Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

You can contact us at werkingwells (at) gmail . com

Sunday, July 29, 2012

It's The Small Things

You don't have to leave the USA to yearn for the simple things from home.  A perfect bed, your favorite TV show and a clean bathroom.  I know I've been gone too long when all I want--monuments be damned--is a bathroom at least as tidy as my own.

You can imagine how thrilled I was today when I discovered the public bathrooms in Sweden.  I know it's kind of weird to write about it, but for 10 Swedish Kroner (about $1.42) we not only had an attendant assign us our own stall, but it was spotless.  Eat off the floor clean.

It looked like it had never been used

You can see polished floor

If only I knew I could take a shower, I would have brought my towel

While $1.42 seems outrageous in Scandinavia it was probably the best deal we've seen.  Everything is expensive here, and while Copenhagen has certain charms, we feel that we need to rush out of town before we are entirely broke.  In Denmark, Norway and Sweden I feel like I could be in Minnesota except I'm paying triple what a burger and fries would cost in St. Cloud.  The people, the scenery and the stores are all similar.  With the exception of some beautiful architecture, which I'll post some pictures of later, it doesn't feel that far from home. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Tragedy and Triumph

There are times when we explore the world, that we fail so completely as travelers,  I’m certain if having a passport required a competency test, we’d be asked to return ours.  And then there are the sublime moments, where luck, chance, serendipity or just good planning remind us how much we rock. 

Today we experienced both the highs and the lows. 

The low was not much of a tragedy, but it sucked nonetheless.  We had bought tickets for the ferry crossing from Rostock Germany to Gedser Denmark and carefully timed our tickets so that we would leave at 1:00pm in the afternoon and arrive in Copenhagen at 5:00pm. 

The day took a downturn when we had to figure out where to get lunch.  Would we be able to get food on the ship—we weren’t sure.  So after passing by a McDonalds, we went to two other places that we thought were restaurants, only to find that they were glorified duty free shops and had to U turn back down the freeway to McDonald's. We consider it a personal failure anytime we have to resort to a meal at Micky D’s. 

After basking in the stifling heat of the world’s slowest McDonald's, we made it to the ferry landing with 15 minutes to spare, only to find out that we had purchased tickets for the sailing two hours EARLIER.  Yes, we bought and printed tickets for the 11:00 am sailing.  We know full well that 1:00 pm is 13:00 hours and are still baffled as to how we missed something like a two hour time difference.  So we parked in an alternate lane and watched hundreds of cars drive onto the ferry, eventually resigning ourselves to wait till 3:00 pm for the next crossing. 

In the meantime, I trudged under the hottest sun northern Germany has seen this year, back to the Ferry Office that stood at least half a mile back down the road.  For some reason my phone started playing Christmas carols and I was too teary and tired to even try to speak German to the poor Scandlines official who drew the short straw and had to talk to me. 

I was told that we had an 80% chance of getting on the 3:00 pm ferry, but if that failed, I could try for 5:00 or 7:00 pm.  At that point I  wondered if we should turn around and just start driving to Eindhoven.  Actually, I was ready to drive to Portland if that were possible.

All the while I wondered what the hell we were thinking trying to take a vacation now—after a stressful and exhausting two weeks that included packing, traveling and saying goodbyes.  I was emotionally drained and wondering if the whole damn move was an undertaking we had no business making.  Dylan was threatening  to leave because she believes that she won’t  have decent phone service while we’re in Europe and we all were missing Wasabi.

Needless to say, we were a morose group. The ferry eventually arrived and we were the second to last car to be loaded.  A car had jumped the queue in front of us and we were cursing the driver with an infestation of a million bedbugs, when it was turned back by a German ferry official.  My faith in German orderliness was renewed and I was so thankful, I was ready to kiss him.  The car made it on the ferry, but not in front of us!  “Karma’s a bitch,” I yelled. 

Once we landed in Denmark things turned for the better and we had one of our better travel moments.  Here we were, our first visit in this city and country and we not only navigated our way to our apartment but found a bank, a place to stow the car AND negotiated a grocery store where we bought tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast in a language we couldn’t talk, let alone read.  This we did with no arguments, no getting lost and not one hard feeling.  It truly was a small triumph after a lousy afternoon. 

Lest you think our time on the road is all magic—unicorns farting rainbows made of skittles, that sort of stuff—please know that like anything done with passion: parenting, sports, and art—there are good days and bad.  And if you are like us, you can experience all of this in a matter of hours if not minutes! 

P.S.  It’s well past midnight here in Denmark.  The kids are still outside playing soccer and we are watching the Olympic Opening Ceremonies.  I think the only thing shorter might be the actual Hunger Games!  The uniform designers for the Parade of Nations have been especially creative.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Visual Berlin

Rather than drone on about how different Berlin is from 1990 or wax philosophical about how Germans stand in lines, I thought I'd post some pictures.  Have fun!

