Life has certainly been different the last several months with the restrictions in place to try to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Germany we have been fortunate to not be confined totally to the indoors. Going outside for walks, while keeping a minimum distance from people outside of your household has been encouraged. And we were lucky to have some really great weather too – during most of April we enjoyed highs in the 60s to 70s. We have tried to take the opportunity to get outside almost every day. Just a few minute walk from our house and we are walking through fields – all kinds of different fields – strawberries, lettuce, sugar beet, barley, and lots of rapeseed, which is used to make Canola oil. Canola is a new-fangled marketing term for rapeseed oil, because for some reason, people didn’t want to buy rapeseed oil (well, besides the name, they also did some selective breeding in the 1970s to make the oil look and taste better). They grow lots of rapeseed in Canada, and thus they re-branded it as Canola oil. In fact, the town of Tinsdale, Saskatchewan was known as “the land of rape and honey” until just a few years ago. The industrial band Ministry learned of this fact and thought it was funny, thus they used it for the title of their third studio album (I had a dubbed version of this album on cassette tape when I was in middle school). One final note, in Germany, rapeseed oil is currently primarily used for the production of biodiesel.
Our second day of touristing for Easter break was in Trier. The word to describe Trier best is old. It was a Roman settlement, and there are many remnants of the Romans still there. We saw the Kaiserthermen from the 3-5th century, the city library with the first copy of the Gutenberg bible, plus many handwritten manuscripts dating back to the 700s, the oldest Cathedral in Germany, which was started in the 3rd century, and the Porta Nigra city gate from 170. We also saw the Benediktinerabtei which holds the bones of St. Matthew.
Yesterday we celebrated Spencer’s 10th birthday and Meg’s 8th at the local pool – Aquana. I think everyone had a great time. We ended up with 6 girls and 6 boys total, plus Clare, Rob, Dave, and Ellen. Meg had requested a rainbow cake. She and Clare spent quite a bit of time researching recipes, and even made a practice cake. The final result was quite stunning. Spencer wanted an ice cream cake again, and we also had to do experimenting with ingredients and different types of ice cream. His turned out quite nice too. It was a little tricky to figure out how to transport the cakes. We eventually decided that Clare would drive back home quickly to pick up the ice cream cake when it was time to eat, since it is only a few minutes away. That ended up working out really well. As usual, Dave and Ellen were really helpful. Thanks for making the long trip from Colorado!
Spencer had a soccer game yesterday. The normal goalie couldn’t make it so he got to play goalie. I think he enjoyed it. He didn’t get much action, since his team was much better than the opponent. They won 8-2. Uncle Phil and I went to the game. It had rained overnight, but was just overcast during the game, which was nice. I did learn that at the end of each game they do a shootout, which doesn’t actually count towards the score, but is fun for the kids, so they each get to try to score a goal (and the goalie gets more practice). One thing that the coach mentioned (and some of the other parents) was that Spencer could throw the ball really far – farther than some kids can kick it. I guess all that American football paid off.
This is the first field day we have had since we have lived in Colorado which had nice weather on the scheduled day, and didn’t have to be rescheduled. It was a beautiful day. I was only able to come for a little bit because I was busy at work and Clare was hosting an event at Boulder startup week. The kids had a good time. I think one of the favorite new events this year was the oreo challenge, in which you try to get an oreo from your forehead into your mouth without using your hands.
Tuesday, we journeyed to the south of Germany to visit the castle that inspired Walt Disney when he was making Cinderella’s castle for Disney World. King Ludwig designed and oversaw its construction from his nearby childhood summer castle, Hohenschwangau, which we also toured.
When we toured Hohenschwangau, we arrived expecting an automated audio tour. They guy handing out handsets told us there was a live guided tour in English starting in 10 minutes, if we would like to wait. We said yes. He said that we could step behind this rope and wait in those chairs over there. The rope marked off some old wooden chair covered in velvet in front of a royal chapel that was part of the castle. We weren’t allowed to photograph inside the castle or else I would have taken a picture. I didn’t want to get kicked out of my 10 minutes of waiting in that setting. It was pretty special to sit in those chairs with no barrier between us and the castle an imagine all the others who might have passed that way before us.
Then we toured the newer castle that was never finished and has been a tourist attraction since 60 days after King Ludwig’s unfortunate demise. The Austrian Alps in the background and the winding forest patches were all pretty idyllic.
The kids are tired and still not quite adjusted to Germany time, but the castles were magical enough to win them over. However, the kids may remember today as the day I let them have McDonalds for lunch AND dinner. In my defense, they had a touch screen menu where I could order and pay in English.
Monday the kids had their Field Day, just a few days before the end of school. They both had a really fun time.
Meg and I went to the scarecrow festival today in Olde Towne Arvada. We saw giant pumpkins, did a maze, went on a hay ride, bought a pumpkin, and finished with some ice cream from Scrumptious, which Meg and I think is the best in the whole world. We also saw lots of cool scarecrows. Meg really liked the Minion scarecrows. Autumn is Meg’s favorite season.
Today was the first of day school for us – Meg started Kindergarten, and Spencer started second grade. Meg had a big mix of emotions. She was super excited for the most part, with a bit of shyness and nervousness mixed in. She did just fine walking into her classroom. The kids school has a tradition of doing a big flag ceremony on the first day of school about 30 minutes after the start of school. The cub scouts do the ceremony including sending off a rocket. Spencer and Rob participated in the flag ceremony. For some reason, seeing Mommy again got Meg bawling, and asking to only do half day Kindergarten. By the time they got home though, they were both happy and excited to tell us all about their days.