S: Geri's European Adventure 2011
BC: Have passport will travel ... | Come fly, come fly away | Let the journey begin
FC: Geri's European Adventure 2011
1: Look out world, here I come ... it's my first trip out of the country! Des Moines, Iowa Detroit, Michigan Amsterdam, Holland Stuttgart, Germany The trip across the ocean took 24 hours according to the clock, but I arrived in Germany long before my luggage!
2: Greg and J's family live in a lovely village (pop. 18,500) a short drive NW of Stuttgart, but it feels much smaller and more cozy. Enjoyed lots of grilled goodness, including brats on the first day. Nathan took me on the "ag view" bike ride - he figured the short flat route was the only way to get me back home. He was right! Enjoyed much family time around the table and with old fashioned popcorn over a rousing board game.
3: This beautiful park-like cemetary is just across the very narrow street. Such amazing headstone designs and landscaping of plots. Check out the rack of water cans for those who honor their family members as they lovingly tend these botanical masterpieces.
4: Nippenburg was my first castle. These rustic stone ruins have great spaces to explore with lovely green lawns that Elizabeth assures me are perfect for an afternoon picnic or tea party. Greg, Nathan and Joshua rode their bikes as this little piece of history is only 5 miles from their home. Steph is home making a cherry pie. This stone treasure is perched on a hill, tucked along the edge of a golf course with several small houses along the cobblestone walkway.
6: Playing dress-up with the girls in the World Cup novelties section of Real, Deutschland's answer to WalMart. There's a reason they call it a hypermarket! It was my first Euro currency experience. 1E = $1.50 US Breuningerland Mall has a hair salon with a children's corner complete with a jeweled carousel horse. Loved the berry ball basket at IKEA. A new family tradition? No shish, just kebap. The Doner (say Derner) was a taste sensation ... yum!
7: Enjoyed a relaxing girls afternoon at Schloss Solitude. Duke Karl Eugen's 1764 Baroque summer palace and hunting lodge offers a scenic view from its perch atop the hill. Beautiful ornate fixtures awaited us at the top of the staircase. The Akademie is a residence program for young gifted artists. Not sure about the banana, but I'd like to think it meant Grandma Loew was with me in spirit as we toured this amazing slice of history.
8: My next castle stop was Ludwigsburg built in 1704 by Duke Eberhard Ludwig of WÃ¼rttemberg. The buildings were grand and the courtyard between them was spacious. Felt right at home when I spotted the pots of Angel's Trumpet lining the center walkway. So much smaller than the plant at Reiman Gardens, but then again, EVERYthing is smaller in Germany. The extensive gardens are known as Baroque in Bloom. Visited the Porcelain Museum, one of three in the palace. Felt right at home with the many ginkgo designs on the beautiful pieces. Larger than life statues were tucked in alcoves and at the entrance to each building, while vintage carriages waited just around the corner. What a life this must have been.
9: Enjoyed a decadant slice of Black Forest cake when we paused for a treat at the Cafe Schlosswache on the plaza. Entertained by a trio of giggling girls admiring a bride waiting for the groom to return from a photo shoot. Can only assume this festooned car must be the couple's ride home.
10: Frappucino, FRAPPY. What a delightful ball of fur! I never imagined a bunny could have SO much personality. She is house-trained and very well behaved. She loves to cuddle, especially after nibbling on a banana each morning. She is also quite fond of Ritz crackers. Go figure.
11: Stephanie and Nathan make a great pair in the kitchen. Not sure what they are working on, but I am sure it was a tasty treat! | Not only did I learn to eat melon by the spoonful, but I learned you can shop by pictures. Check out the cows on the three milk cartons. Can you tell the skim from the whole? Moo! | Greg works at Patch Barracks and we visited a few times during my stay. Quite the security protocol coming and going, providing passports while being accompanied at all times. The Commissary was a pleasant surprise as it was full of Americans spending US dollars. The Community Chapel serves four denominations in five services. Nice. The stained glass window is the design inspiration for my next pottery painting project.
12: Rothenburg ob der Tabour is a giant step back in history! Inside the walled city the narrow streets are lined with gingerbread houses, fruit markets, bakeries, stores with smoked meat,medieval wares, toys and a huge year-around Christmas shop. I picked up a beer and pretzel nutcracker. Paused at the stockade outside the Museum of Crime and Punishment after climbing up, on and through a section of the restored wall.
