First Lessons of European Travels

 1. Research you are going [Better]:

2. Don’t take number one lightly

3. Buy appropriate luggage

*** A Northface backpack a piece plus the black bonus bag is not sufficient. This may cause you to have to purchase a hot pink suitcase because you get tired of lugging the stupid bulky black bag that you only have in the first case because your suitcases were 16 lbs. over the limit when you came to Ireland.

4. Establish a budget. The parents who will bail you out and fund your gallivanting through Europe will especially appreciate this.

5. Book hostels ahead of time. Failure to do so may result in you finding a lodging in which past residents warn of the mold that you can smell in your sleep

6. You can’t do it all. Best to make the most of what you can do.

7. You will get tired and the bad days are inevitable. Maintaining a positive perspective is important.

8. Your parents once told you not to talk to strangers. However, if you don’t talk to strangers, you will get bored fairly quickly and miss out on enlightening conversations. Nonetheless exercise your judgment and do not talk to sketchy looking individuals

9. Capitalize on as many free things as possible: i.e. free hostel breakfast, free chocolate samples, free attractions, free lodgings from your mother’s wonderful German family, etc.

10.  Be aware of your surroundings and have fun!

We left Dublin on March 29th. It was snowing. Snow follows me everywhere. Not only does it Never snow in Ireland, but it also never snows in March. Luckily it did not hinder travel plans and we made it to the Frankfurt airport safely. My parents were on a different flight, and the German airports have these really great “Treffpunkt” (meeting point) that we had planned to meet up at. Two hours after the intended meeting time, however, both parties- my parents as well as Maura and I, were rather concerned. I believe that my mom actually had us paged on the airport intercom system. Eventually, we somehow figured out that there were two terminals and the whole debacle was sorted out and we went to go get lunch.

Castle where we ate lunch in Aschaffenburg

            After a German meal in SchlossJohannisberg (Johannisberg Castle in Aschaffenburg, we drove to Oberbessenbach, where my mother lived for several years and where my adopted German Oma lives. This was my first opportunity to encounter a language barrier. Oma speaks no English. I speak a little, my Dad speaks even less, and my Mom has enough of a vocabulary to get by, but never bothered with grammar, so she sounds like she’s about 5. Maura speaks absolutely no German. But somehow, we all managed to get by. Mainly because Oma would just sit there and babble away in German- regardless of whether you understood her or not. The essential topics of conversation were, for all you non-German speakers out there:

–           “Kuchen?” (Do you want cake?)

  • Response: Nein

–          Gute Schlafen? (Did you sleep well?)

  • Ja, ja!

–          Guten Morgen/nacht/tag! (good morning/night/day)

And that’s how things went for a while. Oma’s son, Karl Heinz, took it upon himself to play host to us, since Oma is very old, and we saw the greater Oberbessenbach area on our first 2 hour tour, which included a presentation at the town hall  (Rathaus) of the area on Googlemaps and a tour of Karl Heinz’s house.

Me, Maura, and Karl Heinz at gastthaus dinner! Oberbessenbach - picturesque German village!


            Day 2 of Germany with my parents began with a drive to Nurnberg, a medieval walled city that was destroyed in WWII and rebuilt in the 1960s. It had a wonderful market place, where, my mother, Maura and I found things to buy and my Dad found things to complain about. After a German lunch of bratwurst and desert of Spaghetti Eis (vanilla ice cream in the shape of spaghetti with strawberry spaghetti sauce and white chocolate “cheese” topping- I have no idea why this is such a big thing in Germany, but it was delicious :), we drove on in attempt to find the church where my parents had been married. (This is how that went: “David that’s it!” “No Gayle, that house wasn’t there when we got married” “Oh, I guess you’re right, let’s keep looking” [drive on for 20 minutes] “David, I think that must have been it” “Yeah, I suppose they could have built that house in the last 27 years, must have been it”[turn around and go take pictures]). Then we went to Rothenburg, another medieval walled city, where we were staying for a night.

My parents and I in Nurnberg

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

            We met up with my mom’s best friend and spent the following day in the city, wandering in and out of shops, visiting a slightly boring medieval crime museum, and partaking in the consumption of Schneeballin, which are these pie crust fried balls covered in chocolate or sugar or whatever you chose. After that adventure, we drove back to Oma’s for a little longer. It didn’t take too much time to realize that another 4 days at Oma’s were probably not ideal for Maura and myself, so my Mom and I formulated another plan. The next day we decided that Maura and I were going to go to Rosi’s, another one of Oma’s children, for a night in Cologne, Germany! And this was where the train adventures began!