This year we celebrated Thanksgiving ahead of time, on Sunday, since we don’t get Thursday off in Germany. Last year a half-American, half-German couple in Würselen were gracious enough to invite us to their house. This year we hosted. There were 10 of us total, so we added our patio table to the mix, and decided to put on some Oktoberfest tablecloth Clare had picked up for 10 cents. So, you can call it Novemberfest if you like 🙂
We spent most of the weekend preparing – shopping, cleaning, and cooking. I had ordered a turkey from the butcher about 3 weeks in advance. On Friday they called me to say that it was not available. Apparently the delivery company had just told them. They did have turkey breasts available, so I ordered one of those. Then on Saturday morning our friends called to say that they found frozen turkey at the grocery store. So we ended up getting both just in case. With a lukewarm water bath the frozen turkey thawed successfully, so we ended up having a ton of turkey. Clare made a fantastic turkey soup. We have been eating leftovers all week. Thursday we had a complete Thanksgiving meal a second time with all the leftovers.
Even though life in a foreign country continues to be tough some times, I am thankful we have had the opportunity. The week before thanksgiving we had parent teacher conferences, and both Spencer’s and Meg’s teachers all said that they are doing great, especially since they have only been speaking German for such a short time. We are really proud of both of them. Now it is time to celebrate Advent!
Several weeks ago some of the kids in Spencer’s soccer team went to play laser tag, and the kids (and I) got hooked. Today I finally bought a membership card so I can track my points between games. It is fairly exhilarating, and we all get very sweaty. It is also a good way to calm my mind, and focus on the present.
It turns out that the place in Würselen about 1 km away is one of the best around. Just another great reason to live in Würselen. In addition to a large area and several moving walls, they also have really cool art made from bicycle parts, like this alien figure.
While Clare were doing the wine tasting on Monday, we asked the honeymooning couple what their favorite thing was in Sorrento, and they said taking a boat tour of Capri. This hadn’t really been on our list before, but we decided to try it, and indeed it was one of the favorites of everyone. It was one of the most expensive things we did, but it was worth it. The boat ride was very relaxing. It left from the port just a 2 minute walk from our apartment, the guide was great, the weather was beautiful, and seeing the coast of Sorrento and of Capri up close from a small boat is surely the best way to enjoy its beauty. Capri itself was not that interesting to us. We enjoyed a nice pizza lunch near the harbor, searched for the funicular to the top of the island for 20 minutes, finally found it, and then just did some souvenir shopping.
One of the big highlights of the trip was definitely going to Pompeii and Vesuvius. After much research we decided to simply take the train, and then get a guide once we got to Pompeii. That turned out to work quite well. The part that was less than great was taking the public bus to Mount Vesuvius. On the way there, Meg had to sit on Clare’s lap, and I had to stand the whole way. On the way back, we actually missed the bus! There was one scary moment where we were worried we might be stranded on a volcano, but ended up getting a taxi and not having to pay a fortune. Vesuvius was not quite as cool as I thought it would be, but I think the kids really enjoyed seeing it, and putting together the two – without the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius in the year 79 CE, Pompeii would not have been preserved like it is.
After having a good experience on the train on Monday, we decided to venture further on Tuesday – a hike to the Regina Giovanna bath, to visit Roman ruins at the tip of the peninsula of Sorrento. We stopped by the grocery store again on our way out for some sandwiches, since we didn’t know if there would be any place to get food near the baths. When we arrived at the train station, there was a train on the tracks. It seemed a bit early, but we got on and waited. After about 10 minutes of waiting on the train, the conductor looked at us and told us to get off. The train was “kaputt”. So we waited another 30 minutes for the next one, which seemed to be working. Now we started to understand the reputation of the “worst train in the world”.
We only needed 2 stops to get Sorrento, at which point we first decided to try to find some goggles or snorkeling gear for swimming, since the kids had forgotten their goggles (fortunately Rob had remembered his, so we could share). We found some snorkles, got some gelato, and then headed to the bus stop. We had been told it is a good idea to buy round trip tickets for the bus, so we did so. The bus ride was fairly uneventful, but it was good that we had our GPS, because that way we could see where we were going on the map, since they didn’t announce any stops. Right as we got off the bus we found some vending machines, and decided to get some extra drinks for the hike.
We had read that the hike was quite challenging, but actually it turned out to be relatively easy for us. Most of the hike was on a nice cobblestone paved path, so the 1-2 kilometer within about 20 minutes. The trickiest part was when we finally got to the ruins, and could see the protected swimming cove – we couldn’t figure out which path to get down there at first, but eventually we did. The water was definitely a degree or two colder than by our beach the day before, but still quite swimmable. It was good that we got there when we did, as it started to get quite crowded shortly thereafter. After about an hour of swimming we dried off and found a place to enjoy our lunch. On our way out of the sea we saw an octopus hiding among the rocks; its head was about the size of a volleyball!
After lunch we looked around the ruins a bit more, then headed back up the trail. Going uphill was of course slower, but still not too bad. A bus arrived just as we got to the stop, but apparently not the bus we wanted – our return tickets were for the SITA bus. This was an EAV bus, which was not even listed as a possibility on Google Maps. We decided to wait for the next one. It zoomed by 20 minutes later without stopping. Then another EAV bus came, and we decided to just pay on the bus. Only now we didn’t know exactly where this bus was headed. We got off near the train station, and found a train back. It was about 5 p.m. when we got back to the apartment, and the kids had not had enough swimming. Clare went down to the beach with them while I made dinner and booked a boat trip for Thursday.
We got a relatively slow start again on Monday. After breakfast, we got dressed and headed up the elevator to town. There happened to be a market going on, which we perused, but nothing caught our fancy. We went to the basilica, which was fairly unassuming from the outside, but very beautiful inside.
After the basilica we found the train station, which we would need to use later, and then headed further into town. We found the Deutsche Bank ATM (just down the street from Hotel Klein Wien), and a very nice Gelateria right across the street. After some window shopping, we headed to the grocery store, and then back to the apartment.
After some lunch we had a little time for some swimming at the beach. Then we made some food for the kids, and Clare and I went off to a wine tasting in Sorrento. Our first experience with the so-called “worst train in the world” was actually not too bad. We did end up getting back after the elevator had stopped operating (after 8 p.m.), which meant we had to walk down the switchback road, but it actually was not too bad because there was not much traffic by this point. We stopped at a different pizzeria this time for another tasty treat to enjoy at home with the kids.
Sunday morning we slept in and had a lazy morning. After the long day of traveling on Saturday, we planned to simply relax and hang out at the beach. We decided to go to the private beach right by our apartment. We were worried it would be expensive, but it turned out to be only 2€ per adult; the kids were free. Whenever I told one of my colleagues at work we were going to Italy in October, they said it would be too cold. I think what they really meant, was that it would not be too hot. The water was a little chilly, but refreshing.
We spent several hours at the beach in the morning, then came back in for awhile for lunch. After some relaxation, we took the elevator up the cliff to the botanical garden to see the sunset. They also have a free museum there, with some Roman art they have discovered in the area. The sunset was very beautiful. They also had a large checkers and chess board, which we enjoyed.