16: Fourth of July in Germany! Let's celebrate with smoked ham hocks and homemade cherry pie. Nathan and Joshua are having a good time playing with their food while Steph proudly displays her culinary masterpiece. The schneeballen is a treat from our trip to Rothenburg, the only place you can buy them. Imagine a tasty ball of pie dough strips, fried crisp and rolled in powdered sugar or dipped in chocolate. Yep. No fireworks, but we enjoyed a nice quiet evening around the house. The boys tried their hand at homemade firecrackers, but the clay filling muffled the boom. Better luck next time.
17: Schloss Lichtenstein sits on a cliff overlooking the Echaz Valley. The long and winding road to the top is certainly worth it. This is the third castle on the site in 800 years. The castle is still owned by the Dukes of Urach and family members live in the "side" castle while the main castle is open to visitors. The castle contains a large collection of historic weapons and armour. The adults toured inside while the boys waited patiently.
19: I rather enjoyed peeking through stone holes as a natural way to frame the view from the courtyard. Was taken by the big red fabric roses nestled in the sheer overlay of this bridal gown. Picture perfect. Enjoyed schnitzel and pommes (fries) at the cottage cafe while the others had spaetzle and Greg's fave, maultaschen - herbed meat pillows. Jammed to 107.7 FM as German DJs introduced American rock classics.
20: At first glance I thought this was pretty cheap gas ... then I did the math. 1.52 is Euro, so equivalent of $2.28 USD ... but it is per liter, so take x 4 to equal a gallon. I'll take $3.49/gal over $9/gal any day. Fortunately, if you buy gas on the Army base it is the US average price and you can pay in US dollars. | Sites and signs in Germany: + random phone booth along a residential sidewalk + almost missed the light change while chuckling at the funny green man with a hat + had to actually ask how to flush since I didn't see the little silver panel on the wall + frog crossing, seriously!
21: Learned to appreciate the smooth roundabout instead of 4-way stops. European efficiency. Always knew we were headed home when I spotted the wind turbine atop the hill made from soil removed to make the Stuttgart tunnel. | Everything really is smaller in Germany so these Smart cars could easily slip in a parking spot sideways. And then there were the dumb cars that tried the same trick and just looked silly. Another interesting sign.
22: J offered to drive to Zurich so I could catch the train to Geneva without having to make a too-tight connection. Elizabeth invited a friend to join us on the trip as it would be her first time in Switzerland since moving to Germany. Had an issue at the train station when we discovered only pay toilets and I didn't have any Swiss francs yet. Didn't have time to do the ATM withdraw and paper/coin exchange, so I passed ... and made it to Geneva just fine. | Couldn't help but notice the bright green water flowing through Zurich. At first I was disgusted, but J explained that it is actually very clean clear water and the green color comes from the minerals washed down from the Alps. It was fascinating to see everyday items, easily recognizable even when written in a different language. Turned around the corner and spotted the movie promo for the summer hit, Zookeeper. No language barrier in comedy.
23: Zurich to Geneva was a beautiful rolling ride on the rails. I was on the wrong side of the train to get any pics of Lac de Neuchatel. But I did see countless fields of grapes that no doubt were destined for a tasty bottle of wine. Got a kick out of the alpine men that appeared on many posters. It reminded me of the old ads for Bartles & James. I thought it was for tourism, but turns out it was a campaign for cheese.
24: Toured Vieille Ville (Old Town) with Charlotta and Jean Pierre on the bus and quickly switched from German to French accents. The island in the middle of River Rhone is what allowed a bridge to be built so Geneva could expand north of Lac Leman. Buses are not allowed in Old Town so we explored on foot to get up close and personal. Marveled at Cathedrale St. Pierre built in 1160. Swiss flags were displayed on nearly every building along with the flags of the Canton (county). The square design is unique and the only other square flag is flown in Vatican City. Soaked up the architectural history with every step - stately stone buildings with unusual doors and windows. Streets were very narrow and often cobblestone. The "art" on the wall is really a sundial.
25: Parc des Bastion features the Wall of Reformation - 30' high and 325' long, a reflecting pool spans the length. The Wall was built in 1909 to honor the 16th century religious movement. The world's longest park bench runs atop the back side. Took a wild ride on the glider horse, but not brave enough to try the peddle-go-round. Chuckled at dozens of game boards with larger than life pieces. Look, I found my king in Geneva!
