Sunday, September 9, 2018

You Have Reached Your Destination (And Yes, We Know!)

SUNDAY, 9/9:

Really? There are people who would want to eat sushi for breakfast?

Greetings from the seething pit of humanity known as London's Heathrow Airport, where it's just after 9 am local time and there are actually people sitting and eating at the sushi & caviar bar a few meters away. Now, I like seafood as much as the next person, but eating it for breakfast? Before getting on an international flight?

Uhm...not so much. But maybe that's just me.

The first part of our journey went well, and if you're actually reading this then we made it to Chicago, where I'm planning on posting it. Hopefully, then, the final part is just as smooth, we make it home in one piece, and we can stop living out of a suitcase.

Although, if I have to admit, it has been kinda cool doing just that the past 12 days.

Like I mentioned yesterday, there are a few topics & tales that I didn't get to while we were in Germany, but I still wanted to discuss. For instance, do you know that most people think we're Germans?

No; seriously. More often than not, when we were just sitting and eating breakfast at the hotel or trying to buy something in a store, people would actually start speaking to us in German like we lived there. And lest you think I'm strange (well, more strange than usual), I'm not. We would be in line behind fellow Americans, and the German clerk waiting on them would speak to them in English. Then, when we walked up, they picked up the conversation in German, at least until we started to speak. I don't know what it is, although I have a sneaking suspicion it's because we don't act like Americans.

As an example, sitting down the row of seats from me are two American couples, and you can tell they're American. They're loud, they're large, they're wearing baseball hats, and they seem to have this attitude that screams out “Look, we're 'Mericans”. In Europe, Americans stand out, and that's what Loraine and I go out of our way not to do. I mean, it helps that we're not loud and not large, but more than anything we try to fit in. We try to act like the locals act, and do what the locals do. When we're in Europe, we try to be European, and not American.

And that, I have a sneaking suspicion, is why many people in Germany (including the sweet little old guy complaining about the rain one day) think we're Germans.

We're okay with that.

Next, the tale behind Watzmann. You remember Watzmann, Berchtesgaden's iconic mountain, right?

This is a mountain that greets everyone heading to the Berchtesgaden National Park in (far) southern Germany, and its unique structure has inspired a tale. Apparently, if you look at the peak, you see an old king of the area and his family. Something bad befell the royal family, and instead of leaving the area they turned themselves into stone to they could stay in their beloved land forever. The peak on the right is the king, the smaller peak on the left the queen, and the little peaks in between are their seven children.

They may have turned to stone, but they get to rule over their lands forever.

Now, it's time to issue a correction. What seems like forever ago (but was, in reality, only a week ago last Friday), I was talking about the Wagner opera based on a German folk tale called “Lohengrin”. It was one of King Ludwig's favorites, and I mentioned that it may have something to do with a giant killer swan that led Bavarian soldiers to a great military victory.

Well, I was slightly wrong. Lohengrin was in fact NOT a giant killer swan that led Bavarian soldiers to a great military victory. Lohengrin was, in fact, a human who led Bavarian soldiers to a great military victory. According to the legend, in fact, he did so while in a boat that was being pulled by a swan, probably not the greatest form of locomotion while in battle but one that does make the legend just a little more colorful.

So my apologies to lovers of Bavarian folk culture for getting the story wrong.

And my apologies to this guy, too--

He was actually thinking he was descended from someone special.

Now, a tradition that (surprisingly) some of you actually look forward to. I've been doing this every time I've gone to Europe, and this is my (counting on my fingers here) 13th trip. Right before my first trip, my (then) 6 year old niece Mallory was bummed because she couldn't come with us. So I took a bookmark with her picture on it, and shot a picture of that bookmark in Europe so I could show that she DID indeed go with us. Well, I've done it every trip since, so for 13 times the now 21-year old Mallory has come with us.

Mallory, here you are in the sleepy little town of Bernau-am-Chiemsee--

How about a few pictures I didn't get to use? Pictures of the exotic language they use in German stores--

Of ducks--

Or even weirder looking ducks--

And, of course, of the greatest creatures Europe has ever produced--

Speaking of which, we drove down many roads with “Cow Crossing” signs. I personally love this one, which combined a “Cow Crossing” sign with a “Dip in the Road” sign that makes it look as if the cows have, uhm, left their calling card--

That's right. I'm easily entertained.

This whole trip, of course, was inspired by Loraine's interest in the 19th century Brian Wilson known as King Ludwig II. I've tried to share some of the stuff we've found out about him, but there's a whole lot more to tell. If you're interested, check out the Bavarian Palace Department website for all kinds of cool stuff on the dude (and in English if you want, to boot). And if you ever go to tour the area yourself, I highly recommend buying the 14-day Bavarian palace ticket, which allows you to get into almost every single Ludwig-related attraction, plus lots of museums and monuments, as well. It was 44 Euro, and I think it paid for itself after just the second or third day.

Loraine's been working on this trip on and off for three years now, and I think this may have been one of her masterpieces. There was a ton of research and planning she needed to do, and I have the sneaking suspicion that what started out as a quixotic little vacation turned into a labor of love for her. So thanks for that labor of love, my love. I enjoyed every single second of it, and, as always, stand in awe of your trip planning abilities.

You're amazing.

Well, that's about it for this little expedition. If you enjoyed these ramblings, I write stuff like this (usually minus the cows and the mountain views) every day for my day job. You're more than welcome to check them out. As for what's next? Well, it's going to be a little different in a few ways. One, we're doing it next April, not at the end of summer. And two, it's a down and dirty, much shorter with one major purpose.

We're going to Leipzig to see a professional soccer match featuring RB Leipzig (our favorite Bundesliga team) going up against Freiburg (the team from my favorite German city). We don't even know what day the game is (just the weekend it's scheduled), so that's how on the fly that trip will be.

So until April, thanks for reading these. Hope you've enjoyed them, and hope you didn't get too sick of these guys--

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