We were traveling, floundering, struggling, growing, succeeding, failing, laughing, crying, yelling, discovering, smiling...all of it. Together. Always the good with the bad, and always it is how we approached things that made the difference.
I think I originally wanted our travels to be a bit ideal, a bit magazine-like, whether or not I would admit it, we strive for the ideal right? It seems that others can reach it. But of course reality is almost never like we imagined, sometimes it is far better! And sometimes, it is soooooooo much worse, in ways that would never have occurred to us as we blindly tried to prepare for something so completely new and unknown.
I choose to be glad that sometimes the journey is horrible, and sometimes it is amazing. At least it is never boring. And all of that failing and struggling and floundering made the good moments all the more sweeter. Truthfully, life is messy, and travel with a rather imperfect family of 7 into unknown terrain was definitely messy. A complete mix of every emotion in the pot, and what we are left with in time is a motley stew of memories that are delicious to recall. We did something cool! We have funny and crazy stories as a family in some weird and wonderful places all over the world!
We spent quite a lot of time criss-crossing Germany and exploring different areas. We collected some interesting ingredients to the mix of our travel memories in this country, some are horrible and frustrating - like the never-ending battle to find a place to pee! Our epic drive in scorching temperatures on the infamous Autobahn, and our total fail of a family field trip to The Eagle's Nest...
but... there are also some super cool experiences that I wouldn't trade for anything, such as the Medieval festival in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and our hilarious trip into the Black Forest. We were drawn back to this beautiful country many times and always there was something to love, and something to challenge us.
Here are a few snapshots of our wild, adventurous, crazy and fun moments in Germany the second time round; the good, the bad, the ugly, and the total stewy, spicy and sweet mix of it all.
1. Stripping off for a swim!
This was a hilarious and rather common national phenomenon. Maybe it's not a national thing, it's more of a European thing perhaps. It's easy;
1. Find a lake or river
2. Strip (regardless of who might be around)
Hahahaha!! I will NEVER forget the shocking first time that we all innocently went to the local public outdoor swimming pool in Austria and were given the opportunity of trying to just casually walk past an older couple who were changing into their clothes after their swim...on the front lawn!
Over time I came to appreciate the general confidence and lack of body shaming going on in Europe, it seemed that people were just so much more comfortable in their own skin.
So what did we do on a hot day? Find some water and jump in! No, not totally naked, but we became a lot more relaxed about changing. Such as that time under the freeway...watch out drivers, there might be a naked bum in your peripheral vision! Lol
The land is so gloriously green in Germany, in the Summertime we were always having picnics and running through the grass...in between shedding clothes and shocking the odd driver here and there.
2. Adding a dollop of historical significance and humour
On a day that I was going stir crazy and needed a break, Ross whisked the kids away and they visited a bridge. Not just any bridge, but the largest brick built bridge in the world! The Göltzsch Viaduc was, for a time, the tallest railway bridge in the world.
It is always so fun to see or experience the biggest or best of something in the world. Like the time we climbed the tallest church in the world! It gives automatic bragging rights and a weird sense of accomplishment.
The Goltzsch Viaduct bridge is in central Germany. It's a great place to discover some of the world's engineering marvels, bonus - there's a playground!
Check out this great video of the Goltzsch Bridge, it has a fun and impressive science experiment using egg shells!
Although attempting to blow their young minds with awe and appreciation of historical man-made wonders from around the world, the most memorable moment occurred when they came together in familial harmony to collectively mock the German obsession with rules and regulations. Yet another of the German quirks that we were learning and laughing about.
3. The Leipzig Zoo.
The Leipzig Zoo is one of the best Zoos in the world. We started our day in good spirits; it was sunny, the air was warm and everything was green and manicured and perfect (as is the case in all of Germany).
There is a fantastic boat ride that takes you back in time through the Earth's history and through the rainforest.
Sadly though, it doesn't necessarily follow that if you are in one of the best Zoos in the world and it is a sunny and beautiful day...that you will have a sunny and beautiful experience. The boat ride was cool and a couple of other things, but our baby actually spent most of the day there squawking and squealing to be let down. The thing that I remember most about this Zoo is what was on the ground.
No grass anywhere to be seen. We had opted that day to bring the stroller instead of the baby-carrier (actually that had been Ross' choice, so I was doing a bit of squawking and squealing myself in complaint) and Bohan would not settle at all! He wanted to crawl and he couldn't, so he made his feelings known. To all of Germany.
The highlight was seeing the Flamingos. Before we left for Europe we had intended to go to the Middle East to live, but we ended up postponing that dream for the future in favour of a European Gap Year. Before we left Ross had woken from a nap one day and declared that he'd had a vision where we were on the beach, surrounded by Flamingos and we were all happy together.
Hahaha, well it wasn't the beach, and we weren't all that happy, but we did get to see Flamingos together.
* Prices, maps and general information about the Leipzig Zoo is available on their website.
My tip - If you have a crawling baby, be prepared that there are no grassy patches, just lots of gravel and concrete paths. The Zoo was very stroller friendly though and the boat ride through Gondwanaland is highly recommended.
4. Playing in Playmobile Land.
We were recommended by our expat friends to go to Playmobile FunPark over Legoland.
I can't comment on how good Legoland is in comparison, but Playmobile Land was awesome! It was the beginning of a continuing love affair with these European toys. We ended up with a big sack of the stuff being carted all over the world! But really it is a great type of travel toy, the figures and pieces are small and lightweight and it is all fueled by imagination.
So we arrived ready for a day of fun...well, not all of us were thrilled to be there, my oldest was being captain cranky pants, so we remedied that situation quick smart...
...by slapping a plate of giant German meat in front of him and suddenly the day seemed a whole lot brighter, haha!
The first part of the park that we discovered was an indoor section, complete with high ropes, every piece of playmobile ever created, and a rather hearty menu.
I particularly liked the little corner jails...er, I mean play areas where my baby could play and not escape!
After dining like vikings (a rather common occurrence in Germany), we set out for more joy and fun...
Ok, so I had another kid killing the joy vibes. After walking around with Bohan screaming blue murder for the whole of Germany to hear, we decided that the next best thing to do was to get them all wet.
The Park has a whole splash area that my kids loved. I'm pretty sure that we were the most crazy raucous thing that anyone in the area had seen for a while, but at least we were all smiling!
The day continued on a positive note. The kids climbed ropes, rode pretend horses, milked pretend cows, played knights, climbed walls and mined for treasure.
* Playmobil FunPark is very reasonably priced, admission in peak season for the day is only 11.90 Euros, it's even cheaper during winter and low seasons of the year. This is about a third of the price of Legoland. For more information, check out their website here.
5. Those darn cute towns and villages
Germany felt like a living postcard. Everything was always so beautiful and manicured and perfect. Strictly so. I imagine that I would find this rather stifling to live in, but as a visitor, the prevalent order created a sense of calm to our often chaotic traveling life. We liked it. We liked the nice roads and the predictably perfect household recycling and the little flower boxes on the neatly trimmed lawn. Sometimes we were lightheartedly critical of all of the rules, but then we would find ourselves coming back for more, it really is a wonderful and beautiful country.
The ice-cream, the funny roundabouts, the adorable houses and flower boxes, the random statues, the hearty food, and the great history that flows through all the the culture and land.
Our time in Germany was full of ups and downs. We were very much still finding our feet in our family world travels and Germany was just the place to be as we discovered and created the flavour of the new life that we were daring to try out together. We needed it all; the sweet, the spicy, the salty and the delightfully unexpected.