And so, we left Toronto in a bit of a rush after visiting my friends amazing four day old baby. We were exhausted and had a million bags to pack, but we ran across the city to meet her beautiful new person and it was so worth it! After stopping quickly for a drink at Milestones, we rushed home and packed all of the things we had accumulated over Christmas just minutes before my uncle picked us up to bring us to the airport.
Away we went, and after an hour in Toronto rush hour traffic (we love you Uncle Doug!), we made it to the airport and before we knew it, we were touching down in Iceland. I can attest to the sheer joy of booking a flight mid-summer to Keflavik (WTF is Keflavik, you ask) when we started dreaming of the trip, and it was so wonderful to have a stopover after hours of flying. We landed at 6:45am to complete nothingness. There were no stars in the sky, no thought of a sunrise. It finally dawned on us (haha) that Iceland has no sunrise until noon during the winter! Neither of us had ever seen such blackness when flying and to be honest, it was pretty scary flying over icebergs in a tin can with wifi drinking gin and tonics (the Polish gentleman next to us was 6 beers in and quite drunk). We were on a tiny flight and had to get off to jump on a bus to change aircraft, but there was little snow in Reykjavik and we both decided that on the way home, sunlight or not, we will be back!
Around noon on the 22nd we landed in Frankfurt to an array of kids returning from holidays in the Middle East and Asia tanned and wearing funny hats and tank tops, with Bens wonderful family waiting to meet us. Bonus: His sister in law, 7.5 months pregnant! It was my wonderful idea to go to the final day of the Frankfurt Christmas Market after not sleeping for 48 hours, so we dropped off our bags and jumped on the Strassenbahn to downtown Frankfurt for some Wurst and Glühwein! There was a very high police presence because of terrorism threats but the Christmas cheer was still there and it was definitely worth going. I then went back to Bens brothers apartment and promptly fell asleep for 18 hours.
We spent a wonderful and hectic few days in Langen (just outside of Frankfurt city) with Bens brother and his fiancée, visiting with many family and friends, sleeping as much as possible, and making a Canadian-style turkey for an apprehensive audience who ended up loving it. It was a wonderful Christmas and my brain hurt after listening to so many different dialects, but apparently even in old age my brain still works and I can still understand everything!
After Christmas we made our way to Karlsruhe, the city Ben grew up in (about an hour south of Frankfurt) to stay with his parents for a few days of more family visits before heading back to Langen for New Year celebrations. Our New Year was a typical German affair: special Nuremberg sausages brought from his aunt and uncle, melting Bleigiessen over a candle to tell our fortunes for the new year, watching Dinner for One, and setting off large fireworks after drinking too much. We even ate lucky pig shaped bread after midnight! You have to love a country that sells alcohol, groceries and fireworks in the same store.
Overall, our New Year’s was great- no one blew off any fingers, we drank many bottles of cheap sparkling wine (2.59 €, you can’t beat that!), and our Bleigiessen gave us very favourable fortunes (I got a dragon, which apparently means I will ‘grow beyond myself’. Ben got what looked to be a large crab claw, which to me means he should eat more shellfish this year. His brother got an eagle, which means an upcoming wedding, spot on! And his fiancée got what looked to be a witch with a broom and very visible eyes, which had no proper meaning, but we were all very impressed).
After an entire day of recuperation (still on my theme of sleeping for many, many hours at a time), we decided to venture outside of the apartment and leave the province of Hessen for good ol’ Bavaria. We drove to a pretty little town on the River Main called Aschaffenburg to check out the castle and wander around. It was pouring rain and it didn’t help that everything in Germany had been closed for days (24 is Christmas day, 25th is Christmas day celebration 1, 26th is Christmas day celebration 2, and then there was a Sunday on the 27th, and on and on it went with reasons for every store and restaurant to be closed, because that’s how this crazy country works). The city was crowded with people and we only spent a couple of hours exploring, but every small town in Germany seems to have its own charm and I find I’m never bored!
On the 3rd we drove back to Karlsruhe to prepare for our bus trip around the country. The weather is finally starting to get a bit colder, even though the days have still been like spring. We went for walks around Bens small village, checked out the local horses and mules, and even had the joy of visiting the bird park in Friedrichstal! We saw owls, and ducks, and storks- it was great. Highlight of 2016!
This is a no-Starbucks town, so you have to make your own fun.
We spent a couple of days walking through the city and the Schlossgarten, and were able to meet up with some friends for a couple of very strong cocktails at a Mexican restaurant where you could roll a dice to decide the price… I ended up spending 1€ on a triple cocktail, how insane. We also had the privilege of meeting two beautiful new children from Bens old friend. Overall it has been wonderful spending time with so many family and friends that we weren’t able to see for the last 2.5 years.
Tomorrow (Jan. 6) is a holiday in Baden-Wurttemberg (the province Ben’s parents live in), where Christian children go door to door dressed as the Three Wise Men and write in chalk above people’s doors while asking for money to donate to various charities. I find it a very odd tradition but it basically translates to the Epiphany in Christian belief (from registering with the city and having to state my religion to strange random holidays, Germany constantly teaches me about Christianity and it’s always something new!).
So tomorrow will be another ‘quiet day’, where everything is closed and everyone puts on their walking shoes to go wander around in the fields or drive across the border to France, where everything is still open. We will go for a nice walk and dinner, and then pack for our bus trip. The next part of Big Trip is three weeks exploring Germany, so stay tuned 🙂
We have taken 1 ferry, 4 airplanes, 1 bus, 1 train, several strassenbahnen and car rides. We have travelled approximately 11,785km in 38 days and have been to 3 countries.