Saturday, March 16, 2013

Greetings from Deutschland!

After our whirlwind stay in London, we caught the bus to Stuttgart, Germany.  How, you may ask, does one take a bus from England to continental Europe?   Well, in our case, the bus boarded the train, which passed underneath the English Channel via the Eurotunnel.  An odd experience, to be sure, as the bus driver expertly  maneuvered the double-decker vehicle onto a train car that allowed about two centimeters of space on all sides of the bus.  There was barely any light once we were in the tunnel, and no perceptible movement towards our destination.  However, somehow, after 30 minutes, we found ourselves in France.  

Arriving at, let's just say, one of the less-polished areas of Paris several hours later, we waited inside a McDonald's at a nearby mall for our connecting overnight bus to Stuttgart.  You may have some questions at this point, such as "why the #^%$ did you guys take the bus that far" and "why McDonald's"?   We bussed it for the price (even cheaper than the budget airlines at 4 pounds from London to Paris!) and the opportunity to see the drive (which, in all honesty, wasn't that amazing, but at least we saw it!).  And placing ourselves firmly in the "budget travel" category, we have been known to patronize the McDonald's dollar menu, or in this case, "one-euro" coffee menu.  Plus, they have Internet...  Don't judge!  (Full disclosure: those were not the best three hours of our lives, as the establishment was filthy, deafeningly noisy, and the bathroom boasted a nauseating combination of smells, along with a piece of petrified excrement on the floor.)  We will be back to Paris later on in our trip, and this mall will not be on our list of places to visit...

The next morning, we rumbled up to an industrial area of Stuttgart, Germany after a long night with thirty chatty, chain-smoking French teenagers and a rowdy Bulgarian(?) dude that came close to getting into a fistfight with our emotionally labile bus driver who regularly screamed at the aforementioned teenagers to pipe down.  Since we are too cheap to buy SIM cards in every country we visit, we had attempted via Skype to pin down beforehand where to meet my parents and sister once we arrived, but ultimately had to just walk in circles until we found each other.  

Once we did, it was a wonderful reunion in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, my ancestors' area of origin, where I lived as a very young child, and where my sister currently resides, working on her Master's degree at the University of Hohenheim.  It was as if the family had come full-circle in a way, and the fact that it was one of my husband's dream travel destinations made it all the more meaningful.  

Since our stay in Germany has resulted in a multitude of photos, I will leave you with snaps of Stuttgart for starters.  It is just really hard to refrain from photographing the heck out of the elegant buildings, monuments, fairy-tale landscapes and amusing travel activities, and with the excessive amount of photo storage we made sure to line up, why not snap away?

A castle in downtown Stuttgart.

City Hall, reconstructed in the Roman style after WWII.

A grand library with surrounding pond.

A majestic schwann.

Part of a Roman wall in the middle of a city park!

A grand hilltop university building.

Public descriptions of spa-mineral bath activities for visitors.  Apparently 80s aerobics garb is a prerequisite...

As my sister puts it, "an awkwardly-proportioned statue" along a riverside walkway.

Beech tree (I think) walkway.

A book, a bike, and a park.

Mom and Papa on our train to Tuebingen, where my sis resides.

My hubby with my sister, whom I had not seen in over a year :(

Stay tuned for a photographic journey through our other German destinations......

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