26: Passed security and got into the United Nations complex. Looked out toward the Ariana Park featuring the Armillary or Celestial Sphere. There was an edgy calm as we maneuvered the winding halls of the UN. | The conference room for the Human Rights Council includes a 16,000 sq ft ceiling mural featuring hundreds of colorful, dangling icicles. The artist describes it as representing the "world dripping toward the sky."
27: The European Headquarters for the United Nations was built in the 1930's and has experienced several expansions and renovations through the years. The Assembly Hall where the UN General Assembly meets is the most familiar and the largest of 34 conference rooms in the complex. Each section is connected by a series of courtyards, walkways and gardens. | I only passed by the International Committee of the Red Cross which sits high on the hill across from the UN. I later learned that this worldwide humanitarian movement began in 1859 when a young man from Geneva came across soldiers left in a battlefield. He saw a need for a system of care for casualties and wounded and advocated for a national voluntary relief organization. When they needed an easily recognizable emblem, they reversed the image of the Swiss flag in honor of the man who answered a need with a call to action.
28: The Broken Chair is a 39' high wooden sculpture on the plaza at the Place des Nations. One of the chair legs appears to be "broken" off. The piece was installed in 1997 as a temporary (three months) statement of opposition to land mines. Due to public support it remains standing today.
29: The halls of the United Nations are filled with art of all types. From the bronze cherub who greets visitors at the front door to the rotating exhibit in the formal gallery, this month featuring works from China. The "aerated" concrete walls were lined with metal, stone and other works resting on pedastals. The sculpture at the top is titled "Compassion." The blue piece was in an exhibit about technology; no idea what it means.
31: My hotel home, conveniently located across the street from the Cornavin station where we enjoyed street musicians while we waited for the bus. I could not believe when I opened the 4' plate glass window with no screen or bars, just fresh air. The red canopy covers the steps to the mysterious underground shopping network. Little strip malls one and two levels underground and a full-size grocery store hidden three levels deep. Only six blocks from the lake, we really had an ideal location for relaxing, dining and people-watching. Still get a kick out of the colorful Swiss money. Conversion rate was too high to bring back souvenirs!
33: Art around the lake ranged from historical to hysterical. The National Monument commemorates Geneva's union with Switzerland in 1815. The bust is a Monument to the Duke of Brunswick. Random works of art dotted the gardens around the lake, but nothing was more colorful than the people participating in the Annual Lake Parade. No pics, just memories of brightly costumed men and women of all ages with LOTS of glitter. Apparently the parade features lovemobiles, stages, light shows and music. Looks and sounds like Mardi Gras on steroids!
34: The Basilica of Notre Dame, a magnificent place to worship and only a short block away from the hotel, directly across from my favorite bus stop. I attended 9 am Mass - one of the 10 options over the weekend. The service was in French and was mesmerizing to listen to and try to follow along. Music was provided with violins and a pipe organ.
35: Buildings of Geneva Houses, apartments, stores, offices - they all seem so compact as they line the narrow streets. Many feature brightly colored awnings over doors and windows. | Plenty of shopping options around the city - but not on Sunday when very few stores are open. I forgot to take a pic of the Swatch store when I purchased my cool new watch. There were several pharmacies around town and the title is accurate, medication and toiletries, that's it, not like our old Drug Town.
36: The Jet d'eau is one of two prominent images of Geneva as the fountain sprays 450' into the air. It is often described as "feathery" as the spray arcs with the wind. There is a narrow boardwalk peninsula that goes right out to the jet. I never got tired of looking at this mesmerizing water feature. Morning, day and night, the fountain was like a magnet that drew me to the lake.
37: The other prominant image is the Horlogue Fleurie at Jardin Anglais, the Flower Clock at the English Garden. Since 1955, a new design has been planted every year. Over 6500 flowers are planted in the living clock that symbolizes the birthplace of the Swiss watchmaking industry. The clock keeps accurate time on a flower bed with an 8' long sweeping second hand. | Along the edge of the English Garden is a row of trees that look like they just got a fresh coat of paint with a camouflage design. There were no identifying signs, but I later learned they are English sycamore trees. The bark appears multicolored as it sheds in chips. Each layer is a different color, leaving the natural camo pattern.
