Saturday, December 31, 2016

Day 13 - Yes there is one more blog entry

    I should start by saying I'm writing this blog with no sleep for almost 24 hours. The day started at 4:30 a.m thinking our plane would leave Frankfurt at 9:30. We arrive and learn the plane is scheduled to depart at 10:35. First we stop to check in our bags. Understand we took 3 large bags over to Germany. The extra bag cost 100.00 dollars. So we put the third bag inside one of the big bags (because we emptied it out in Germany). Of course we now have all the gifts that were purchased. So no surprise the bag was overwieght and the cost was 96 Euro's. But the bags were on their way to Kansas City (we thought). Then we decided to have breakfast with Sara and Aaron and a last visit. 
     Pam and I headed into the airport and if you've been reading my blog entries you know that every security check starting with KCI  has pulled Pam from the line for an additional security check. This includes going to Italy, coming back from Italy. Well Frankfort would be no different. She goes through the line only to be pulled to the side and have her bag checked. She had a small lotion bottle. that she throws away after the search. Then we arrive at the gate and sit inside the gate since there is no one to check us in (remember we are early). When someone shows up she tells us we need to step out of the seating area so they can check our boarding pass. When they see Pam's boarding pass they determine she was randomly selected to be searched, AGAIN!  This time they did a search of her bags, pat down and even checked the water bottle she had just bought.
    Well, we finally get inside the gate being some of the first. Then there's and announcement that we must leave the gate and go through security again. Everyone is confused and we head to the exit gate for security which would of taken us back out into the airport. Fortunately,  security tells us not to enter. Pam and I find ourselves behind a handful of people. Security continues to check folks who come in and go past us thinking they will get inside the gate (places even more folks in front of us).      
     Police had put up a tape about 30 feet from the gate not letting anyone through.  We also notice that the terminal has also been roped off. Later we learn that a package had been left unattended so the bomb squad was called. By the time they let us in, Pam and I find ourselves way in the the back. Worse yet, the plane is now over an hour late in departing.
     The flight was over 10 hours long and Pam slept most of the way. But yours truly just couldn't fall asleep. So I watched a number of videos. 
     For those who have never flown international. Let me take a moment and explain the experience. When we arrived at Atlanta we were instructed to follow the signs and would need to get a card from a machine before customs. What machine you ask? We had no clue but saw one as the crowd moved along and stopped. Pam put in her passport only to have the machine tell us - your at the wrong machine. So now a few folks have gotten in front of us. We move into a long line. When we get to the end of the line, we are instructed to scan our passports and answer the questions. When I got tot the machine I had an issue with my passport and the machine told me I needed to go to the custom counter. We went ahead and ran Pam's passport through. It worked and when she was done it allowed me to rescan my passport. Lucky me, it worked that time. 
     Now we moved to another long line and as we get to the end of the line a gentlemen instructed us to go left. Unfortunately, right had three customs agents and left had just one. So by the time we got up to the custom agent at least twenty people behind us had already gone through.  The custom's officer asked if we had and meats, foods, cigarettes or alcohol. Pam said no as I was about to admit we had couple of liquor bottles in the suit cases we checked. Lucky I didn't say anything. Might of look suspicious had our stores not lined up. 
     Next we had to find the luggage pickup. Once we pickup our luggage we rolled the two suitcases about 50 feet to recheck them in. All we did was hand them to the bag clerk and he threw them on the belt. 
     Last but not least, we had to go through security one more time. Again we are instructed to move left and find ourselves in a long line. The other lines are moving much faster. When we get to security, computer out of bag and in it's own tray, Pam's iPad get's it's own tray, shoes and belts off. All pockets had to be emptied. As I stood their I realized why our line had been moving so slow.  The person running the x-ray machine was new and had to keep asking for help. 
     I know your wondering -- what happened to Pam? Well once she got through the metal detector they asked her to step aside so they could do a pat down. At least the bags were saved from another search.
     We grabbed a bite to eat and now are sitting at the gate waiting for our flight to KC. Just a four hour wait. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Day 12 - Last Full Day in German (Evening)

