Day 1 was traveling day. We got up that morning and headed to the airport in Salt Lake to find our plane had been delayed for about an hour. Just as a side note, not only had I never left the country before, but I had never flown on an airplane so today was a big day for me and I was a little nervous just because I wasn't sure what to expect. Turns out, everyone set me up for nothing all that terrifying...meaning I made in all the way to Germany on two different planes without hyperventilating. Lol. We had a layover in Chicago just long enough to board our other plane and flew 8 1/2 hours over night to Frankfurt, Germany where we arrived to start a new day.
Because the time difference in Germany of about 8 hours from Utah, we pretty much skipped our night so jet lag was a killer. However, regardless of how tired we were, after checking into our hotel and taking just a little nap (which actually made us more tired) we went and did a session at the temple in Frankfurt. We were really grateful that the temple was in walking distance of our hotel. For the first time we were the one's with the headphones, but the experience was just as rewarding.
After having some trouble renting the temple clothes and trying to figure out what the menu said at the restaurant we ate at before going to the temple I felt completely dependent on Eric to communicate to people what I wanted or needed. I hardly let Eric leave my side the rest of the trip!
That night we had dinner at the hotel with everyone on the tour. It was so interesting to see all the different people that were on the tour. We were expecting a lot of people from America, but we were the minority. We had people from Australia, Wells, United Kingdom, Africa and New Zealand. Eric and I were also some of the youngest there after an 8 year old boy and 15 year old girl. We didn't mind one bit though since we seemed to get along with everyone there.
This day was the start of the tour of Germany. We started the day going on the Rhine Cruise from Oberwesel to Boppard. The countryside and little towns we passed were beautiful views and everything was so green! Something that you don't seen in Utah or the desert of Nevada. It was a really chilly day so we sat inside the boat for most of the cruise and I went out for a couple of minutes here and there to take some pictures.
Next we headed to Cologne and saw one of the most impressive Gothic cathedrals we've ever seen. The building of it was started in 1248 and wasn't completed until 1880 (632 years!). We could believe how something like that could be build back then with so much detail. I've always loved the Salt Lake temple, but compared to this cathedral it seemed extremely small. We climbed over 600 steps up the tower of the cathedral to see this view and even though I was really sore the next day it was very worth it!
On the way to the hotel we stopped at the original 4711 store (a perfume store) where when you walked in there was a fountain that you could wash your hands in cologne. Let's just say the tour bus smelt very strongly of cologne after that!
We had an early start by traveling to Hamelin. Hamelin is known for it's legend of the Pied Piper concerning the departure or death of a many of the town's children in the Middle Ages. For those of you who have not heard the story, the town of Hamelin was suffering from a rat infestation. The Pied Piper promised the townsmen that he could get rid of the rats and the townsmen promised they would pay him if he did. The Pied Piper played a musical pipe to lure the rats into the nearby river where they all drowned. The town did not pay him despite his success and so in his anger while all the inhabitants were in church he played his pipe that attracted the children of Hamelin and led them away from the town where they were never seen or heard of again.
We ended the day in Hamburg. Eric was excited to be back and that night show us the center streets at night. Something I was not aware of, but learned was that Hamburg has more water canals then Venice does! I thought that was very interesting. The city center was one of the most impressive building we saw in Hamburg and Eric also got to have his first Donner (his favorite food that he talks about all the time). I really liked them as well so I didn't mind eating them again on the trip anytime we had the opportunity. Eric was a little disappointed, however, that he didn't get to see anyone from his mission there or that we didn't get to spend much time there either.
Also, one little last note about this day was that it was our 1 year anniversary! We didn't really do anything special, but just being in Germany with the man I love was enough for me!
This day we traveled to Lubeck, which is another city that Eric served in. This was one of my favorite cities that we had been to so far into the tour and enjoyed hearing some of Eric's memories of it. On our free time we walked around the center of the city a little bit and went into some of the shops and had some really good ice cream (the ice cream in Germany is really creamy and flavorful).
That afternoon, we traveled to the capital of Germany, Berlin. We went on a city night cruise along the River Spree that runs through Berlin. We had a nice dinner on the boat and enjoyed some live music (2 men on the accordion and the guitar). Everything was so peaceful going along the river. Lots of people were just relaxing along with sides of the rivers watching the boats go by and enjoying the beautiful evening. I loved how relaxed the Germans are and all the sidewalk cafes that you could go to and just enjoy the outdoors and the calm atmosphere.Our hotel room that we stayed in, in Berlin. Needless to say it was very nice...chandilier included :)
We stayed in Berlin for the whole day which was nice because we got to see a lot more of the city. We had a city sightseeing tour with a local guide in the morning which took us all over Berlin and also to the Berlin wall. You would expect this huge, thick wall; however, it was only about 7-8 ft high and about 6 inches thick. Also by the wall they had success stories of how people escaped into West Berlin (the few that made it) and the unsuccessful attempts. It was crazy to think of not being able to see friends and family that were on the other side of the wall for 28 years.
Later we went with another local guide to the historic Potsdam where we toured Cecilienhof Palace and Sanssouci Park, which had a marvel of landscape gardening and architectural wonders. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get to go in and see more of the Palaces that we went to, but what we did see was really interesting.
For dinner we went to Ziko's Grill where there was live music and good authentic German food. One of the workers would go around to each table and play pranks on some of the people, which was hilarious to watch. One was he would act like he was going to put catchup on a customers plate and then aim it at them. They would jump back and scream to later find out that is was just some red string that came out. Haha, it was pretty fun.
