Thursday, October 09, 2003

We started today at the USO office, where we signed up for next week's tour of Weinheim. Weinheim is a little town just northeast of here. The USO brochure says that we will:

Travel by streetcar for a day of shopping, sightseeing, and exploring in this romantic city. This nearby town has more than its share of interesting stories from the plague to banished queens. The Market Square is perfect for lunch at one of the many quaint cafes.

After we signed up for the tour, we got on the streetcar and headed off in search of our newest adventure. I've gotten quite handy at navigating the website for our local transportation authority. Today I had planned and printed a route that would allow us to go south to Neckarau to find a toystore and then back up to Seckenheim for Mike and Annabelle's German class.

I like to try and group several outings together in one day to make the most of our streetcar tickets. A regular one-way adult fare is almost 2 Euros, but they also sell a ticket that's called a Ticket 24-Plus. This allows up to 5 people to have unlimited travel in a certain number of zones for 24 hours (and all weekend on the weekends!). We buy the 8 Euro ticket, and that covers enough zones for us to explore as much of Mannheim as we would like.

The streetcar tickets are also valid on the busses and local trains. Today we took the streetcar for a few stops and then transferred to a bus for the remainder of the ride to Neckarau.

We found the toystore without any trouble and had a great time shopping there. I bought a couple of the puzzles I've been collecting as well as a few easy-to-read books (in German) for the kids.

We had planned to spend the time until German class exploring Neckarau, but I had forgotten that the stores in lots of these little towns close up for a couple hours in the afternoons! So instead of hanging out there in the empty streets, we got on another streetcar and went back into downtown Mannheim.

We had lunch at Yam Yam Thai Fast Food, just down the street from the open-air market. It had been recommended to us by a defense attorney here who is actually from Thailand, and it was quite delicious! I had a moment of panic, when I realized that I didn't know how to say "garlic" in German, and what's the point of ordering Thai food if there's no garlic?! Fortunately, the lady in line ahead of me was able to help me out: it's Knoblauch. So we ordered the sweet-and-sour chicken, pork mit Knoblauch, and pad thai. We each took a dish, ate for a while, and then rotated the plates around.

After lunch and a quickie trip to Kaufhof to use the restroom, we got back on the streetcar and headed out to Seckenheim. Today Mike and Annabelle's language teacher taught them the alphabet in German. Then it was back on the streetcar for the ride back home. We saved approximately 12 Euros today by buying the Ticket 24-Plus instead of point-to-point tickets.

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