     Sara and Pam watched Army Wives, Aaron played on his computer and I graded a few more finals. About 5 p.m. we headed out for supper. We ended up in the same location of our first Christmas Festival. They actual have a New Year's Festival going on now just not as big. After parking in the garage below ground we started following Sara's GPS on her phone. We knew we were in a little trouble after walking couple of blocks and finding ourselves back near the spot where we started. Regrouping we found our way to Brauhaus only to discover the non-smoking section was full with a number of reservations yet to arrive. We took a peak at the smoking side but decided to pass. About a block away we found the oldest building in town. The place was called Spinnradl. They position us in a corner and handed us a menu mostly in German with the last page in English. Well mainly in English. To make sure what we were getting the cell phone came out and we Google a few names. 
     The food came very quickly and Aaron shared a piece from his plate. The reason I tell you that, is shortly after cutting into the meat we learned that the plate Aaron received belong to another table. They took his first plate and returned with what he actual ordered (the plates clearly looked different). That's what can happen when you don't really know what your ordering.  I ordered Flammakueche which is a very tin pizza crust with no sauce. 
     Following in the footsteps of Italy we set off to find Gelato. My goal was to order some German Spaghettieis. Didn't take long before we found a nice little place where all four of us ordered some form of ice-cream. Spaghettieis looks just like spaghetti (see photo). Once we all completed our dessert off into the fog we went. We had to use the parking ticket to open the doors to the parking garage. Then at the bottom of the steps Aaron put the card into a machine which told us what we owed. Once we paid it gave us another ticket that was used to open the gate to let us out.
     Our trip is coming to an end. Pam and I had a great time exploring Germany and Rome but the best part of the trip was spending time with our son and daughter in-law. We got to hear and see how they are living an Army life here in German. So proud of both of them. Getting married and moving across the pond to start their life. I recall getting married and moving to Washington, Ks which was four hours away from family and how difficult that was.  I can't imagination what it was like to move so far away from your parents and friends. But they have really done a great job. Nice home, purchased two vehicles, navigate the Germany roads daily, Sara found a very successful job with the federal government (she actual out ranks Aaron). They've clearly settled in and have a great start to their marriage with another year and half to go before their next venture.
    It's now 7:48 p.m. here and its time for some more t.v. (Friends on DVD). This will be my last entry as we leave early in the morning. Pam and I will hang out in Frankfurt for a few hours, then an 8 hour flight back to the states. Unfortunately, we have a 7 hour lay over in Atlanta, then off to good ole Kansas. According to the flight we are suppose to land in KCI at 11:57 p.m. (3 minutes until the new year). I expect it will be after since no flight has been on time so far. 
    So this maybe my last entry unless I write something from the comfort of my own home. For those of you who have suffered through my writing I hope you've enjoyed the trip as much as we have.


Day 12 - Last Full Day in Germany

 Burg Nanstein Castle
     We are in slowdown mode here in Germany. Getting up late, having breakfast and watching a little Friends on DVD. Around 11:00 a.m. we headed out to see a castle. The temperature was 27 degrees and frost was everywhere.  A fog had settled in that has remained into the evening. 
View from top of the Castle - Can you see the Village?
     Driving through several small villages and a town we arrived at the foot of the hill where the castle was located. Aaron stepped on the gas as the car started to climb and wined up the hill. Arriving at the top we saw one couple appearing around the corner of the castle. So we figured it was open. I took a number of photos as we circled the castle. Our plans were to eat there at the castle but we discovered that both the castle and restaurant were closed until Sunday. Maybe the biggest disappointment was the fog which made it impossible to see the bottom of the hill and surrounding villages. 
Burg Nanstein Castle
     From the castle we headed back to Ramstein Air Force base that we visited on our first day in Germany. For lunch we made a stop where Aaron and Sara often eat to remind them of the States, good ole Chili's. Then we headed to the BX. I need to correct an earlier post. I learned today that when you are on an Air Force base the mall (place to get goods) is called the BX. When on a Army base it's called a PX.  At the BX we picked up a few more gifts and then we drove to Aaron's base where he was required to sign in today marking the end of his official vacation. While on the base he drove us around and showed us his workplace. 
Aaron's Place of Employment
     We then headed home so Pam and I could meet the challenge of packing.  It's going to be a challenge. Coming over we had 3 bags that needed to be checked in. One bag was carrying the odds and ends of super hero characters I had picked up for Aaron over the past few months. We thought the extra bag was going to cost us somewhere between 25 to 35 dollars. However, the charge was 100.00. So our goal is to reduce our bags down to 2. I was able to fit the third bag into one of our larger bags. Now, we have to fit all the clothes we brought plus the tons of gifts that have been purchased. We did decided to mail a few of those gifts back instead of attempting to fit them in our already overcrowded bags.
     Once we have the suitcases ready our plan is to load them in the car these evening. Then just hang around the house until dinner when we will head out for our last dinner in Germany. Sara and Aaron want to take us to  Brauhaus.
     We need to be at Frankfurt airport early so sounds like we will be up around 5 a.m. and out the door by 6 a.m. 

