night. We'd really wanted to find a dessert local to the area but weren't able to, so that was on our agenda for our last day.

The next morning we got up and went to the castle. We paid for the ticket that allowed us to see a few rooms but not all. I'm glad we got that one because we didn't have a ton of time and it wasn't as cool as I was expecting it to be. There was a HUGE line to get into the cathedral which was free to go into and it wasn't worth it to us to stand in line. We went back though before we left Prague and the line was short and we were able to see it. This was definitely my favorite part of the Castle complex.

As we left the castle and walked toward the Old Town there were people selling artwork they'd made. Ryan and I bought a beautiful painting that he currently has hung in his room after a little battle with me because I wanted to hang it in my room. I guess we should have bought two.

In the Old Town we went to lunch at a different restaurant owned by the same people that owned the one we went to on the first night. It was also really good. I was excited they had a vegan version of Goulash on the menu. Goulash is a traditional Czech meal (along with several other European countries I have realized) and I wanted to try it but the main ingredient is meat, so I wasn't willing to. But I did enjoy it and I'd love to try and someday come up with a vegan version myself that I can make. My Mom and Ryan really liked their food as well. If for no other reason I'd go back to Prague for the good vegetarian and vegan restaurants that we ate at. :) And before we left the Old Town we did find the traditional dessert. It wasn't overly sweet at all and I actually liked it. It was a dumpling like ball that was pretty doughy with a plum inside and the whole thing was boiled and then the shredded what they called "farmers cheese," it was rather flavorless on the top. Ryan had a different filling, but I can't remember what it was. I liked them though although it wasn't like a party in my mouth.

Overall I liked Prague, but I wasn't as thrilled with it as most everyone I know tells me they were. So either there was something wrong with Prague or something wrong with me. I'd like to think it was not the later. And I have an idea what didn't thrill me with the city itself. Being the beginning of summer tourist season was upon us and the city was swarming with people from around the globe. Unlike some busy cities I've been to though I felt like Prague was a cruise ship port because there were so many buses that would bring people in for a day or two and during certain hours of the day it would be mad. I think I would like it better without this added chaos and maybe a little more exploring on my own rather than the tour. So if presented the opportunity I would go back.... like I said if only for the vegetarian food. :)

So that was our first trip with my Mom. We came back to Garmisch that evening. It was my Mom's first time in Garmisch, remember, since we never came back after she arrived. And if I even need to say it... she loved it. :) Well enough for this post I think. I'll have to tell you about the rest later. :)

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