Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snowed In

Plato once said, "A wise man speaks because he has something to say; a fool because he has to say something."

I suppose that makes me half-wise right now. Because I have things to say...but I'm not exactly in writing mode (despite being snowed in with nowhere to go)...but I'd like to be a good blogger and post every few days. So here's my compromise.

The *last* time I was ordered to sit down and watch the world go by, I was enjoying the view from my friend's porch in Ireland. (Today, it's not a friend, but rather Mother Nature who has ordered me to sit down and pause. But I digress.) Remembering that day made me remember that I never followed through with my promise for pictures and stories from my European adventure.

So here are a few snippets from my exploits on the other side of the pond. A story from each stop:
Stop 1:  Bitburg, Germany.  Only in Germany do they leave their castles unattended.  Here Haji sits triumphantly atop the tower of the upper castle in Manderscheid, Germany.  The lower castle was closed, but the tourist office informed us that the upper one was still open.  We soon discovered why.  It's only accessibly by a treacherous walking path.  No wonder it is always open!  When we finally made our way up the path (with a stroller no less), there was no door or signage or anything.  Just the castle.  We roamed through the ruins, enjoyed the view, and climbed all the way to the top of the tower....all with no other people in sight.  It really felt like we were breaking in, or jumping back in time.  My friend Dan and I kept joking about looking out for Orcs or seeing the beacons of Gondor.  There was a flag pole at the very top of the tower, so we both took pictures like we were Mario.  (Of course, the Princess was in another castle.)  It was a great day.

Stop 2:  Kaiserslautern, Germany.  It was during my time in Kaiserslautern that I truly fell in love with Germany.  I'll tell you why:  Christmas Markets!  Nearly every town has one.  There's food and crafts and sweets and decorations and concerts.  And Gluwein!  In fact, each Christmas Market has their own signature mug.  My friend Jess and I joked that while our mothers would certainly go home with a collection of corny mugs, *we* would certainly never fall to their tempation.  Famous last words.  Jess is an adventurous nomad like and me.  We went to four markets (in three countries) in two days and racked up quite a collection for ourselves.  Here's Haji with the one that started it all.

Stop 3:  London, England.  Potential little known fact about me:  I love William Wilberforce.  If you don't know who he is, I highly recommend that you read the book Amazing Grace and find out more.  He's just a brilliant human being.  My to do list in London was pretty short.  Find Platform 9 3/4, and visit Westminster Abby to see the Wilberforce memorial.  Now that I've been to London, I would also add "eat at an Indian restaurant" to the list.  The Indian cuisine in London is the best in the world.  (At least, that's what I was told, and after eating at this place near the Royal Opera I would fully agree.)  This story makes the cut because while we were eating, I recognized a song that was playing on the restaurant's sound system.  I can't even tell you what the name of the song is, but I can tell you what movie it's from.  I can even tell you the scene of the movie.  I *may* even be able to mimic a few of the dance moves from the scene.  I have officially watched way too many Bollywood films.

Stop 4:  Cork, Ireland.  Ireland might have been my favorite stop of all.  My friend lives on the coast, and when I first saw the view...I wondered how he and his wife ever leave.  It's just breathtaking.  (Bonus tidbit:  you can see the island from which the Titanic set sail on it's doomed voyage from their house.)  Anyway, no trip to Southern Ireland would be complete without a stop at the famous Blarney Castle.  So Haji and I set off to find the castle...and kiss the stone of course.  To kiss the Blarney stone, you have to take off anything "dangly" - glasses, bags, umbrellas, etc.  I sat my collection of stuff to the side and had my fun snogging the stone.  But as I was re-situating myself as a sort of one woman traveling pack-horse, the catcher asked me if my giraffe would like to kiss the stone as well.  (My purse works very well as a sort of pet carrier, with Haji's head poking out the top of the large pocket.)  I'm not kidding.  HE brought it up!  Naturally, I said Haji would be very delighted.  (Actually, I first asked him if he was serious.  It was only after our mutual insanity was confirmed that I got super giddy and said that it would be great.)  They held him down there and let him kiss the stone while I took a picture.  He's not the first stuffed traveling companion to take the plunge, but he IS the first giraffe.  No baloney.

So there you have it.  A much overdue retelling of some of the tomfoolery Haji and I shared last fall.  Now I'm back to the adventure of the day:  Snowpocalypse/Snowmageddon/Blizzard of 2010.

I hope you're warm and cozy.  Wherever you are.

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