June 14, 2013

Road Trip, Part 2

Day 3:
I had been looking forward to this day for a long time!  Ever since Ted and I got a 3D puzzle of Neuschwanstein Castle to put together our first year of married life, I've wanted to see this intriguing place.  When we learned we were moving to Italy, one of the places we immediately decided to plan to visit was this castle.  And then, bonus, it was featured in a recent season of The Amazing Race, which we have been watching with the older kids for a couple of years now, so they were familiar with it as well.

Our tour didn't begin until 11am, which was helpful, since we didn't have a wonderful night of sleep and weren't able to get a terribly early start.  It was only about a 45-minute drive from our apartment (a very scenic drive, I might add!), but we did have to pick up our tickets by 9:55 and then hike almost 2 km up the mountain to the castle.  We had Zaden in the stroller (which gave me something to lean on as we went up the steep hill), and everyone else walked.  Of course there were many comments from the kids expressing longing to ride the horse carriages that passed us every so often, but overall, they marched without a whole lot of complaining.  It helped that we weren't in a huge hurry, and their pregnant mama couldn't go that fast, either!  Along the way we met up with some Chinese tourists who were first captivated by Zaden's big, bright eyes...and then amazed when they realized that he was one of SIX children in our family.  And then to see my pregnant belly, well, that about sent them over the edge, LOL.  We posed for pictures several times, the bonus being that we were able to hand our camera over and get a family picture of all of us!

We arrived at the tour waiting area in plenty of time, so we treated ourselves to some Bavarian cookies with red currants (yum!) while we waited.  Lucan was very distressed that we couldn't go IMMEDIATELY into the castle!  But the cookie distracted him for awhile, LOL.  Finally it was our turn.  We checked the stroller in and herded in with the other English-speaking tourists for our tour, which lasted approximately 35 minutes.

If you aren't familiar with Neuschwanstein Castle, I'll give you a few interesting highlights, and you can check out the link for more info.

  • It opened to the public only 7 weeks after the death of King Ludwig II in 1886.  
  • Work on the castle began in 1868; it wasn't even completed when the king died.
  • Though the style was a romanticized version of the medieval period, the castle was equipped with very modern technology, to include automatically flushing toilets, running water, and central air heating.
  • The king only lived in the castle 172 days before his death, which happened under "mysterious circumstances" since he died at the same time as the psychiatrist who had certified him as insane...

We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the castle, but it was definitely well worth the time and effort to tour it!  So amazing!  (For more pictures, see this album.)  It even includes an artificial cave--why, I don't know, but there it was, one of the passageways on the tour!  The kids really enjoyed the experience, but when all was said and done, we were more than ready for lunch, so we made our way back down to the village and enjoyed some brats, pretzels and fries before heading out to our next adventure--riding the Alpine Slide not too far away from the castle!

Zaden fell asleep during the short ride to the slide, so Ted and I took turns with the kids.  Kenna and Lucan had to go down with someone bigger, so Mom, Dad, Charis, and Arden took turns with the younger ones.  Ted and I only went down once each, I think, but I'm so glad I at least did that--I almost declined because of my big belly in favor of letting Ted go again, but it looked so fun!  And it was!

There was a pretty nice playground, too, so the kids ran around and enjoyed that for awhile before we decided to head out.  After a brief scare during which we frantically ran around yelling for Kenna, we found that she was waiting by the Suburban, since she had looked up while on the swings, didn't see either of us, and immediately headed to the car.  (Ted had gone to the bathroom, and I had walked to tell the older kids we were leaving--I had told her the same thing, and I thought she had looked at me as I was calling to her, but somehow she missed that!)  As soon as we got in and buckled up, it began raining.  We had prayed for God to favor us with good weather, and He certainly did!  It rained all the way back to our apartment, where we enjoyed relaxing and napping and playing until polishing off leftovers for dinner and calling it a day.  

All in all, a very, very memorable day for all of us!

Day 4:
Not nearly as exciting as Day 3, LOL.  We cleaned up and left our apartment at a fairly reasonable hour, feeling thankful for a much better night of sleep.  Our drive was much less stressful for Ted than going TO the apartment for the first time, since we gradually left the Alps behind.  It did rain during the first part of our drive, but it started to clear up as we approached our friends Brian and Joy's house near Ramstein AB in Germany.  

Our timing wasn't the best, since Joy had to take their son Ian to an appointment right about the time we were getting close, but we just headed onto the air base so I could get a few things from the BX--holy cow, it's like the Mecca of shopping!  After being in Naples, well, let's just say this is the high end of the overseas military facilities, LOL!  Charis and I wandered around quite awhile looking for the things we needed, and then we went to the McDonald's in town where Joy had said to meet her.  We never really got lunch--we thought we'd stop along the way, but there really weren't any places to stop around the lunch hour, so we just kept munching snacks.  So we had a late lunch while we waited for Joy and the kids to finish up, and then we headed to the L's house to unload and relax!

It was so wonderful to catch up!  Brian returned from work and we had a yummy enchilada dinner.  Ian is almost 13 now, just a couple of months older than Charis, and our older kids immediately found things to occupy themselves while Kenna and Eliana (who turned 6 just a couple of days after we arrived) immersed themselves in a pink fluffy cloud of Barbies, stuffed animals, and other little girl bits of happiness.

Day 5:
Kind of a down day for us, but a very welcome one!  Joy and I chatted the whole day away--such a blessing to have friends that you can just pick up from where you left off!  Ted went with Brian to work...the two of them donated blood before coming home for lunch, and then they went off again, Ted in hopes of meeting with his NATO counterpart here in Germany and Brian to attend a retirement ceremony.  The kids played the day away, and we just enjoyed hanging out.

We attended Ian's baseball game in the evening, taking along a picnic dinner and watching Ian's last game of the season (unfortunately, they lost in this single-elimination tournament). 

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