Saturday, May 25, 2013

Don't Make Me Leave

Our time in Paros is over, sadly. I am leaving with my fingernail scratches on the doorframe and look forward to sharing more about this beautiful island soon.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

This Is 40

What better place for the big 4-0 than on the lovely, Greek island of Paros.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Room With A View

After a short flight from Naples to Athens, then a long, hot slog on bus, metro, and a critical wrong turn out of the metro stop, we arrived at our Athens hotel. And found an incredible surprise upon opening our hotel room door. This view. And I needed an uplifting moment.
Two years ago, we had a six hour layover in Athens and raced from the airport into town (a one hour trip) just to see the Acropolis. We did get to see it, but due to strike, we couldn't climb up to see the Parthenon up close. Upon arrival at our hotel this afternoon, our nice clerk answered our inquiry about closing time of the Acropolis with Sad Face. "It closed at 3pm today." We are in Athens only for this afternoon, so my heart sank. Then we got to our room and found this incredible view of the Temple of Athena and the Parthenon. Glory be!

Nathan took La Bimba for a mid-afternoon snack while I went off to get a SIM card for our phone (in Greece, it is more complicated than other European countries and involves registering your passport). Then we meandered around, ate frozen yogurt at a fix-your-own-toppings-bar that had about 53 topping options, walked (very slowly) around the Plaka neighborhood at the foot of the Acropolis, and finally reached the Museum at about 5:30. I stood, gazing longingly at the Parthenon, so high and out of reach. And noticed people at the top. A quick check in with the museum info desk confirmed that we could, in fact, climb to the top. Sad Face hotel clerk was Wrong! And it was Free today! We strapped on La Bimba and started up, up, up.

I will admit that we have become jaded in our travels. On the airplane, we were reading an article about a town we had not seen. The words that came out of my mouth when looking at a photo of this pretty town's piazza, ringed with beautiful buildings, were, "Blah, blah, blah."

Then we climbed up a hill and stood in front of the Parthenon! I never imagined it would feel as special as it did. I remember little more than absolutely nothing of my history lessons (and haven't had a second to read the guidebook either), but still, walking around the top of the Acropolis was an extra special life moment. I am typing out this post on my phone tonight while sitting in bed and looking up at the temples, lit up and dominating the view. And I cannot believe I'm here!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Little Bit of Envy

I have to show just two photos, both blurry and indistinct, but both showing little details of living in Germany that make us quite envious.

The preface to the above photo is a story about a trip to our local, large mall here in the Campania region. A few months ago, when the Babe was probably four months old or so, a friend and I spent a few hours at a local shopping mall. At that time, Nora was pooping once a week, and when she went, it was a complete, blowout disaster. And yes, I'm going somewhere with this. I'm not just talking about my baby's poop for no reason. As we strolled around, the air began to smell a little funny, and I got a sinking feeling deep in my heart. One closer whiff confirmed my Mommy sniffer - humongous blowout time. Thankfully, we were in a store right next to the public restrooms. While my friend continued shopping, I headed off to take care of this disaster. At home, I'm blessed with a bidet, which we used to call the Foot Washer, but now call the Baby Washer. It's the perfect size to clean up these types of issues. Out and about is a different story. I don't think Italians take their babies out for longer than an hour or two because I've yet to find a bathroom with a changing table. Or even enough clean(ish) floor space to lay the baby down and make do. Surely the mall will have something. Surely. And it did. Inside the tiny, two stall bathroom was a fabric changing table that looked to be roughly 40 years old. That guess is from a far away glimpse since there was a family of only three somehow taking up all available floor space and stalls, one of which the changing table blocked. Even if I could have gotten to it, I could not, in my heart, put my poop covered baby onto this fabric knowing that other babies might be put upon it later. I turned around and found a corner of the mall near the bathrooms, sort of out of foot traffic, and changed Nora there. When the lady whose family had been taking up all the room came out, she scolded me and told me there was a changing table. At that point, I was holding up a bare bottomed child and doing my best to wipe and wipe and wipe and wipe. Then my friend came out of the store and just laughed and laughed.

Fast forward to Germany and the mall. Diaper change time. We all headed for the bathrooms, and imagine our surprise when we saw a big sign to an entirely separate room just for diaper changes. We asked the attendant in disbelief if Nathan and I could both go into it and walked into diaper changing paradise. A huge room. Huge! Just for parents. With an adult table and chair (for nursing, perhaps?), a kid size table and chairs for the toddler siblings, a long, deep counter with TWO, plastic change pads and a heat lamp on the wall above them. A heat lamp, I say! I instantly wanted to move to Germany.

Then at our departure airport, a small airport, we found that they did not allow gate checking of strollers. We would have to leave it with the oversize luggage department before going through security. We were distressed. Carrying around a squirmy or sleeping 18 pounds is not for the weak (which I am). Then the gate agent said some magical words: "There are airport strollers for your use just over there." Hmmmm? Airport strollers? We walked in confusion in the vague direction to which she'd pointed, and sure enough, an entire line of strollers. Just put in your euro coin deposit to unlock it, and you are home free all the way to the gates, where there is a handy drop-off point. Germany is just a wonderland of efficiency.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pretty, Clean, Orderly, Perfect

This is 40 dawned sunny and warm. Jens walks to a bakery each morning when he has guests to provide pretzel rolls and croissants for breakfast, along with yogurt, fruit, meat, and cheese. I like his "hotel" very much! The party was great fun, held in his parent's storybook backyard, and filled with friends, delicious food, and relaxing. Nathan and I both agreed that the day was one of the most relaxing we'd had in months - and there is some unfortunate photographic evidence of just how relaxed I was when I fell asleep while sitting up. That evidence will not be shown here. Nora was introduced to grass, and she is now ruined for any lawn we might ever provide to her (see above photo). Jens's parents must have enjoyed their time with Nora since they offered to keep her the following evening while we went out to dinner. TWO nights out for us! We LOVE Germany and Jens and his parents!
Jemke, the village where Jens's parents live - isn't it just so perfect. Everything
is exactly in its place. I did find one yard that had some WEEDS growing - the
horror. I'm pretty sure those neighbors are ostracized and talked about at length.

