This and That, German Holiday Edition

This And That
This And That

“Now, meanwhile, the clock, it just ticked on
As clocks are known to do
For time’s their only purpose
Their only point of view”

So, one of my favorite lines from one of my all-time favorite albums, Beethoven’s Last Night, created by the amazing musical group “Trans-Siberian Orchestra”; a reminder that I haven’t written anything in this humble blog for many months and I’m past due.

Still in School

So, I went back to school starting last January. I enrolled in a master’s program in education, specifically Instructional Design and Technology at George Mason University, which is reasonably local to home and work. Fortunately, most of my classes have been/will be online which saves me from major headaches driving around northern Virginia.

I’m now starting my third semester as I took both spring and summer classes. I’m planning on completing this program in two years so I’m carrying a full load of two classes per semester. I’ve been managing to juggle classes and work so far but my free time is severely restricted. Meaning I didn’t get in much boating time this past summer and I’m grumpy about that.

In other news, Winnie and I did get in a nice vacation trip this summer. We squeezed in a two-week trip to Germany between the end of my summer session and start of Fall session. It put our trip at peak of tourist season, but it was OK.

Vacationing in Germany

We flew into Frankfurt, Germany, and went over to Wiesbaden to spend a couple of nights with my niece Tiara. She’s been working in Germany for the past several years so had the German life down solid. Our plans were to do some traveling in the area for several days then meet up with Tiara’s dad Mike and his wife, who were also coming in for a two-week trip but on a different schedule. However, we changed plans about the time we arrived in Frankfurt as Winnie really wanted to experience Rome, Italy.

As soon as we arrived in Wiesbaden, we went online to look for last-minute tickets down to Rome. We found some for the next day, then found a three-star Pensiones right near the Rome train station for three nights. Then, Tiara took us out on the town to enjoy a local wine festival where I did enjoy several fine German wines.

A Detour to Rome

The next day we jetted down to Rome. It was my first time back in Italy since I’d left from my NATO tour in Naples in 1993. Some things had changed, but some things were the same. Such as, people hustling in the airport for van rides into town, and 20-minute trip from the airport. We got settled into our hotel, had lunch, then went out sight-seeing. Winnie’s first request was the colosseum, so we found the Rome metro, got a map, and found our way there.

The Colosseum had changed considerably since my last trip. It’s now a World Heritage site which apparently brought in a lot of money and professional attention. It was almost one hour through the line and security to get in, then we fought the crowds while exploring. Among other changes, archaeologists are working to replace the floor of the Colosseum, rebuilding the walls of the subterranean rooms. It’s quite an interesting project, one that I hope to see finished on a possible future trip back.

Over the next two days we visited the Vatican and I had a chance to see the entire artwork of the Sistine Chapel completely cleaned. On my last trip the ceiling had been completed but the side walls were just being started. We did walking/metro tours to the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and Plaza Navona in between Winnie shopping for handbags and other Italian-leather stuff. We also spent a half-day walking along the Tiber River and just enjoying the feel of being in Rome. It was a bitter-sweet trip for me, being back in Italy after so many years, and brought back a lot of memories.

Then it was back to Frankfurt and the next part of our trip. We discovered that we’d had some confusion on Mike’s travel plans, and he wasn’t actually coming in until later in the week. We didn’t want to wait longer as we were heading up to northern Germany and the Netherlands. I had rented a car for our trip, so the day after returning from Rome we started our driving tour heading north.

Back in Germany

Our first stop was in Rotterdam, Netherlands, just for the evening. The next day we toured one of the places I’d wanted to see for most of my life, Kinderdijk and the famous network of windmills dating back to the 18th century. From there we headed west to Nordenham, Germany. This was the birth home of my maternal Grandfather and I’d always wanted to see the area. This turned out to be a low-lying region of small towns surrounded by dairy farms interspersed with drainage canals. We stayed in a wonderful Bed and Breakfast (Gasthaus) here, one of the nicest B&Bs I’ve experienced.

My grandfather’s oldest brother Otto had been a sea captain and for he later part of his life ran a ferry boat between Blexen, a coastal town next to Nordenham, and Bremerhaven. So, we took the modern ferry boat crossing just to experience it. It wasn’t the same boat my great-uncle commanded as he passed in the early 1980s. But it was a nice feeling to see the ferry route Otto would have been on. It also took us directly into Bremerhaven.

We spent a few hours in Bremerhaven at the harbor and touring one of the last remaining German WWII submarines. The Wilhelm Bauer (originally designated U-2540) is a Type XXI U-boat that was built at the end of WWII and never saw war service. She was scuttled, then in the 1950s salvaged and put back into service with the German navy as a training sub. Now it’s on permanent display and seeing it was quite a thrill for me. I think Winnie enjoyed seeing it as much as I did.

From Bremerhaven we headed over to Berlin. We’d hoped to make this drive in one day but got stuck in a traffic jam that delayed us beyond what my patience could deal with. We stayed over in Hanover, then went on to Berlin the following day. Here we had another nominally-rated two-star hotel in the downtown area, next door to a metro stop and above street-level cafes, restaurants, and a bakery.

We spent three nights in Berlin, touring the city and doing more shopping. I picked up a lot of history on the Berlin Wall and Russian-occupation of East Germany I never knew, even though I lived that part of cold-war history on active duty.

From Berlin we drove back to Wiesbaden with a lunch stopover in Leipzig. We spent the last couple nights with Tiara again and toured the old-town part of Frankfurt on our last day in Germany. Then it was back to the ‘States and work, and school.

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