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Eurotrip 2012 – Day 30

August 17th, 2012 Comments off

13-July-2012

The wake-up call is at 4am, and it is time to begin our trip home. Efficiently Vicky, Chris and I take our morning showers trying not to disturb Jason too much, but of course this is rather impossible. That is ok as we do get our departing hugs and farewells. We get down to the lobby in plenty of this to catch the shuttle to the airport and we are promptly at the KLM counter, so promptly in fact that there is no one behind the counter.

We wait in line behind this one other fellow, and we wait. Seeing the security line growing larger and larger, we wait. Finally someone comes, it is about 5:30 and our flight leaves at 7:05 with boarding 30 minutes before that. Now the trial begins. They do not seem to issue boarding passes in Europe until you check in so we had to get our seats for the KLM flight from Munich to Amsterdam, not too bad. Then we want to check our bags all the way to Orlando, but as we are connecting to a Delta flight in New York, her KLM computer cannot see our flight. We show her our printouts and speak a combination of broken English and German, and she keeps shaking her head “no”. The security line is even longer and the people behind us are as nervous as we are. Finally, she asks another counter assistant for help and they manage to get our bags checked to Orlando, at least we hope so. Quickly we make our way to the security line and get to our gate just in time.

It is a short flight, only about an hour and a half but I manage a catnap. They served a snack and the coffee smelled good, but I passed on the temptation in the hopes for more sleep.

Landing in Amsterdam, we now know the drill. Two hours between flights is a short time here. We get our carry-on luggage and down the hall through a control area. Next comes the many shops selling alcohols, chocolates, and souvenirs; the European chocolates look very tempting, but we scurry on. Then another control area looking at passports and boarding passes, the line is long but we are in good time so we relax a bit. Harried travelers can approach a shorter line where if there flight is with the hour window they can precede; several people attempt to cut into this line only to be denied by the attendant. We make it closer in and distinguish several lines. The red European Union passports to the right and us foreigners go to the left. Ok, check-point accomplished. There are more shops, but we decide to get closer to our gate before stopping. It is a good thing too as we find yet another security check-point, this time it appears to be US border enforcement as we are flying to JFK in New York. Questions about what we bought, where we have been, did anyone give us anything to carry for them, and finally why didn’t we come to visit in Holland? Next time we say, next time.

The Boeing 767 is a good size and has the individual computer touch screens in the back of every seat, so we settle in for a series of naps, snacks, and movies on the long flight home. At one point I had elected to nap through the Sherlock Holmes movie with my headphones on. With my head down on the table in front of me I was catching some zee’s until the bells in the movie starting ringing loudly, thinking it was my alarm I jerked my head up only to bang it on the seat in front of me… sigh.

Arriving in JFK we have about 3 hours before the final leg of our journey. Seeing a Chili’s restaurant we have a seat and relax. Vicky orders a hamburger. While there is plenty of pork on the menus in Germany there is not much beef and I have not had a hamburger in about a month, but this is Chili’s so I go for southwest chicken.

Then the last flight that brings us to Florida; thankfully our bags also made it. A short drive to Melbourne, and we arrive at home sweet home.

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Eurotrip 2012 – Day 29

August 16th, 2012 Comments off

12-July-2012

We have breakfast at the hotel which had an all-you-can eat buffet. The most remarkable thing was probably that this was the first time we have brewed coffee in the last four weeks. Every other coffee had been some form of espresso. They also American bacon strips in addition to their own form of bacon, 3-minute boiled eggs, fruit, juice, and breads with jam.

First we use the hotel shuttle to get to the airport and then we take the metro into Munich were we have a city tour with Liam. Yes, he is an Irish fellow who met up with a German lady. He fell in love with her and the area and moved here never looking back. He says that the beer is good in Bavaria and people are laid back so it is just right for an Irishman.

As we are in Marienplatz, the first thing to see is the town hall where a painting of the Münchener Kindl, the monk-child symbol of the city is in a hallway. Then it is the top of the hour and we go out front to view the where the animatronics portray a wedding.

Next we are off to Frauenkirche with its iconic domed towers. Inside we see a photo of the church after the bombings during World War II, it looks like 70% of the church was destroyed. Liam says that the pilots would see the domes and know that they were above Munich and would release their bombs. The church was rebuilt in just a matter of 20 years. An interesting mark in the floor of the church is claimed to be the footprint of the devil. The story goes that he funded the church under the condition that there be no windows built. The masons decided to trick the devil and build columns that would block the windows so that he could not see them when he stood in a certain spot. When he discovered their trickery, he stomped his foot so hard it left an impression in the stone.

From there we make our way through the streets stopping at royal residences and large plazas with statues. One of these was Odeonsplatz where there is a distinctive Italian architecture in a nearby church and courtyard. The wife of one of the officials in Bavaria was from Italy and in celebration of her pregnancy with an heir the church was built.

Next we enter the English Garden an area where soldiers could train and a large observation dome sits on a distant hill. Part of the park is set aside for nudist to enjoy, but as it was a rather cool day we didn’t see much of them. In order to get the river flowing through the park powerful pumps were placed in a nearby channel. These pumps create a standing wave on which adventurous people surf upon in their wetsuits. We pause and watch as several men and women ride the wave and practice their technique.

The last stop on the tour is the Hofbräuhaus which is one of the oldest beer halls here in Munich. In the late 1800s there was a movement by Otto von Bismarck of Prussia to unite the German speaking kingdoms of the time to form a republic. The people of Bavaria were mostly opposed to this, seeing their differences rather than their likenesses. The story goes that he came to the Hofbräuhaus and proceeded to sit quietly and drink liter after liter of beer without once going to the bathroom. Apparently this convinced the people that Bismarck was a man of their own character.

With the formal tour now being over we head back over to the English Garden where we make our way to the Chinese tower. Here there is a restaurant and beer garden where we proceed to devour yet another tasty Bavarian meal. Then after being again mesmerized by the surfers, we wander around the city stopping in a few shops to look at t-shirts, postcards, and the like.

Later that evening we took a brewery tour where Chris, who is now 16, could legally order beer. The guide takes us to the Augustiner beer hall which was founded by monks in 1328. This he says is the best brew in Munich, and it is definitely full with local people. Next was the Paulaner brewery and then finally back to the Hofbräuhaus. Here we walked through the first and second floors to see quite a bit more activity than we had seen in the afternoon. Bands were playing, people were eating and drinking. A festive location indeed, but as it was getting late and we have an early morning ahead of us we decide to head back to the Metro and begin our journey back to the hotel. It is after midnight and my head finally hits the giant under-stuffed pillow, but it didn’t matter at all tonight.

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Eurotrip 2012 – Day 28

August 15th, 2012 Comments off

11-July-2012

Last night was the last night of camping in the tents. Sure enough, about 1:00am we get one last good rain and thunderstorm. It would be nice to get the tents dry before packing up. There is not too much to write about today as the day consisted of breakfast at the bäckerei, packing up, drive into Heidelberg, pick up Jason, drive to Munich, check in, drop off the car, have dinner and then hit the sack. The pillows on the bed were described by the boys as “giant under stuffed bags of cotton balls.” I miss my bean-bag pillow back home.

We did fill up the car one last time before returning. Here are the vitals: 42.64L @ 1.599€/L = 48.18€ (translation 11.26gal @ $5.23/gal = $58.88)

Throughout the trip we have driven almost 6000km (or 3700 miles). This is about the distance to drive from Melbourne, FL to Albuquerque, NM – and back! We averaged 29.9miles to the gallon. All told, we spent about $850 on gas.

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