We traveled southwest to Dresden, the old capital of Saxony where we took another city sightseeing tour with a local guide. What was most impressive abo ut this city was the city square which was filled with huge buildings right next to each other. It had been raining so much there that the rivers were too high for the boats to go under the bridges. After the tour I made the mistake of asking the tour guide if there were any donner shops around where we were. I might as well of just asked where a McDonlds was since a donner is not a native Germany food, but a turkish fast food.
We ended the day in Leipzig, where the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach lived the last years of his lived. To be honest, I can't remember too much of this city. We only had a little bit of free time to tour it or shop and well...I picked shop :).
This day took an unfortunate and sad twist when we w ent to Coburg to see the Veste Coburg Castle, built in 1225 where Martin Luther stayed for awhile while he we translating the bible. The path up to the castle was a little steep. A man from our tour was having a hard time walking up it and stopped to take a breather. By the time he almost made it to the top we were all there to watch him fall backwards and hit his head on the cobblestone pavement. Luckily we had a man one our tour who was a policeman that was certified in CPR and with the help of some others they started CPR right away to revive him since he was not breathing. It took about 20 or more minutes for the medical help to come which continued CPR and electric shocks. After about 45 minutes with no results, we watched as they had to tell the man's sweet wife that he was gone. It broke my heart to watch that wife sit down by her husband and hold his cold hand and say good-bye so expectingly. It really brought us all back to reality and as traumatizing experience as it was, more so for that wife then for me , I felt so very grateful to have been sealed in the temple to Eric and know tha t no matter what happens we will be together again. It was also neat to see some many people from the tour reach out the the woman in her time of grief. We canceled what other plans we had for the day and went straight to the hotel. Luckily, the woman's daughter and friend was able to fly in from the UK and got there that night to be with her and deal with trying to get her husband home to be buried. They were in our thoughts and prayers the rest of the tour.
After spending the night in Nuremberg we did a little sight seeing of the city and had some free time. There we went to a toy museum which unfortunately we couldn't take pictures of, but it was interesting to see all the toys from the earlier time periods.
While driving along the Romantic Road we stopped at one of my favorite places of the whole trip, which was the picture-postcard medieval Rothenburg. H ow I came to know it was on the movie "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" which is was the city that didn't have any children in the movie. The town had curving streets with fun little shops along the way and one very popular one which most everyone went to and that was the Christmas shop (very big deal in Germany). They were also famous for their treats called snow ball. It was like fried bread shaped like a ball and covered in chocolate and nuts. They were bigger than me fist, but so very good. We ended the day at our hotel in Munich where we stayed for two nights.
The morning started off with a local guide taking a sightseeing tour of the city and ended in the big main square, Marienplatz. They had a square full of food stands and then on the other end lines of shopping.
We left the square in the afternoon and went to Dachau, the first concentration camp built which was turned into a memorial site and museum. That was a very somber site, but very informative. We started off by watching a documentary film on the history of Dachau and then were able to tour around the grounds where tens of thousands of Jews were brought. They had rebuild two barracks so you could see the living conditions of the people that lived there, as well as the gas chambers disguise as showers and cremation chambers. It was horrifying to hear and see what humans could do to other humans; how they stripped these people of their dignity and their lives and families.
That night was the Bavarian evening and dinner and the world famous Hofbrauhuas. The restaurant could hold 700 people and had local specialties fr om the buffet and the famous German beers (in 1 liter glass!). Naturally, since we don't drink we were a little out of place , but we still enjoyed the experience of live Bavarian music and dancing.
It finally rained this day. Eric said that it rained a lot in Germany, but so far we hadn't really had any so Eric's grandma was excited to have to rain for a "true" German experience. We drove into the heart of the Bavarian Alps to visit the most famous 19th century neo-romantic cast of the world, King Ludwig II's Neuschwanstein Castle (which wa s also featured in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). The scenery was absolutely breath taking for all of us! You could go up on this bridge over looking the castle and Eric and I agreed that we had not seen anything so amazing before. The castle had over 200 rooms; however, only 15 were finished which we got the chance to tour.
We have the pleasure of enjoying some more of the green scenery while driving through the Black Forest to get to our hotel. There was had our last dinner together as a tour groups and all were sad it was coming to an end. All the people we met on the tour were so fun to talk too. I found it interesting to see what brought ever yone to Germany and a little about them. We were sad we didn't get to know everyone.
Our last day in Germany we traveling to our last touring place which was Heidelberg and yet another one of the cities that was our favorite. While there I also rushed to get that last of the souvenirs that I wanted to get for everyone so sadly we didn't get to do much sightseeing. We ending back in Frankfurt that evening. Eric and I went out on our own and met up with Eric's friend that met on his mission. He took us to an African restaurant that was decorated like a tent in the desert. It has sand floors and you could sit on cushions low to the ground while you ate with your hands. It was definitely something unique and different from anything we'd eating in Germany. Eric enjoyed catching up with his friend and I enjoyed getting to know him. He was really nice and fun to talk to.
We had to get up at 4 to get ready and make it to the airport to get ready for our flight at 8:30. We finally made it home to Salt Lake around 3pm, however it had been about 15 hours since leaving Germany....equaling an extremely long day of traveling. It felt so good to get home and be in our own apartment and bed.
I joke that since that was such a fast moving trip and a lot of traveling, I needed a vacation from my vacation so I'm definitely going to try and make good use of doing nothing for the next two weeks before school starts. :)
Overall though, the trip to Germany was amazing and we are so grateful to Eric's grandparents for helping us get there and to be able to do that with them.