Friday, December 10, 2010

Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg

These three countries I just had the luxury of visiting were really really neat.  :)  Completely different than Spain in every aspect.  Different languages, different yet AMAZING FOOD, and just a very different way of life in general.  It was really cool to see how even though these countries aren’t that far apart, their cultures are extremely different.  It was weird to be in a country where I didn’t know the language for once.  I don’t know any German or French that I could use to communicate with the people of Germany, Belgium, or Luxembourg.  I was out of my element for a few days, but lucky for me my wonderful cousin Sally was able to translate all the German to me.  :)  We weren’t so lucky with the French, since neither one of us speaks French, but we managed alright. 
My adventure to Germany of course started out in Sevilla.  I took a train from Sevilla to Malaga and then took a plane from Malaga to the Frankfurt-Hahn airport in Germany.  All those connections of buses, trains, metros, and finally airports was a little stressful, but luckily I was able to meet a girl who was taking the exact same train from Sevilla to Malaga and even the same flight from Malaga to Germany!  She was even coming back on the same flight that I was!  With someone else by my side I felt a lot better and not as scared to be traveling by myself. 
As we entered the Malaga airport, after catching the metro from the train station, I was instantly amazed by the size of this airport!!  Not that I haven’t been in big airports before, but I definitely wasn’t expecting an airport of this size in Malaga!  We walk down to the Ryanair passport check thing, get our passports checked and then leave to go through the security line…that is if we can FIND the security check point!  We walked around for seriously like 15 minutes trying to find the stupid security point!  Finally out of fear that we might not find our flight in time we finally asked someone where the security check point was.  “Oh it’s waaayyyy on the other side of this building.  There is only one security check for the whole airport…that’s probably why you’re confused.  Of course Ryanair is conveniently located at the complete opposite end of where we need to be.  Lovely.  Thankfully there wasn’t a long line at security and we were able to get through fairly fast.  We finally get on the plane and take off on our night flight to Germany.
After about 3 hours of flight time we finally land in a very foggy, snowing Germany.  :)  I haven’t seen snow in a really long time.  It was a nice change from all this rain that Spain has been having lately!!  Yes I know snow is pretty much the same thing as rain, but it’s prettier.  :) As we were loading off the plane I noticed we weren’t going to be walking through a nice warm tunnel from the plane to the gate.  No no..this is Ryanair…the cheap airline.  No warm tunnel for you!   You walk on ground to the gate!  At first I didn’t think it would be that bad, as I was admiring the beauty of all the snow through the airplane windows.  It’s not all wet and gloomy as’s dry and fluffy and WOAHHH COLD!!!  Oh god.  I forgot just how cold snow and mountains could be, but I definitely got my wakeup call then!!  I began shivering about 5 seconds in.  But I survived and my friend and I walked in to the airport.  As I walked through the doors into the main part of the airport I saw my cousin Sally there waiting for my arrival.  :)  My friend Katie and I parted ways and I went off to start my German adventure with Sally.  We drove to her house in Salmtal and I went straight to bed after eating some midnight snacks.  After a long day of travel there is no better thing in the world than some chips and salsa and a nice warm bed WITH A HEATER IN THE ROOM!!!  Anyone have any idea how long it’s been since I’ve even SEEN a heater here in Spain??!!  104 days to be exact.  I have 6 blankets on my bed now and sleep with wool socks, long pj pants, and a jacket.  I’m doomed to live in the southwest of the US forever!!!  I seriously can’t handle cold weather!  Even Spain has been too cold for me lately!  My first impression of Germany was definitely a good one.  :) 
Now here is where I decide to break this little story up into sections..I saw a lot of little towns and countries during my vacation and each has their own story and purpose.  Read them all, read by town, read whatever you want!  Aaaaannndd go!
The next day we were going to take a group of middle schoolers to a little town called Trier, (fun fact) the oldest known town in Germany, for a good old fashioned Christmas market.  We met up with all the middle schoolers and then drove to Trier.  I had never been to a Christmas market before and I must say it was SO COOL!!  There were all these little booths all decked out Christmas style with amazing food and other random things you could buy.  I was on a mission to enjoy some good ol’ German food so my cousin and I got an order of Reibekuchen, otherwise known as Potato Pancakes!  OH…MY..GOD.  It was to die for.  Especially with the apple sauce on top!!  I’d never had them in my life, but now it looks like I’ll be making these at least once a week when I get home!  Still hungry after the reibekuchen, I went straight to the brats stand…no better place to eat a Bratwurst than the birth place of brats themselves.  It was fantastic as well.  :) 
After that we walked around for some time and went into a really neat cathedral.  Apparently this cathedral is world renowned!  Who knew?  Lol well not me…many people come from all over the world come to this church to see one thing and one thing only.  You’ll never guess what’s there…supposedly locate inside the church behind loads of barricades and bullet proof class lie robes the Jesus Christ himself wore.  Pretty impressive I thought!  Of course you can’t see the robes because they are inside a pressurized box of some sorts, but they do have a picture of them outside the room where they are located!  Lol soooo yes I kinda got to see them, but not really.  But as I’ve realized on this trip many people will never get the opportunity to even come within 4000 miles of this so I’ve learned to appreciate whatever you can get. 
