Our time in Rotterdam had come to an end. We were ready to continue on our mad journey through Europe. We had a deadline to reach, we wanted to get to Freiberg in Germany in time for the LDS temple open-house. This is a very special time when before a temple is dedicated and made holy and sacred for the Mormon people, the building may be viewed and toured by the general public. I wanted my children to experience this, and we even had a place to stay nearby!
Amazingly, our lovely friends that we had met in Salzburg had offered the use of their apartment in Werdau, Germany. As in, we had known them for a week, and our plans came up in conversation..and they offered their apartment to us!! This was so incredibly generous! Not many people willingly invite new acquaintances (especially when those new friends comprise of a family of 7!) to stay in their homes. Well, we gratefully took them up on the offer, and to save on money, we decided to make the trip in one go from Rotterdam to Werdau. Google Maps says that this takes 7.5 hours. Without stopping. But let me qualify, that actually means 7.5 hours for normal people, not us. We knew that it would be a difficult day.
We left Rotterdam on the hottest day in history. Ok, maybe not, but to us it sure was! We had no air-conditioning in our old 'whistle and squeak' van, and so we had to roll the windows down. On the Autobahn (a road not for the faint of heart), we had motorbikes and endless trucks roaring past us as we baked our way through Germany. It was hot, windy, loud, and generally miserable. The sun was directly on the front of the car, and after a few hours I began to fear that I would cook! I had to take turns trading seats with Levi just to survive. This trip was everything extreme about travel that is awful. Truly, I never want to repeat it, but fortunately it did produce an unexpected and funny story...
I had discovered online that a gorgeous bridge was on route to Werdau. It was called 'Devil's Bridge, and was everything I had dreamed about, according to Pinterest anyway. It looked magical, mystical, adventurous, and exactly the kind of thing that would make our drive through the fires of hell....I mean Germany in the summer....worthwhile. I couldn't find the exact location, so we made a stop at what was meant to be a nearby place and decided to ask around. It was perfect timing because we had all hit our limit. Hot, bothered and totally fed up with everyone and everything around us, we gratefully parked the car and left to discover this bridge from my dreams.
We walked through the grounds of a fancy hotel, through a wooded area and asked everyone we encountered if they could point us in the direction of Devil's Bridge. No one had any idea what we were talking about. My kids didn't mind though, they were finally happy to be free and wild and one-with-nature again, lol.
As we were resting here and watching the kids play, a German couple passed by. We stopped them to ask if they knew about this fabled Devil's bridge?
Nope, no idea.
We chatted for a bit, they were impressed with how many kids we had while traveling, then the husband looked at me, actually he looked at my stomach and asked when the next one was due....??
I was rather miffed at this, and while I inwardly sulked, Ross explained that I was not pregnant...and that we were hoping to find this bridge so that we could cool off a bit in the river. The (obviously short-sighted) German gentleman asked why we didn't just swim in the hotel pool? We explained that we were not hotel guests. He said it didn't matter, we could swim there.
After they left, we thought, why not? I was ready to let my poor pregnant body have a rest...ok fine, my poor not-pregnant body was oh so hot and bothered.
So we marched our whole family through that fancy-pancy hotel. Seriously, we looked like vagabonds! The kids were dirty, I was scowling still from my injured pride, we were all hot and sweaty and probably smelled exactly like we had all sat squished up in a boiling hot car for hours! Which we had. Which we did.
We walked up to the reception and plastered a smile on our faces and asked if we could please use the pool. The lady at the front desk smiled, and answered that yes of course we could, and then showed us the way!!!! This would NEVER happen in Australia, I was amazed! When we reached the downstairs level we discovered that the pool was in fact part of a spa complex and was rather posh. We were shown in and we all changed for a dip in the hotel indoor pool. Hahaha!!
We had a wonderful time! We splashed and played and forgot how miserable we had been.
After about an hour we waved goodbye to that lovely hotel and continued on.
The journey was worth it. We arrived to the little town of Werdau and were completely enveloped in the welcoming arms of wonderful new friends. We had a lovely little place to stay for a week, and we met the extended family of our Salzburg friends, truly, they treated us like family. They cooked traditional German food for us to try, they cuddled our baby and laughed with us and we felt so happy and loved. How amazing it was to travel halfway across the world to then meet with people who are so warm and kind and who feel like family, We were truly blessed.
Thankfully, we made it to the temple open-house. It was wonderful to take our children to such a historic place that is so special to us. There is a room in the temple called 'The Celestial Room' that represents heaven. We were lucky enough to have a moment at one point in the tour when the only people in that room was our family. The lady giving the tour later told us that she felt emotional seeing us there, because that is what heaven is about, families.
We were together. We were definitely imperfect and our life was full of crazy challenges, but we were in this together, and we would stay together through our epic journey across Europe and the further journey of our lives and beyond.
I'm eternally grateful to God that our family is forever. Imperfect and beautiful and everything I could ever dream of.