January 25, 2015

Germany Trip

Alan and I made it to Germany and back. Our work contracts allow for a full week off between the 2nd and 3rd quarters, so we decided to visit my grandparents and then see Dresden, a city neither of us had been to.

Selected highlights of the trip:

Breakfast selections prepared by Oma. German breakfast might even beat Turkish breakfast...don't tell anyone. Oma's breakfast spread includes aged pork sausage, several varieties of light cheeses, the most delicious homemade bread, homemade jam, and boiled eggs. There's a pot of coffee ready, and German oldies playing on the radio. It's awesome.

German beer. There is beer in Turkey, but I can't say that it's good. It's sort of light Keystone light. But maybe worse. Anyway, Alan and I filled up while we could, enjoying one of Germany's traditions--when you are thirsty, drink beer.

Speaking some Deutsch. You may or may not know that I can speak German. I'm not as fluent as I once was, but compared to the ridiculous time I have speaking Turkish, using German is like a hot knife through butter. I felt my brain synapses firing in ways they haven't for a while. I ordered food, translated, and even managed some conversations with my grandparents. Learning languages--it's a good thing!

Using some Turkish. Although we are beginners, Alan and I know enough Turkish to say nice things during service encounters. At the Frankfurt airport, there are plenty of Turks, and we made use of our Turkish while getting our rental car. It was fun.

Tour of Melsungen. My grandparents live in a small village in central Germany, which means they often visit neighboring towns for shopping. In the past, both of their sons worked in Melsungen, a small town just down the road. The town is well-known as the home of Braun pharmacuticals and for its Fachwerkhaus architecture. Opa and Oma gave us a tour of the city after we strolled along the Fulda river. When we were chilled to the bone, they took us for coffee hour at a cafe.

Coffee hour is pretty much the best thing ever. Germans often break in the late afternoon for a cup of coffee and a slice of rich cake. Over the week we we in Germany, I tried a cheesecake and an special Egg cake (it's like cheesecake and custard had a delicious baby). I drank too much coffee.

Touring the Bergpark in Kassel. Oma and Opa took us to the park, but only Alan and I climbed the million stairs to the top, where the Herkules statue watches over the city. Then we all had lunch before continuing to the surprising awesome castle nearby.

Hanging out with my grandparents. I don't know how many grandkids are this lucky, but I've got awesome grandparents on two continents. My German grandparents are a lot of fun. They like to host, share good food and drink, and make jokes. Spending a few days with them was good for my soul.

Spending time with my husband. Of course we had challenges of vacationing, including driving in a foreign country, but we also had the awesome random parts, like walking around in Pirna and Jena (awesome city with an even finer name). We learned that a little coffee and cake fix a lot of things between 3 and 5 PM when lunch has worn off. We learned that navigating is better when you don't worry about messing up. We were also able to hold hands in public (comfortably) for the first time in a while...yes, we live in Kayseri.

Kurt Vonnegut tour in Dresden. If you've read the literary classic Slaughterhouse 5, you know that Dresden was destroyed in World War 2. Vonnegut's novel is set partially in Dresden, and a tour guide offers a walk and learn session just outside the city center to the actual Slaughterhouse where Vonnegut was himself held as prisoner. Although the walk was cold and I hadn't finished the book yet, the tour was excellent and enriched my Dresden experience.

Guacamole. Our funky hipster neighborhood in Dresden offered a Mexican restaurant, and for these two Arizona transplants living in Turkey, it was too good to resist. We went there twice actually. The chimichangas were good, the guacamole appetizer was amazing, and the BBQ ribs--a little slice of American Tex-Mex heaven. Actually an enormous slice. I think I gained three pounds in that sitting.

Bastei Bridge. In Saxony, the region of Germany bordering Poland and the Czech Republic, there is a fantastic bridge to what was once a mighty castle. It's hard to describe, but on our particular visit, the weather was pretty bad. It was totally foggy so we could just make out the whimsical rock formations jutting up from the valley floor. Not unlike Utah or Cappadocia, the strange formations added an air of mystery, especially when coupled with the fog. We enjoyed touring the former castle, treading carefully on parapets suspended in the mist. We looked out over the river Elbe, we imagined riding horses up the steep hill to the imposing castle. Despite the weather, it was cool.

Dresden city center. I mean, you will be hard pressed to see more beautiful buildings in one place. The rebuilt and renovated structures in Dresden are stunning. I actually enjoyed strolling aimlessly, which isn't something I'm good at.

Drinking hot white spiced wine outside at a cheery winter market. Add an outdoor fireplace and my husband, and I've got a winning combination.

So basically: family, pork, alcohol, bad weather. Did I mention that basically it wasn't sunny at all while we were in Germany? Not once? Yeah. That happened. Grey holiday. That was the trip in a nutshell. It was awesome, but I'm ready to get back to my routine in Talas. My body also is ready for a little break in the intense food and drink action. Bring on the Turkish tea and whole wheat bread, please.

By the way, I want to add that coming "home" to Turkey was surreal. Every day that I spend in Turkey makes this the longest I've ever been out of the US. My home is in Turkey now, which is totally weird. It feels good to be back, and I'm looking forward to what's in store for us in the coming semester.