We had a wonderful chance to see the beautiful city of Ulm. The history of this town dates back to 854 and it sits along the Danube river. Ross and I particularly wanted to see the Cathedral and possibly climb the steeple. The Ulm Cathedral is the tallest church steeple in the world! It has a grand total of 768 steps!!
We weren't sure how thrilled our kids would be about climbing all of those steps on a stinking hot day so we prefaced the whole thing by teaching them that they are awesome, and that they can do hard things. Challenging things. Even climb 768 steps! They agreed to have a try.
The Cathedral is truly magnificent. Actually, although called the 'Ulm Cathedral', it is in fact, a church, and has never been the seat of a bishop. But this amazing building took 200 years to build! Wow! We all took a look inside...
After I spent a bit of time panicking about the kids making too much noise inside a church and 'shush yelling' at them, we began the climb. I'm very grateful to our friends who were with us who happily agreed to look after baby Bo, they seemed quite content to stay below in the shade and eat ice-cream while they waited for us. Hmmm, why didn't they want to climb the tallest Cathedral spire on a boiling hot day? Maybe it should have tipped me off?
So we climbed and climbed and climbed. I'm not sure what I was expecting, obviously I hadn't thought it through very intelligently, but of course the steps went round and round. Round and round in a tight little circle. Argh! It totally made me feel dizzy. Our legs were burning and we were fairly dripping with sweat. It got hotter and hotter the higher we climbed.
Every now and then we were able to step onto a little squishy viewing platform. The views got increasingly impressive as we made the assent. We also discovered who in our family was afraid of heights, 'ahem Ross and Levi', but that made it all the more of an achievement for them to climb the whole thing. There were a few moments of pure terror at the sheer height, especially when we reached a kind of open inner section. There was also more than a little horror at the amount of steps, they seemed to go on and on and on forever....
Yep, that is not happiness on their little faces! But the whole point was that it would be a hard, difficult thing to achieve so we didn't give up....and we talked about ice-cream a lot.
Finally we reached the top! The views were amazing and our kids had been little troopers, they had indeed shown that they could do hard things.
Unfortunately, what goes up must come down. Coming down was hard. Our legs were shaking by the time we reached the bottom. We were desperately hot and very exhausted, but we each now had the distinction of having climbed the tallest spire in the world!! Go Gilberts!
Ice-cream was definitely in order. Actually, I suspect that Rushton only really climbed all that way for the promised ice-cream at the end.
It sounds devine, sitting on the sidewalk eating ice-cream in Europe. The reality was that we were a little horrified at the prices and Bo was crying and squirmy and wanted a feed. There is absolutely no air-conditioning in Europe! There was nowhere to escape the relentless heat! I had to try and feed Bo on the sidewalk while everyone ate their ice-cream, it was a hunched, sweaty, hot affair. But despite all that, ice-cream is always a good idea in summer, and Bo definitely enjoyed trying his first taste of European dessert!
Once we'd had our delicious sugar hit, we felt pepped up for a little more sightseeing so we headed off for the Fisherman's Quarter in Ulm. It was fun looking at the old buildings, especially the 'crooked house'. The cobbled streets and quaint houses surrounded by water were actually gorgeous.
We ended our tour with the beautiful Gothic Renaissance town hall. It is brightly painted with lovely frescoes and also has an astronomical clock. The kids were even getting into the tourist vibe!
Overall, our first attempt at discovering Europe went fairly well. The weather was definitely a challenge as it was extremely hot, but we were able to have fun and create some worthwhile memories. Of course we were still us, so there was a fair dollop of whinging and fighting from the kids and Ross and I were still struggling with feeling wound-up and stressed. For example, we were frequently heard to shout out things like;
"don't dive in that fountain!" ...or....
"Stop!!! That's a road, not a sidewalk!"
Plus we had to deal with all the usual issues of taking 4 kids to the toilet somewhere and also figure out where to change a baby.
But we actually did all learn a very valuable lesson that day in Ulm - that we could all do hard things. We could face a challenge together as a family and get through it successfully....we would get through it imperfectly, probably uncomfortably, stressfully and with too much whining; but in the end - yes! We would conquer!
As it has turned out, I have drawn on this experience a few times since to remind the kids ( and myself ), that we can do things that seem too hard...we have been in need of it here and there on our mad adventure through Europe!