Wooden carving in the
Tangermünde Church; I
desperately want this pretty
lady to be in my house.
We spent the next day walking around lovely Tangermünde, a 750 year old town on the Elbe River. Stopping in at a coffee roaster for a cuppa while I fed the babe allowed us to meet Coffee Guy - he really enjoyed his work. He roasts his own beans, and when I ordered a coffee with milk and sugar, he gasped a drawn out, "Noooooo," with a look of horror. Then gave us a whole show about the different techniques he uses to prepare coffee - one way is that the coffee never touches anything but porcelain, in another, it's filtered through paper into a glass beaker, and so on. I love interacting with someone who is truly passionate about his work. I always leave their presence feeling so inspired.

City Hall
Pretty Tangermünde

For the evening, we met up with some of Jens's friends whom we have had the pleasure of meeting before, leaving Nora behind once again. Feeling more confident that she wouldn't terrorize her new "Oma and Opa," we fully enjoyed a rare time out - and even rode bicycles to the event we cannot do in Naples. Here in the sud, bicycling is only done on weekends in groups of 30 or so, and one absolutely must wear matching outfits with your fellow cyclists. No bicycling to errands or daily life, only touring.

We loved getting to see Jens again, reconnecting with another friend whom we were shocked to realize we had not seen in 10 years (and who spent three days totally loving on Nora - Nora was as happy visiting Germany as we were), and just stepping outside the chaos of the life in the Sud for a little bit of German orderliness.

Even the post boxes are perfect.
In addition to the timber frame buildings, Tangermünde
has beautiful, ornate door frames.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Where Were We...

So the "Where Are We?" photo from last week of us in front of the castle...

We cannot seem stay away from Germany. The friend mentioned previously in the Christmas Market blog recently had his 40th birthday. We took a long weekend for the birthday bash, making it our last chance to get up there before our return to the US of A. What a great visit! Usually, I over-plan our trips by about one day, so that the day before our return, we're regretting that final day. We just get a little greedy and don't leave a place on the upswing. This most recent trip to our friend's house is the one time where on the final day, we were both moaning and groaning about how we wished we were staying just one more day.

Our friend, Jens, lives in Wolfsburg, home of the Autostadt (sort of a museum type of thing built around the VW plant). His parents live nearby, and past visits have always included a visit to his parents, usually for some type of meal (and always amazing!). This time around, we spent one day waiting on Lufthansa to deliver our car seat and stroller that they'd "lost." This was quite irritating since the items that should never be delayed are those for an infant. Please, keep my extra clothing and toiletries, but my baby's car seat is kind of a least in Germany. In Germany, not putting your child in a car seat probably results in significant jail time or banishment. In Italy, I've yet to see a child put into a car seat. How can these two countries exist so close in distance to one another, yet so vastly far apart in culture.

Once all luggage was in hand, we had a nice Happy Hour while Jens's parents babysat Nora - our first time leaving her other than a short time when she was four weeks old and stayed home with my grandmother while we went out one morning. It seemed to go well, although I think I spent much of Happy Hour looking at my watch and quizzing Jens about whether or not his parents would actually call of us if they were having trouble. We had no qualms about Nora's well being, but were very concerned that his parents might be stuck with a screaming infant. We returned to a sleeping baby and content looking "Oma and Opa."
We left Nora in Germany to be raised by the wolves of Wolfsburg.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Christmas Market Wrap-Up

Nuremberg Rooftops
I have a few more photos from our 2011 German Christmas Market trip. An old friend drove down from his home in the north to spend a long weekend with us. We took a daytrip to the beautiful and crowded Nuremberg. For a town that was so heavily bombed in WWII, it sure does retain an amazing amount of character. The Christmas Market in Nuremberg was wall to wall people, so by the time we reached the end of the very first aisle, we were already in need of a respite via a cup of gluhvein. And after that drink, we decided we could skip the other aisles, tour the church, and walk around the town. Supposedly, you can climb up into the old city walls and walk along the covered passageway. We found an entrance, climbed some stairs, and ended up in some family’s kitchen. They waved us on, so we climbed some more and found ourselves in an art gallery that seemed to be closed, despite the open door. We took a couple of photos and made our way down to the street and around the corner to the castle, which had amazing views over the city.

Pretty Nuremberg

Inside the Nuremberg cathedral

Schloss Nymphenburg
Back in Munich for our final couple of days, we visited the very large, English Garden, which has a Chinese Tower (and another Christmas Market) in the center of it, peaceful pathways, and the very odd feature of a manmade surf break. These people are cra-cra for sure. Surfing in Germany in December…no, thank you. We also took in a quick walk around Schloss Nymphenberg – while we packed a lot of “seeing” into the days, we didn’t pack in a lot of “doing.” We mainly just wanted to wander around with our friend and visit. Mission complete.

Chinese Tower in the English Garden
Inland Surf Break

One of the more ornate, shop signs in Nuremberg