Monday, August 20, 2012

And Finally, The Last Days in Germany

 After we got safely home to Amy's house from Burg Eltz, we had to revise our now carless plans a bit and thus stayed closer to home on Friday, with a movie and some yummy gyros in the mix. It turned out to be such a blessing that my brother loaned me such an awesome car, because we were all able to get where we needed to go, even without Amy's van.

On Saturday, it was time to head back up to Schalbruch to spend two last nights with my brother and family, then head home on Monday. It was becoming surreal to think that we would no longer be in Germany in such a very short time.

Before we drove north, we took some time to go explore one last castle ruin above the villages of Landstuhl and Ramstein. It was a fascinating place, carved from vivid red sandstone that seemed so fragile, yet had lasted all these centuries. It was a lovely way to end our time together with our good friends. As I think I've said about 42 times, one of the best parts of this trip has been enjoying the hospitality of dear ones. Amy will likely not end up living near me again, so I am super-grateful for this week with her.

The day we got rescued by that fabu Mercedes truck, we were supposed to drive home through the lovely and scenic Mosel river valley, stopping in picturesque villages for ice cream along the way. That plan was not covered by the ADAC contract that Amy pays for, so on the way back to my brother's we decided to drive through the lovely and scenic Rhine river valley, the Mosel's big brother. It truly was lovely and scenic and I swear, there really was a CASTLE on the hills about every kilometer. I kept calling out to the kids, "Castle on the right!" "Ancient ruins on the left!" Amazing is the only way I can describe the visible history of this place. Anyway, we were aiming for ice cream at a town called Bacharach, but as we got there, the rain, which had been during our drive a charming and atmosphere-enhancing mist, suddenly became a savage downpour. That coupled with the fact that I had NO euro coins on me to pay for some parking caused us to stop briefly Bacharach (so we can say we've been there) but then we drove past, up the famous (and scenic) hills of the Rhine valley and back to the autobahn. It was okay, really. We'd been so blessed on this trip with sweet sights and special times. We couldn't really get greedy, especially when the rain was a blessing for the whole area after a super-hot week.

We had a hero's welcome from my niece and nephew, which was really fun. They are such great kids-smart and funny and so willing to shower us with love and affection. Before we went to bed, the grownups made our plan for our last day in Europe. We would go to some church in the morning, then continue our Sabbath-day devotions by going to Cologne (or Koln if you're German) to see the biggest cathedral of our trip.

And so we went: It was an easy drive to the perimeter,  an easy trip on the train to the station right next to said cathedral, a lovely day of enjoying Catholicism's finest art and architecture, lovely times donating my coins to buy a candle for my niece who said her prayer would be for all the people who were sick and for Jesus (it was quite sweet), and fun learning a bit about the history of Cologne and this impressive church. After the small and medium-sized cathedrals we've seen so far, this one is SO huge in comparison: Imposing and dark and gothic and unique because even though it was built in stages like most cathedrals were, this one had a consistent design vision and everything matches in style and decoration. I was very glad we went. I heard and read mixed things about Cologne, that it's plain and boxy and not such a nice place to visit, but our trip here on a sunny Sunday afternoon was full of city pleasures, with lots of people strolling in the plazas and streets and riverwalks, performing magicians, fountains, flea markets, and that amazing cathedral that survived the war because it was used as a landmark for planes (because it is so big) brooding over it all. I would definitely go back. It had a slightly calmer, quieter vibe than Amsterdam, but definitely felt quintessentially European, with all the diversity and of course the wonder always in my mind that this city has risen from ashes and been rebuilt from scratch in 70 years. Rock on Germany! Really, you impress me! I wonder sometimes if we in America could pull that off.  This blog has a bunch of really beautiful photos of Cologne that add significantly to my few here.

And so, here are the final photos I will share from our trip. I will write one last post that sums up the things I want to keep with me, but for now, I'm signing off. Thanks for taking the journey with me!

Landstuhl Castle:
Amy's family did their last family photo shoot here.
Even on a rainy day, look at the LIGHT!
Three boys keeping watch up high. 

The villages, framed perfectly. 

See the 6-year old there? This was one
of the walls that just seemed to grow
out of the sandstone. 
The entrance to the castle compound.
My kids do another one of their elegant poses. 
These folks all had such fun together. 
Two lovelies looking down. 
I heart this photo.  
And this one. 

And maybe this one most of all. I could not have asked for
two more fun companions. They are the best.

And Dom Cologne:

Checking the map at the train station. I actually love this little
The Dom. Incredible. 
Look at the detail of these carvings. This
is a mix of old and new, and each one tells
a bible story. 
Acres of stained glass. We decided we like the geometric
designs better than the pictorial ones. 

Perhaps the oldest thing we saw on our whole trip. This arch
is from Roman times, I think from about 50 AD. Cologne
has many Roman ruins, it seems. 

A rare photo of the photographer and friends. I still get
goosebumpy when I think that I was there, 4000 miles away,
Standing on stones made by people 2000 years ago!

So, is my nephew hilarious or what? He
totally did that on purpose. This is a scale
replica of the ornaments on the top of the
cathedral spires. Check out how tiny they
look in the photos and gain some perspective. 

These two drew quite a crowd, all trying to
figure out the trick. 

The coolness of the European rail system. 
The coolness of the American teen. 
L takes a break. 
I'm not sure I've ever mentioned how much I
Love. This. Baby. 

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