38: Geneva visitors receive a Transport Card for free access to all buses, trams, trains and water taxis. Most run til midnight, but I was usually pooped out by then. Also took the cute little electric trolly train around the lake for a better view of sailboats and the carousel. The swans reminded me of Lancelot and Elaine at ISU.
40: Omigosh! Delicious pasta, pizza and sandwiches followed by amazing sweets (almost) too pretty to eat. McD's had a full service bakery with cappucino bar and tasty treats. Had one burger to see how it compared to home, not much different. Once I got over the price shock, I could really enjoy the great food and bottled water, with or without gas. Check out the Big and Tasty, combo equals $16.25 US and just $10 if you only want the sandwich.
41: Fondue is usually served in the winter, but Gary, Sharon and I really wanted to experience this Swiss tradition. Little did we know what an adventure we were in for. Almost ended up in France! It took five tries and a little help from the concierge, our glittery friends at the bus stop, an anonymous chef's daughter, a very angry woman and an entertaining menu designer. We planned to share a pot of this rich cheese, but something got lost in translation, and we ended up with a HUGE pot of fondue. Oh, my!
42: Opening Session entertainment was a traditional alphorn orchestra, l'echo du Boiron. I was surprised to see the long horns came apart into sections that nest to fit in a suitcase. Closing Session entertainment was an amazing duo called Space Violins. Their great musical skills were matched only by their energetic dancing and fabulous light show.
43: Opening Session speaker was primatologist Jane Goodall who shared lessons from 50 years of her work with chimpanzees. Closing Session speaker was actress Jamie Lee Curtis who reminded us to live wisely and love well. Kiwanis dignitaries included Jane Erickson, NE-IA, elected as KI Trustee. Sylvester Neal, outgoing President from Washington and Pres-elect, Alan Penn from Ohio.
44: convention | The Palexpo was a beautiful complex for the 3000 delegates. Surprisingly, the US anthem played for the founding nation before the Swiss anthem played for the host nation. Kept track of the schedule with the 106-pg program printed in English, French and German.
45: Imagine four minutes to fresh toasty panini from a vending machine - right next to the machine with candy, soda, juice, beer and cigarettes. Ready to support the next worldwide project to eliminate Maternal Neonatal Tetanus. All that chocolate and cheese takes a lot of cows, but this one was strictly decorative at the restaurant.
46: It was a beautiful summer drive around the north side of Lac Leman. Lots of grapes and cows as seen before, but surprised by the many fields of sturdy sunflowers, freshly baled hay and grazing buffalo.
48: Chillon Castle was built on a small rocky island in the 12th century. It has served through the years as a fortress, arsenal and prison. I felt like a princess amid the stone treasure. Found my knight in shining armour and made a wish in the fountain. I was sure surprised to see red high-tops, ala Big! so far from home.
51: Montreaux comes alive during the annual Jazz Festival and the promenade explodes with food, drink and music. This area is referred to as the "Swiss Riviera." Marveled at the fine art of crepe making. Passed Freddy Mercury (Queen) statue by the lakeshore. Looks like rock sculptures are as popular as flowers in the gardens. The creepy golden guy was more creepy when he stood up to dance!
52: What a warm hug from the big St. Bernard greeting travelers at the airport. And he handed out chocolate, too! Learned that if you are landing in France and not just flying over, you have to follow the France signs to a remote section of the Geneva airport. Felt a little like Dorothy, but instead of a yellow brick road it was "follow the bright yellow signs." Can't imagine flying with all these bikes - I think they had something to do with the Tour de France, but I didn't ask. That bottle of German beer was supposed to be a souvenir, but it didn't make the trip. When faced with overweight luggage I decided to unload rather than pay a $125 fine. Unfortunately, I forgot that the 2 liter alcohol limit applies to checked luggage and exceeds the 3 oz liquid limit for carry on. Fortunately, my friend has a good sense of humor and enjoyed the story almost as much as the beer.
53: Heading home from my adventure ... Geneva, Switzerland Paris, France Atlanta, Georgia Des Moines, Iowa Got a quick glance at Ireland as we were flying over. Maybe some day I'll get to see the Emerald Isle up close and in person?
54: July 1-11, 2011 Here's what happened while I was gone ... Yao Ming retires from NBA Betty Ford passes away South Sudan becomes an independent nation Casey Anthony is acquitted in daughter's murder trial NASA launches final shuttle in the space program News of the World publishes final edition amid scandal Big Brother opens Season 13! It is good to be home!