REMEMBER - you can click on most photos to get larger images.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Day 11 - Relax and Recovery Day

     Writing the blogs have been a time challenge. Often I'm writing between events and uploading photos have been a slow process. The bandwidth often has been slow so I've avoided uploading videos. But last night I took the time and upload most of my videos into a Google Drive folder that I've shared with the public. If you CLICK HERE you will have access to short videos from the Miniature Museum, Vatican, various locations in Rome and few video clips of life on the road in Germany. 
     I was able to complete the video uploads during the evening at Sara's and Aaron's home. Their Internet is slow at times when others in the village get on even slower. So late night works best. They explored getting cable to their home when they first moved it, but learned that it would require ripping up the street in front of their house. That's why we've watched a number of DVD's because they have a life without t.v.
    After watching couple of movies Pam and Sara headed out to mail a gift back to the states. Aaron is still in his pj's. now watching more Friends on DVD's. I spent a little time grading history finals, then headed out for a short walk around the village. Again, there are a lot of hills. As I walked I ran into a family of four out for a walk and a elderly lady. I took a few photos on the walk so I thought I would share. Sara and Aaron's hone is near the church.


     After returning from my walk I did a little work on my World Geography class instead of grading more finals. Shortly after my walk, Sara and Pam returned from the PX.  Pam continued her reign of making someone mad (terror). This time it was the cashier at the PX. Only people in the military or spouses can actual purchase items in the PX. The first night of our arrival we went to the PX and gave Aaron money to purchase our items. But according to today's story Pam forgot and walked up and presented her cash for purchase. The cashier became a little upset. He gave both Pam and Sara a short lecture about the rules and the fact he could get fired by accepting money from Pam. So what can I say folks, she's all mine.
     Aaron and I helped unload the car. Pam (Grandma in this case) had purchased a bone for their new dog. We then settled in for an afternoon of relaxing and playing a few games. First Farkel, Big Bang Uno and a card game called Golf. Sara and Aaron each won one game of Farkel. Big Bang Uno went to your's truly winning 2 out of 3 and Sara is narrowly being yours truly in Golf. She claimed she needed to walk the dog since I was closing in on her. So both Sara and Pam took the dog for a walk while Aaron started preparing dinner. Aaron calls it "mystery meat". My understanding that Sara and Aaron had a little tradition. Once a week they pick a meat that looks interesting but due to it labeled in German their never sure what it is. We will see how our experience goes this evening. 
     One more full day in Germany then off to the airport on Saturday.  

     The mystery meat was a pork chop or something in the same ballpark. Aaron used the grill for the pork, cut up potatoes and mushrooms. After dinner we continued to play few games of cards and finished watching t.v. and drinking a German beer. 

