Saturday, February 05, 2005

Catching up 

So much to blog, so little time! First of all, yes, Fred's flight did indeed get in a little before 2 a.m. on Wednesday, and we were all home and passed out cold by 3:30 a.m.

One thing that was high on the kids' List of Things to Do When Dad Is home was eating his famous blueberry pancakes. So Tuesday afternoon I found myself searching for fresh blueberries. Apparently, they are not plentiful in Germany in the dead of winter, but I persevered and finally found some at the produce stand at the mall. Would you care to guess how much one might pay for 3 teensy little trays of New Zealand blueberries at this time of year? If you said the equivalent of $15, you are correct! If you think it wasn't worth every penny, however, you are dead wrong. Mr. Pancake Man was in his element:

And the kids were in heaven eating the fruits of his labor:


Thursday, February 3, was my birthday (as well as my cousin Ally's birthday and Dooce's baby Leta's birthday--happy birthday, Ally and Leta!). To celebrate my twenty-eighteenth birthday, I wanted us to travel by train to Cologne for the first day of Fasching, which is basically German Mardi Gras. It's that last big party before Lent, and I figured it was as good a place as any for a birthday celebration. Besides, this Thursday was Weiberfastnacht, the day when women may do as they please, and it pleased THIS woman to go to Cologne.

The train from Mannheim carried quite a few people who were obviously on their way to the party. Men in kilts and kangaroo suits walked through our wagon, reminding me of the train scene at the end of the movie Trading Places.

We arrived in Cologne at 10:00 a.m., and found a frenzy of costumed chaos in the train station. Here are Mike and Annabelle with a couple of guys whose costumes we admired:

This was the scene outside the train station. Even though it was only mid-morning, the ground was already littered with beer and champagne bottles. It's funny, because the Germans are positively anal about deposits on glass bottles the rest of the year, but apparently they set that aside for Fasching, as I have never seen so much broken glass in my life:

Fasching was a bit different than I remember it being when I lived in Cologne in 1987. For one thing, back then they had carnival rides set up all around the cathedral, but there were none this year. For another, I don't remember it as being such a drunken orgy. Then again, maybe I was just too drunk back then to notice. At any rate, we were definitely the only sober people in town on Thursday. We alternated between walking through the heart of the action, where the crowd scenes became almost frightening at times, and hanging out on the periphery for a breather.

Annabelle was impressed by this gentleman's costume, which appeared to have been constructed from the wrappers and plastic yolks of chocolate surprise eggs:

We managed to time our potty breaks for the civilized facilities in restaurants and major department stores. This was the scene for those desperate enough to use the street toilets:

By 4:00 p.m. we were exhausted and ready to head for home. Our reservations, however, were for the 5:00 train, so we killed the better part of that last hour in the bookstore in the train station. By that point the crowds were full of a lot of REALLY drunk people. My biggest regret is that I didn't stop on the way to the train station to take a picture of the inebriated killer bees who chose to sit in the street in front of McDonald's to eat their supper. I was just too tired by then though to reach for my camera.

Upon our return that evening to Mannheim, we capped off the evening with schnitzel at one of our favorite local restaurants, Zur Kurpfalz. All in all, it was a very happy birthday!


I love this time of year in Germany! The flower shops are filled with bulbs from Holland, and just like last year I'm enjoying displaying them on my kitchen windowsill. Here is my current collection:


Having Fred home is just the best. Wednesday counted as a travel day for him, so his actual leave didn't start until Thursday. We've got him until sometime between 5:00 and 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 19th, which is when he needs to be back up at Rhein Main AFB to catch his ride back to Iraq. We're not thinking about any of that right now though, just enjoying having him with us and watching him work his way through the sizable honey-do list I've created for him over the past 8 months ("Honey, do this . . . Honey, do that . . . ").


Tomorrow we leave for 3 nights in Garmisch, and I doubt I'll be blogging while we're there. In fact, I'm thinking about not even taking the laptop with me at all. I promise though that I'll take lots of pictures and will make updating the blog a priority upon our return on Wednesday. In the meantime, if anybody needs me, here's where you can reach me!

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