Week 4: Germany

Sunday

Our first Ryanair experience was a success. I upgraded our tickets to the Family Plus package which scored us two 20kg checked bags and assigned seats. You have to print your boarding passes at home or pay a €40 fee at the airport. That meant trying to figure out how to use the printer at our AirBnB that was low on ink.

Success! Katharine found a Youtube video that saved the day.

We found the rental car return after a few trips around the perimiter of the airport. I have never been as lost as I was trying to find Enterprise at the Dublin Airport.

It's a good thing we had the checked bags as we needed both. Ryanair's budget approach to flying is pretty nice if you pay attention. I was worried we'd be buried with additional fees but we made it with no trouble at all.

Our flight landed in Cologne around 4:30pm. From there it was a short train ride to Köln Hauptbahnhof. With a couple of hours to kill before our train to Hannover, we dragged our luggage outside to the square to take a look at the Cologne Cathedral and chase some pigeons.

This took 700 years to complete.

Our train arrived right on time. Since I knew it would be a long travel day for the kids I splurged for First Class. I think it was a difference of €20. Seems like that's worth the cost to me! We hopped on the train and found that we had almost the entire car to ourselves. Checking out the dining car was high on our list. Unfortunately there was an issue with the refrigerator so the menu was limited.

The train pulled in to Hannover Hauptbahnhof around 9:20pm. One more quick subway ride to our apartment for the next three weeks. We found it with no trouble and got settled quickly.

Monday

Let's explore Hannover! First order of the day was Frühstuck (breakfast). The bakery up the street had something for everyone. Oliver had a chocolate muffin, Wesley a Zuckerkuchen, and Ady a pretzel. Whatever floats your boats I suppose. I had a coffee and gained enlightenment.

We walked toward the city center to see what was available. We found a fantastic area with shops, restaurants, and cafes all around.

German food is all about the meat and potatoes so it was time for us to tuck in! Some pulled pork french fries and currywurst had everyone excited.

More walking led us to the old town of Hannover and the Rathaus. We took a detour through Marschpark and found a playground.

I wanted to see the Machsee, a giant man-made lake in Hannover. It's not too far from the park so we followed the road and popped out on the Northeast corner. Fortunately for us we're here during MachseeFest! There are food and drink vendors all along the perimeter of the lake.

There's also this statue left over from the Third Reich.

Vergangenheitsbewältigung: German for "the enduring confrontation with the past."

We strolled along the water watching the pedal boats. Oliver wants to come back and ride them. A left through a walking path leads us back to our apartment. Time for work, then dinner.

Our bedroom windows.
A view of Hildesheimer Straße. It's a pretty busy road!

Tuesday

Another slow day. Lounging around in the morning and doing some work for Mom and Dad. We took a short walk and found a few more Spielplatzen (playgrounds). The playgrounds in Europe are amazing. The kids love them.

In the evening we walked back over to the Machsee to check out the food. We had a meat skewer, a pretzel, and some tasty fried dough with powdered sugar.

I don't know what American crepes are. Do you?

Wednesday

First day of school. Since we're on the road full time, we'll be homeschooling the kids. Katharine put together curriculum and loaded up everyone's iPad with their workbooks and reading material.

A few lessons later and it was time for lunch.

Let's go to IKEA. Why? Food, of course. We also needed some more USB chargers for all the gadgets. We took the train 10 stops south to Laatzen. From there a walk across the motorway.

Steps to nowhere around the expo center.

We had schnitzel, meatballs, hot dogs, ketchup, and desserts until we couldn't have any more. We found our chargers and started back toward the train. Oliver has been playing a lot of Pokemon Go on the trip and found an interesting stop on the way back. It looked like a slide so we decided to check it out.

We found a gravel path off the road. In my American brain, it looked like somewhere you wouldn't go with kids. I spotted a Spielplatz sign, though, so we decided to explore anyway. I'm glad we did. It turned out to be one of the coolest playgrounds we've seen! A slide that had to have been 60 feet long appeared at the top of the hill. Behind that, a rope bridge.

We played for thirty minutes or so then stopped by the Rewe for some groceries. I took German for a total of about four years between high school and attempts at college. It's been sort of useful here. We've only met a few English speakers. I wish I had learned more conversational German. We ordered some ham at the deli counter and that felt like a pretty big success. "Ich hatte gern funf hundert gram schinken, bitte."

As an aside, another quick takeaway from Germany is the use of cash. They love it. The bakeries only take cash. Many restaurants are cash only. As a business owner, I understand and appreciate that. One of the points made by a restaurant owner is that he doesn't get paid for a week and he has to eat the fees.

The train back to our stop was a short walk from there.

Thursday

School and work today. We stayed around the apartment most of the day except for a quick trip to the Apple Store. I needed to pickup an adapter so we grabbed some lunch on the square.

Bratwurst mit Brotchen und sauerkraut.

Friday

Field trip! We walked the Red Thread. It's Hannover's self-guided walking tour of spots in the city. It was a mix of government buildings, malls, and historic places. You grab a booklet at the Tourist Information center near the main train station. From there you can follow the red line painted on the sidewalks. Each stop is numbered. Cafes and toilets are also noted along the way.

Saturday

Laundry day. Katharine hauled our clothes down to the Waschsalon for the second round of this trip. This time things went much more smoothly. The kids and I took a walk to explore another new playground and stroll along the Maschsee again.

This Nintendo truck was a big hit.

For dinner, we wanted to find a biergarten. We headed toward Bavarium. We grabbed a table in the back and ordered some beer.

Brotzeit (Bread Time). Yep, that's raw pork. It's called Mett.

After dinner, a quick stop by the market. Tomorrow is Sunday and everything is closed. We had to grab some stuff to keep everyone happy until Monday.

Before we took off on this trip I set up some old phones for the kids. We switched everyone over to Google Fi (referral link: I get free stuff and you do too if you use the link) for cheap international data. It gives them something to do on travel days and we can keep in touch with each other if we are separated.

It also makes learning new stuff in places where you don't speak the language possible.

Wesley reading a sign in German at the market.
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