What I've learned in Germany
  • I've noticed that light switches are lower and OUTSIDE the room you walk into. Speaking with Aaron and he says that's pretty normal here in Germany.
  • There are a number of military bases in the area where Sara and Aaron live. Each base has some form of special job. Only two of them allow soldiers to walk around in uniform so the public can see them. Off post soldiers can only walk to and from their car in uniform. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Day 10 - Differences

Grocery Store
     The day started breakfast at the Beam's, I graded a few finals and more Friends on DVD. After everyone was dressed we headed off to the grocery store. Probably not something a lot of people who visit Germany get to do. Now, Sara and Aaron have two major places they shop for grocery's, on base and this Real store located in Pfalz Center (Mall). Like Aldi's you have to place a coin to get your grocery basket. Like many stores in Missouri you can buy alcohol inside the grocery store. 
Bottle Exchange
    Before we entered the grocery store Sara and Aaron had to return their bottles. Similar to Iowa where you are charged extra 10 cents for each bottle. When you return them you get 10 cent back. Well here, they have a machine where you place your bottles and cans. There is a conveyor belt that moves the bottle/can pass a reader. If you have a case of the same bottles you can place them in a larger opening towards the bottom. When done it gives you a receipt for the amount of money that you can use like cash when you pay. 
Mini Kegs
    Aaron and I tried to find the same beer we had while in Hamburg but with no luck.  I was surprised at the cost for beer. You can buy most bottles of beer for 0,89 cent Euro. The picture to the right shows you the cost of a mini keg (6.29 to 10.00 Euros). Six pack of beer ranges from 3,35 to 4,79 Euro's. In some cases these are actual twelve packs.
     Walking the aisles we saw a lot of common products from the U.S.  even in English. Items like cereal, BBQ sauce, ketchup, etc. Then again there were a lot of different types of products. In many cases not understanding Germany you would have to guest by how it looks. Could of taken a ton of photos showing the differences but held back. I did take one photo of Mayonnaise because of the color of the bottle. If we put this on an American table one might think you were passing the mustard. I did notice that for the most part prices seemed a little cheaper. For example frozen pizza for 2,49 Euro's
Lamb Meat in background
     After purchasing grocery's we headed out to the food court. Sara and Pam went for a big sandwich but Aaron said he had a better option so I followed him. We order two Doner boxes. Each box came with pommes (means French fries), red cabbage, onions, cheese, tomato, sauce and lamb meat.  While the photos below may not look tasty, trust me it was good!!

Doner Box
Doner Box

   From the grocery store we headed back to the house for lunch. Decided to hang around the house for awhile. Aaron made reservations at a butcher shop that sells steaks for supper. It's one of his favorite places to go. After dinner we will stop off at the base (Commissary) for some additional grocery's that either weren't available at the German store or can be found on the commissary cheaper. 
     I may post later after dinner but for now I'm going to publish this for Day 10. Hope everyone back in the states are enjoying their holiday break. 

     Well it was a little disappointing for both Aaron and I. The steakhouse that he wanted to take us to was closed and will remain closed until Jan. 3rd. So, next on the list was a Mexican restaurant. Pretty much what you would get in the states. After our meal we stopped at the commissary so Pam could get the fix-ins for breakfast. The store is on an American military base and for the most part all the products are from the states. In some cases it's cheaper then a German store and in others far more expense. The commissary hire high school students to take out the groceries. These students do not get paid at all. They live off of tips only. So, Aaron made sure to give the young lady a tip. From there we returned home for the evening. 

Thought I would start today with some notes of differences I've seen.
  • Italy - after our 71,00 Euro Gelato disaster we did a little research. Aaron and I found a free book at the Vatican on tips for visiting Italy. According to the book merchants are to post all prices and must present a receipt. Which as we recall neither occurred buying Gelato. Merchants who violate face a 3.000,00 Euro fine.
  • Italy did not check our passport when we arrived. Therefore, there is no stamp in our passport that shows we visited Italy.
  • In Italy very few meals had meat included. A lot of pasta but little or no meat. 
  • Italy - can't remember if I posted this before but when you order pizza plan on cutting your own. They do not cut the pizza in advance. This can be an adventure when you may have to cut the pizza with a butter knife. 
  • Italy and Germany - when you log into Yahoo or other major sites the language is that country's. You have to locate and switch your website to English.
  • Germany - you are required by law to carry a safety box. The box must include enough safety vest for all riders, a reflector triangle, and first aid kit.
  • Germany - like America when you travel on highways you can expect to see McDonalds along the road.
  • Germany - has a Good Samaritan law which requires you to help one in need or face a fine or jail time. I believe there are places in the U.S.  that have the same.