Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Start of Our German Fairy Tale

For the last few years, my visits home for Christmas have always included at least one day in the living room with my parents, actively planning their visit in February. Last year we planned out the most wonderful fairy tale vacation in Germany and France, heading back to the home of our ancestral Streisels. Well, when I brought up Alsace, France (more to come in another post), we found that we couldn't fly there easily, and decided to fly to Stuttgart and train from there. Most of our excitement was on the Alsace region, where we found the most darling old hotel to stay in (snagging the last room!). We weren't so worried about finding a room in a either Stuttgart or Frieburg, because they were both quite a bit larger and had more to offer. 

Well, I guess I dropped the ball, because I completely forgot to book a hotel at all in either one until we were boarding the plane to Stuttgart! Though it was stressful and I felt awful, this is how awesome technology today is: between boarding and take-off, we managed to find a decent place to stay and book it from my phone. Not bad for last minute planning!

One of my elementary teachers affectionately referred to me as Jesse Strudel growing up, and Streusel cake was always a part of post-church breakfasts in the summer with my grandparents. Clearly, having a name that sounds like a German dessert has always been a part of my identity (I hope you can detect my joking tone here). Well, as we found out at breakfast our very first morning in Germany, "Streusel" pronounced with a German accent sounds just like "Streisel!" Woohoo for being named after dessert!

After our delicious breakfast, we headed out to explore the town. I'll be honest, we didn't love Stuttgart; this may have been mostly due to the terrible weather, which alternated between frozen rain and snow. We sought shelter in the Wurttemberg State Museum in the Old Castle, spending more time at each exhibit than we might have spent otherwise, all in an effort to stay warm. I had been watching the show Reign at the time, so I enjoyed the information on all of the royals; seeing how historical figures fit together is fascinating!

Afterwards we wandered into what we thought was a cute little garden shop called "Merz und Benzing." It turned out to be a ginormous marketplace of housing goods and decorations, clothes, and food from all over the world. We stopped there for lunch, sampling hearty German food for the first time. Ughhhhhh sooooo good! Comfort food must be a German invention. I had Swabian ravioli, which was delicious.  A certain mother of mine also had her first beer (when in Germany, amiright? So proud). 

My poor frozen parents
While we didn't love Stuttgart, we did love Hohenzollern Castle, which we visited on our second day. Visiting the castle took a little planning; our route should have been train to bus to castle, but because it was winter (low season), busses didn't run quite as regularly as we thought they would. The train dropped us off at a creepy, abandoned old train station, where we froze as we waited for nearly an hour for the bus to come. All the while we were unsure of whether one ever would. We couldn't figure out which bus to take or the schedule, but FINALLY were embarrassed to see that the signs for our bus even included a picture of the castle itself. Oops! 

The castle was first build in the early 11th century, but has been completely destroyed and rebuilt twice since then (once in the 1400s, and again in the 1800s). The third and hopefully final castle was built by Frederick William IV of Prussia before he became king. Funnily enough, it hasn't really ever been used as a primary residence, but rather as a place for parties and entertaining. Georg Friedrich is the current Head of the Royal House of Prussia (which is a branch of the House of Hohenzollern). As we toured the castle, we wore giant fuzzy booties over our shoes to protect the floors, but the guide mentioned that the current owners had been known to throw some crazy parties in the ballroom. I'm picturing the Yule Ball at Hogwarts- stuffy traditional party turned rave! It really did look like Hogwarts with the amazing turrets and towers. I read that German castles like this one were the inspiration behind the Disney castles, too!


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