When we were done looking at the cathedral it was off to eat some more and walk around the Christmas market.  I stopped and got a Crepe with Nutella as my third snack for the day because I was absolutely FREEZING!  I know it wasn’t German food but it smelled and looked delicious.  And it was.  :)  Even though my body was now warm from all the food inside my body my feet would not cooperate.  They refused to warm up..not to mention I didn’t have warm socks or snow boots on.  I just don’t have those kinds of things from living in AZ all my life!  Lol  But thankfully my dear cousin was amazing and bought me a pair of handmade wool socks from a little stand at the market.  :)  Problem solved.  We then walked down to another famous sight called the Porta Nigra.  Literally Black Wall.  It was a wall from the Roman days, but only part of it still exists today.  Man, I never realized how big the Roman Empire was before I came to Europe…I know everyone learns about it in textbooks and all, but to actually see the expanse they had from the edge of Spain to Germany, Italy and beyond is just mind blowing.  While standing next to the ancient wall I once again saw just how small I was compared to the world.  Just a tiny grain of sand in this ocean of life.
We stayed all day in Trier and I definitely enjoyed my fist Christmas market.  We dropped all the middle schoolers back off at the base and then decided to go out for a German dinner.  Sally knew of a great Schnitzel place with over 27 kinds of schnitzel dishes close to her town, so we went.  I was told Schnitzel was a delicious fried pork dish and a very typical German food.  I’m not a huge pork person, but I decided to give it a try.  I ordered the Jägerschnitzel.  Once again German food melted in my mouth.  It was sooo good!!!  It was two pieces of delicious breaded and fried pork with a mushroom sauce over it.  My limited pork menu of things that I will eat grew from only pulled pork sandwiches to pulled pork and schnitzel.  :)  Someone tell me why I went to Spain to study again??!!  German food is soooooooooooo much better!!!  Man if only I took German in school…
We ended the day with a rented movie and then I went to bed…with the heater on of course.  :)
My Saturday in Germany consisted of going to another Christmas market in the town of Burnkastel with Sally and her friends.  Before we entered the Christmas market we of course had to see the castle that was located on the top of the hill.  The hike almost killed me since I’m NOT a very enthusiastic hiking person, but the views at the top of the hill were amazing.  We looked down at the town below us and all the beautiful landscape that Germany had to offer.  After some time exploring the castle we went back down and met up with her friends to explore the Burnkastel market. 
In my opinion, this one was even better than the Trier market.  As I walked into the town I instantly felt like I was in the North Pole.  Everything was decorated and the small winding streets smelled of homemade food.  The main square even had a life size advent calendar!  A real house with 25 windows each with a number or a picture depending on whether the day had passed or not.  I felt like this is what you see in the movies.  This definitely couldn’t be real..this is what people dream of seeing during Christmas.  Germany definitely knows how to celebrate Christmas. 
And of course I had to try some more German food.  :)  This time I tried Flammkuchen and Apfelsaftshorle.  Flammkuchen is a German version of pizza I guess you could say, but better.  Instead of red marinara sauce they use a white sauce and different bread to make the dough.  Amazing.  And the apfelsaftshorle is apple juice with carbonation!  Really good as well!!!  Definitely making that when I get back too!  Germans also really know how to enjoy the art of food as well.  :)
The final event for the day, night technically, was the torch swimmers.  They have this tradition in Burnkastel where about 100 people or so go floating down the freezing cold river at night carrying fire torches with them.  Interesting…and then behind all the torch bearers is the one and only SANTA CLAUS in a boat!!  I guess this is their way of welcoming him into their town.  And when Santa gets to the town he gives out chocolates to all the girls and boys.  We of course watched the spectacle from the warmth of our heated car, but we had a great view none the less.  One thing’s for sure you would not find me in that river at this time of the year!!     
After spending the day exploring yet another cute town we went to a German grocery store to buy some German dessert.  :)  I picked out an Apple Strudel and for dinner, a good ol pepperoni pizza.  Haha!  We baked all of our goodies and eat til our little heart’s content.  An amazing second day in Germany.
