This has been quite a week! The girls, the dog, and I spent four nights with my friends from high school near Ramstein Air Base. They were LIFE SAVERS! Gave us great tips, and helped with many issues that came up.. even some that went above and beyond standard host/hostess courtesy. Before we came to Germany, we were told that there was no military lodging that would accept pets. This is why we had to stay with my friends. However, on the morning of our departure from Ramstein, we were able to secure a room that would accept the dog! I learned a lot of tricks of the trade while at their house. New knowledge of things I needed to know while living overseas with the military. Not to mention, it was easier to adjust and recover from jet lag. Amazingly, everyone adjusted well. And the peacefulness of the forest in the snow was just what we all needed. Calm. After all the hecticness of moving and pet transportation, it was nice to relax.
View from our bedroom.
We didn't get much time to be "tourists" with all that happened in those first few days. But, we were determined to see a castle before we headed south. It took a while to navigate the small German roads of Landstuhl to find the castle. And once we did, it had already closed. So, the next day we made sure we got there. It wasn't exactly glamorous, and I would describe it more as a fortress than a castle. Most of it was outdoors, and was extremely cold.
Burg Nanstein - Landstuhl, Germany
After visiting the castle, we picked up the rental car and headed south to join Bryce in Stuttgart. By this time though, it was almost dark. And with freezing cold temperatures, and wet roads.. a two hour drive.. stick shift... we made it to Stuttgart. It amazes me sometimes (I'm not sure why) how bases are very inconsistent of the services they offer. But, you make due. This base, has a bowling alley. Which is a plus. Bryce and Lilly had a good time. I didn't get to bowl, as my back has been having issues this trip.. and, it turns out.. the dog doesn't like being left alone. He dug his way out of the soft-sided kennel, and it now has a hole that he can escape from. So.. we had to buy him a new kennel. Lets hope the next airline approves it!
Bowling on base
When Bryce finally got a day off, we were pretty lazy for a while. However, I had to light a fire under their butts and say "Um, we're in Germany! Let's go see it!". So, we headed to downtown Stuttgart. Here is where I felt like we stuck out like a sore thumb. This is where I didn't want people to know we were tourists. But, this is also where Bryce claims "you sold me on Europe, I'd love to live here." Even though Bryce has spent 12 years overseas, none of it has been to Europe. So, there is hope for my wish of living in Europe to come true yet!
Palace Square in Stuttgart
Today, we got up with an agenda. Drive two hours to Bavaria and see the castle that inspired Disney to create Cinderella's castle, Neuschwanstein Castle. We didn't leave as early as I'd hoped.. but it took a while to melt the freezing rain off of our car with no ice scraper. The drive down was slippery too in some spots. But we made it safely.
Now, mind you.. this is my fifth trip to Germany.. and not once have I been in this corner of Germany. The last time I was in Germany, I was in Munich.. and we were SO CLOSE.. but we just didn't have the time to get there. It's a little off the beaten path. So, I've been wanting to see this castle for YEARS. So, when I arrived and I finally saw it.. I was like a little kid in a candy shop. I LOVE taking pictures (ask anyone), and this is a photographers paradise! If you ever come to visit.. you have to buy tickets in town before heading up the hill. You can buy tickets for one, or both castles, and also a museum ticket. Lilly wanted to do all three. This shocked me, because usually she finds this stuff boring. But she swore she would make it through. First stop, Hohenschwangau Palace. Tour leaves in 20 minutes.. get up the hill as fast as you can! No time for pictures. Don't forget to find exact change for the bathroom.. except it's free at the top. Good thing I brought my inhaler! We make it just in time. About 300,000 visitors come to this palace. And about 1.5 million visit Neuschwanstein castle. So, the tour group was nice and small. The palace was a converted ruined fortress under the reign of King Maximilian II. Their vacation home, and where King Ludwig II (who built Neuschwanstein Castle) came as a child.
Took our time coming down the hill to take pictures. However, we planned on taking the horse-drawn carriage up to Neuschwanstein Castle, as it was a 40 minute walk UPHILL. The line was very long, so we got in line as soon as we could. Note to anyone who wants to take the carriages.. they wait at the top until someone wants to come down. So, they don't keep going non-stop.. which means, you have no idea how long you will wait at the bottom to get up. Again, had to rush to the top (the carriages don't go ALL the way, there is still a 10 minute steep hill climb to the entrance of the castle)... inhaler not working when it's so cold and so steep. But we make it, just before they close off the entrance for our tour. The castle was not what I expected on the inside. It was very dreary. Some rooms were quite bright and ostentatious, but most of it wasn't. And King Ludwig II didn't get to live in it very long. I wondered if he ever got to every part of the castle. There was even a man-made cave. And children's rooms when he had no children, married, but a homosexual.. and was declared insane.
There was a quote in the museum:
"Ludwig II is the best-known ruler from the House of Wittelsbach and the most famous 19th-century German king. His life, his suffering and his death are shrouded in many secrets. He retires from the public eye at an early age and the attractive, 18-year-old ruler becomes a king known for the most part only through pictures. His homoerotic tendencies, which he perceives to be sinful, jibe rise to rumours. His passion for building things - and the perosonal debts he accumulates as a result of this - lead to discussions as to his mental state. A report arranged by the government and put together by the psychiatrist Bernhard Gudden forms the basis of his incapacitation. A few days later, the 40-year-old king dies in Lake Starnberg, together with Gudden, on 13 June 1886. The exact circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear.
Ludwig II becomes the Fairytale King, a legend. On the walls of Bavarian taverns he embodies Bavarian identity, lost statehood, defiant self-confidence against "those up there." In his castles, Ludwig fabricated for himself an aesthetic, artistic world, into which countless visitors have come to project their own desires, dreams and hopes since his death. In the media age, Ludwig II is an icon of modernity."
Also in the museum, there was a point where you sat and listened to this song. Imagine, if you were in this majestic castle, in this beautiful country, listening to this music. I believe you would understand the dreams of Ludwig II. Maybe if he lived today, he wouldn't be considered abnormal, mad, or insane. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the castle. But if you saw the paintings on his walls, you would feel the romance in his heart.
We hope to come back here, preferably when it's a little warmer! I discovered some good photo spots, but when it was after dark. So, I need to go back and take more pictures (of course).
The drive home, I was a little braver on the Autobahn. Bryce "claims" he got up to 205 kph (127 mph) last week when he drove to Stuttgart all by himself. I only got up to 180 kph (111 mph). And that was when the road was straight and dry and at night. But most of the time, I only went 160 kph (99 mph) when there was no speed limit.
The rest of this week will probably be uneventful. The rental car gets returned tomorrow. So, we will be sticking close to the base. However, myself and the girls might take the bus to the Mercedes Museum and see some fast cars. But, we will see how things go! After all the activity today, I'm ready to take it easy. And that would also mean we'd have to leave the dog alone in the hotel room, and we already know how he will handle that.
The next leg of our journey to Africa is a long one. But, we are ready for some warmth!
Stuttgart, Germany - 28 degrees