Sweet place in Berlin

Andy and Dylan at the Pergamon Alter

The Gate of Ishtar at the Pergamon Museum

Dylan in front of a section of the wall

Loved this dude's portable wurst set up!

This sign was in front of the Reichstag.  Of course, grilling in front of the German capitol is the first thing on my to-do list--not!

Dem Amerikan Visitors in front of The Reichstag

At the Holocaust Memorial

A straightforward title for the monument

Cool world clock at Alexanderplatz--not far from our hotel

Berlin nightlife

The Berliner Dom

Brandenberg Gate

Dylan's birthday is a universally important date

At San Soucci, Friedrich the Great's digs

I often have the same reaction around screaming babies

The lovely chinese tea house at San Soucci

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ich Bin Ein Berliner

They landed almost thirty years ago, during a long Montana winter--a couple dozen high school students from Berlin, Germany. Dropped from the skies like the infamous Berlin Airlift, they brought instead of food and supplies, a first glimpse of anything European to most of my fellow students in Columbia Falls. The Berliners were hosted by many of us in Herr Brod's German class and I begged my parents, with the fervor that Dylan begged to get a puppy, that we too "get a German." They relented, and for a month, Ute Spielman was my German sister.  We borrowed each other's clothes, went out on double dates and had an epic food fight that resulted in mustard being thrown on the ceiling.  After she left, there was nothing I wanted more than to visit her in Berlin and see what kind of country would produce such a sophisticated, worldly 14 year-old.

It wasn't until 1990, due to a number of circumstances--mainly having no money--that I touched down at Tegel Airport in Berlin, the first stop on my first ever trip to Europe.  I had saved $800 and had less sense than money, but was determined to "See" Europe.  Ute's parents hosted me in her tiny bedroom for almost a month. By that time, she was living on her own and working with her boyfriend, a concert promoter who took me to work one night.  Work being backstage at a Grateful Dead concert.  My only memory of that evening is hanging out with the Rock Doc, (the band's doctor) and seeing the band walk by.

For a kid whose hometown considered a new stoplight on Nucleus a top-fold headline, Berlin rocked my world.  Trains, trams, department stores, palaces, an entire island of museums and a bombed out church were all beyond my ken, but what was even more exciting was the sense of possibility and promise that permeated the air, since it was less than a year earlier that the Berlin Wall came down.  I remember standing with Ute as we stared at a chunk of the wall, and she shook her head in amazement saying she never thought her hometown would be without the wall. Mind you, she was no crotchety 40-something old lady, but 20 year-old, who had only known a divided city.

Berlin continues to hold that sense of promise and excitement.  Though Frankfurt, Munich, and Dusseldorf are all very nice and pleasant places to visit, for me they don't hold up to Berlin for arts, entertainment and nostalgia. I like to think of Berlin as the Paris of Germany and when I'm not humming the tune 99 Luft Balloons or songs from Cabaret, I'm saying Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche fast because it's a fun mouthful.

Today we head to Berlin, my first trip back since 1990, and Andy and Dylan first visit ever.  I'm not sure if I will remember much from before, but that's okay. It will be like wandering through the setting of a past life--seeing some things will evoke nostalgia and memories and others will only confuse and possibly disappoint.  And while my Deutsch is pretty rudimentary, at least I can say as much as John F. Kennedy, who famously stated, "Ich bin ein Berliner"--which urban legend claims he said he was a jelly donut--but really means, "I am one with the people of Berlin," which I can embrace.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

500 Pounds

The tune I'm gonna be (500 hundred miles) by the Proclaimers has been running through my head all morning because that's the magic number we've been dealing with around here for the past week.

500 Pounds.

That's what we're taking to Eindhoven.  Actually given the six 50lb bags of luggage we're checking on the plane and the 3 roll ons, it's going to be a bit more, but 500 lbs is what we get air shipped to Europe.    Don't worry, we're not wearing the same three shirts for the next two years and sleeping on a bed made of grass pulled off the side of the canals.  FEI is giving us a furniture budget in lieu of shipping all of crap to Europe in a 20 foot container.  Believe me, it's a better deal for them by a mile.

What has been pretty theoretical for the past couple of months, "oh cool, we're moving to Europe" has now become a box-filled, paper strewn reality.  We've been in serious packing mode the past couple days, never mind that I've been packing since the end of May.  Most people would say I'm kind of a minimalist and don't have a lot of stuff, but given that the majority of what we own has been accumulated since 2006 I have to wonder, where did it all come from and why?!  I've always imagined that if the Zombie Apocalypse happened it wouldn't take much to get out of my house with what I needed, but I now realize I'm very wrong.

Despite the stress level cranked up to 11 these days, dare I say the move is going well?  So far only one thing has been packed that shouldn't have--a small alarm clock--and Dylan's still sticking around.  Once the mover load up the van(s) it's just a couple days till lift off.