The next day Sally and I decided to drive up to Belgium to see some sights up there.  On our way to Belgium, we stopped at another castle.  Lol Who knew Germany had so many castles??  This castle had a special purpose however…it wasn’t just a castle, but also a wolf and wild bird refuge.  The castle was of course on top of another giant hill, but this time we drove.  :)  We paid for our entrance tickets and walked around outside to see all the owls, hawks, wolves, sheep, and goats that this place had to offer.  Yes I know it was a wolf and bird refuge, but they had some livestock there too!  They were sooo cute with their big fluffy woolyness!  Then I realized what the livestock might be there for… for the wolves…suddenly not so cute.  Circle of life I suppose! 
We looked at the animals and climbed to the top tower of the castle.  Got some great pictures then headed off to Belgium.  It was snowing really badly on our way there so it took us FOREVER to get to Belgium, but we finally made it.  :) 
We then met up with one of Sally’s friends and she gave us a tour of Brussels.  I absolutely LOVED Brussels!  We got a personal tour of the amazing city and I got to see some famous sights.  We saw the non-centered church, some EU government buildings, a light show, the famous Manneken Pis, the palace where the king lives, and a structure that was made special for the World’s Fair that was held in Brussels in I forget what year lol.  All very cool and all very worth seeing.  While walking around Belgium I of course had to have a Belgian Waffle with some amazing Belgian Chocolate.  :) yummy.  And then we ate Frits as well!  They are seriously almost like American french fries, but way better.  The look a lot alike, but they are cooked in different oil and seasoned a bit differently as well, but they are soooo good!!  I can’t wait to go back to Belgium and eat waffles and frits all over again. 
We also went to a famous touristy bar in Brussels called Delirium.  They hold the world record for most amount of beers served in one place.  27 beers on tap and over 240 to chose from not on tap!!  CRAZY AMOUNT!  It was a really cute bar where we got to sit and relax after a long day of travel.  Then it was back to Sally’s friend’s house to crash for the night.  :)
The next day we woke up early and decided to drive to Luxembourg.  Why not?  We figured.  It’s right there so we might as well.  I love Europe.  You can seriously be in 3 different countries in a 24 hour period. 
We arrived in Luxembourg and did some sightseeing there as well.  We saw more castles, an old cathedral, a palace, and some amazing picturesque views of the city.  I don’t want to make Luxembourg seem boring, but ehh…there wasn’t really much to do there.  We spent some time exploring the city but all in all, and stopped at another Christmas market, but after 2 or 3 hours we were good.  Luxembourg was a beautiful city but very small.  At least now I can put a little check mark next to Luxembourg’s name on my list of countries I’ve been too.  I guess not many people can say they’ve done that.  :)
                                      And now back to Germany…   
For my final night in Germany, we decided to make enchiladas for dinner.  In order to do so however, we needed to go to a grocery store that sold Mexican food products, consequently a hard thing to do if you’re in Europe…seriously these people have no idea what they’re missin by not eatin some Mexican food!  Luckily for me my cousin works on a military base for the US of A and there they have an all American grocery store.  :)  In order to get me onto the military base I had to have my passport and a special pass that we picked up in the office when I first arrived in Germany.  Why did I need my passport you may ask??  Well because I WENT TO AMERICA!!!  Yep!!  If you’re on a military base overseas once you enter the base you are automatically in America!  So technically I went to America at least 10 times during my stay in Germany.  :)  They use US dollars on the base, have fast food restaurants, a grocery store, a gas station, American cars, and pretty much everything that is in America!  It was like a little America in the middle of nowhere.  It was heaven.
As we entered into the Commissary as they call it, I was overcome by the sight in front of me.  I never realized until then how much I’ve missed seeing American food in a store.  Everything was there!!!  I even got to hold a box of Kraft Mac’n’Cheese for the first time I like 4 months.  I walked up and down every isle just looking at all the comforts of home right there in front of me.  It was horrible to tease myself like that, but it was a much needed “welcome home” feeling.  I noticed all the food I hadn’t seen in a while and suddenly had a craving for everything.  For example, while walking down an isle I passed by a lovely box of “Cheez-Its”.  I’ve never been a huge fan of cheez-it’s before, but in that moment I could have eaten a whole box.  I found myself in an “OMG.  Cheez-its!  Yes I don’t really like cheez-it’s, but I would like to have some now please” situation.  Funny how the smallest things bring the greatest pleasure when you’re away from home. 
We made some bomb enchiladas that night and watched movies all night long.  I was very sad to leave the next day, but I suppose everything must come to an end at some point.  I had an amazing time in Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg and hopefully will get the chance to visit there again.  I made it home safely to Seville Tuesday night even though my flight was late (thank you Ryanair).  Katie (friend from waaay earlier in the story) and I missed the last train out of Malaga to Sevilla, but we ended up taking a bus back which in the long run was cheaper and got there around the same time since the bus made no stops while the train made quite a few. 
It was definitely an adventure running through airports and all over Europe, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.  Thank you to all who made this journey possible for me.  :)  You know who you are and for that, I owe you the world.                   

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