Talking to my brother today, confirming that yes, we had arrived safely home after leaving him 2 days ago, we both had a laugh at the relief engendered by the end of visiting someone. As much as we love going away to visit folks there is something so sublimely special about coming home, about sleeping in your own bed, about having your own space and stuff around you. It makes going away all the better when coming home can make you so happy. And on the other side, when you have company, visitors that you love, who invade your space and mess up your stuff and bring a little extra laughter and chatter and presence to your life, no matter how much fun it is to have them, it's also great when they leave and you get to come home again to your daily life. John commented on how QUIET it was around the place the day after we left, and how nice that was, even as he was missing us.
I remember now the things I hated about long car trips taken when I was a child. Of course, there were 3 of us sharing a back seat then, and even in a titanic Pontiac station wagon, things were cramped. Luckily, I had given some foresight to the endurance levels of 2 kids trapped together in a confined space for hours on end, with a mother who couldn't turn around and entertain them much.* The night before we left, I printed out a whole folder full of double-sided pages of mazes, word searches, and road bingo games. I could have done 3x as many and it wouldn't have been enough. Thankfully, I ALSO bought several sets of new comic and puzzle books to hand out at discreet intervals on the road. Smart! I am smart. It worked. Not all the time, but enough to keep us from all killing each other during some of the 10-hour driving days. But I had forgotten how incredibly BORING sitting in a car for so long is when you have nothing to do**, and if the kids ask for the Lena Philipsson CD or Sesame Street's Greatest Hits one more time you'll open the car door and hurl yourself out onto the autobahn to be mercifully crushed beneath the wheels of the tail-gating BMW behind you.
It rained nearly the entire 12 days we were in Holland and Germany. And I don't mean it rained a little rainy rain of rain-ness. It POURED. It poured relentlessly and endlessly. Guess what it was doing back home in Sweden? The hot hot sun in the blue blue sky with the high high temps was baking everything to a fine golden crust. sigh I actually bought a rain jacket, that's how much it rained. Because after being apartment-bound with a busted foot during our last sojourn in Bavaria, I was damned determined that nothing was going to stop me-we-us from expotitions and splorations. To that end, we did a lot of things despite and in spite of the weather. We chose a lot of activities that would appeal to the kids so, especially in Holland, we ended up doing things that weren't particularly DUTCH. We didn't go to Keukenhof or Kinderdyke or Edam's cheese market. Brief dreams of the white sand beaches on the North Sea sparkled and met a soggy end. We thought about Madurodam but it turned out to be a bit too far away, likewise Efteling, the intriguing-sounding amusement park recommended by the hospitable and personable bezigebij.
Netherlands: "When you're floating on a sea all dried out"***
We punted through the peacefully serene canals of Giethoorn in a whisper-boat and out onto the calm waters of the Bovenwiede and through the eerie reedland marshes, alone except for the slap of water against the lilypads and the drone of the dragonflies and the hooting calls of various long-legged waterbirds. We ate frikadelles and pomme frites with mayonnaise. We visited the Apenheul in Apeldoorn, an enormous and well-planned open-air monkey zoo where the primates have free reign and you must place your belongings in a monkey-proof bag before entering. We toured the Nieuw Land Poldermuseum with its kid-friendly Watertheater and fascinating historical account of how the country is slowly being claimed from the sea. We drove through an ocean of potato fields lined with towering and razor-straight, precisely spaced rows of trees to give the kids an afternoon of sweaty, screeching fun at the Kids Riviera playpark and indoor snow hill.
Bavaria: "My bosom, and my spirit leaps and sings"****
I could have sat on the balcony the entire time and just stared at the hills, filling my eyes with the heights, giving my soul a much-needed mountain fix. Clouds came down to meet the mountains, fogging the treeline, playing forest-fire with their curling smoke and veiling ways. We walked the cobblestoned streets of twisty, charming Füssen, and climbed mountains both by foot and by car. Anders, John and the kids climbed the mountain to the right of this one to see a church and followed Christ's procession backwards down the hill. Again, we climbed a mountain and then clambered round the quietly decaying ruins of Eisenberg and Hohenfreyburg, walking down around through cow pastures whose residents lowed after us inquiringly through a musicale of their own bells. We ate currywurst and spaetzle and tiroler gröstel, and one evening a stomach-stretching, tongue-tantalizing raclette feast. The rain held off enough one day to allow us a hilarious high-speed morning of rodelbahn racing under the swooping, soaring wings of the paragliders leaping from Tegelberg mountain and the white gleam of Neuschwanstein high on the hill. We toured Mad King Ludwig's mini-Versailles, the glowing golden rococo jewel of Linderhof, whose cheesy, crumbling Blue Grotto destroyed some fond childhood vacation memories for me. The best of all, however, was a day spent braving the rain at the Kaltenberg Castle Renaissance Fair, the largest medieval fair and knight's tournament in the world.
Really Great Writing Out There Right Now: The Power of Pig
Cracking Me Up: The Devil Wears Prada
Big Beautiful Birthday Wishes to paradisecowgirl!
*motion sickness sucks...
**...giant green donkey dicks
***a line by Dutch poet Frank Koenegracht
****from the poem In a Pass of Bavaria by Richard Chenevix Trench