404 Germany

Travel Turtle stories about travel in Germany

In this section you will find first-hand experiences, stories, and/or advice about our travels within Germany.

Mozart, Mint, and Vanilla: Ice Cream Connecting the Generations

I’m going to break the fourth wall here for a moment.

I was thinking of this blog and I wanted to write about ice cream. It’s National Ice Cream month, you know? And though I enjoy ice cream, especially living in Europe, there’s not much I normally have to say about it. Believe me, I thought about it a lot the past few days:

  • Ice cream’s great in Europe because… they serve small scoops at small prices. €0.70 if you’re in my town, up to €0.90 if you’re somewhere fancy. (BORING!)
  • People eat it all the time in the summer here. (OBVIOUS!)
  • A pint of Ben and Jerry’s at my local grocery store is almost €6.00 and I indulge in it more than I should because, even though European ice cream is good, it’s hit or miss at ice cream shops and mostly miss at grocery stores. (PATHETIC!)

So, when we passed an ice cream/gelato shop right next to Cologne’s big cathedral, I was excited. We can sit outside, enjoy our ice cream while enjoying our views and I would have a slight ice cream story that was probably going to be more about the cathedral. Except then my husband said it’s way too expensive to sit down and have ice cream, we should just get a scoop of ice cream to go. And so we did.

ice cream

I went in to order (no line, yay!); he stayed outside with the kids.

He wanted pistachio, but they were out of it. I stepped outside, “they don’t have pistachio, is mint ok?”

“Yes”

And then, in typical my-luck-would-have it fashion, a line had formed. Two older couples were checking out the options, but of them, only one woman was really interested in the ice cream. She wore a black hat and kept pointing to the different options while chatting to the server. I wondered if she was ever going to order and wanted to just skip in front of her so I could.

While I waited for her, I looked for something for myself. I found it quickly. Off to the corner, hardly touched. The Mozart. I knew right away that this scoop of ice cream was going to make it on the blog. See, as soon as I saw it, this is the monologue I had in my head:

“Oh, Mozart, what’s that… oh, I bet it’s that Mozart Kugel from Salzburg… oh, I can talk about Mozart Kugels and Salzburg how it was our first real trip with our son and how cool it is to see something called “Mozart” and know almost immediately that it’s chocolate, pistachio, and marzipan and it’s ice cream and it’s perfect… the circle of life via travel food…”

And I was excited about this little twist to my story, but still… it’s not TOO exciting. (For those that are paying close attention, the Mozart ice cream option wouldn’t have been a good one for my pistachio-loving husband because he hates chocolate ice cream.)

With all this internalizing, I looked up to see that the two couples in front of me had left already. Except for the lady with the black hat. She continued to point and comment and smile and I couldn’t hear her, but I don’t think she was saying anything of substance. She left without getting anything and then it was my turn.

After placing my order for a cup of vanilla for my son, a cup of Mozart for myself, and a cone of mint for my husband, I paid my whooping €3.30 for all 3 (that’s €1.10 for one scoop of ice cream for those not mathematically gifted.) I walked out to my family to see my husband pointing in my direction and then the two older couples that were in front of me in line, black hat lady included, turning and waving. Then they looked at my son and said, “Mama’s here with your ice cream!”

Then things got a little weird.

I handed the mint cone to my husband and somehow, I’ve replayed this in my head and really don’t know how this is possible since my son was in the stroller and my husband was standing, my son grabbed the mint cone. In the midst of grabbing and claiming ownership of it by taking a huge bite out of it, some spilled on to his shirt. The two couples went into grandparent mode. The men were saying things to my husband, that I didn’t catch. The black hat lady looked at me and said she’ll run inside to get some napkins. I told her it was ok, I already have napkins and then our worlds stopped for a moment.

She smiled back at me in acknowledgement. It’s that look that only moms know. That recognition that I’m in the part of my life with my children where I carry everything they need at all times, and that she once did the same. When I looked over to smile at her again, I noticed that her friend, the other female in the group had grabbed a bunch of napkins from the ice cream shop. As she waved them towards us, life sped up again and chaos ensued.

Helping my son get cleaned.

Helping my son get cleaned.

Black hat lady grabbed the napkins and starts cleaning up my son. One napkin blew away in the wind. I ran to catch it. The women were making sure their temporary grandchild was cleaned up from the ice cream, with a makeshift bib on his shirt in the process. The men were all continuing their conversation. When I got back, with everything as it should be, they wished us good luck and said their good-byes.

Where are we now.

After saying good-bye to the, we lost track of the two couples. Their kindness will always be on our minds.

We went across the street and sat on the steps next to Cologne’s Cathedral. My husband had to settle for vanilla ice cream in a cup. I decided that the Mozart was better in theory than in taste.

My son jumped out of the stroller to enjoy his cone. As we walked back to the car, passing in front of the cathedral, he noticed it for the first time. Awestruck at this HUGE building, he wanted to follow everyone else going inside. Since no food was allowed, my husband offered to hold the cone. While my son and I enjoyed the interior of the structure that has been mentioned as early as the 4th century, my husband got to finish his mint ice cream cone.

Enjoying his stolen cone, then later, walking and noticing this big cathedral for the first time.

Enjoying his stolen cone, then later, walking and noticing this big cathedral for the first time.

 

This post is part of the Blog Carnival hosted by The Mother of All Trips, Walking On Travels, and WanderMom. Click on the link for more ice cream stories, then go out and get a scoop for yourself!best sun shade for car babySony Memory Stick Pro Duo 4GbBinary Options Brokers

Summer Festivals in Germany: The Official Start of Summer

My favorite thing about living in Germany is the ease of travel. My second favorite thing are the festivals. Ok, it’s a tie between the festivals and the bakeries, but I’m going with festivals for now. Anywhere you travel, almost any time of the year, you are likely to run into some local celebration. There’s casual ones as well as themed ones. Some interesting ones I’ve found include festivals celebrating the Brothers Grimm, other countries, the marriage between Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora, and even cities in north Germany celebrating southern regions.

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This past Saturday was our local street fest. For me, it’s our marker that the summer has officially started. As a Floridian who has lived in mostly tropical climates all my life, I always took the sun for granted. After three years here, though, I see what the celebration is all about. People of all ages come out, freed from the constraints of their jackets, scarves, and long pants and enjoy summer.

For 1-2 miles, traffic was diverted. Our main street was lined with food stalls, shops, mini-beer gardens, and several stages with live performances. We packed up the family and took off looking for a late lunch. The crowds were heavy, but the lines weren’t long. Most people were doing what we were doing, enjoying the sun and scooping out the options. We made it all the way to the end to figure out what we wanted to eat. We only stopped to grab a balloon (or three) for my son.

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The typical German festival foods were there: waffles, crepes, bratwurst, french fries, garlic mushrooms, fish. We opted for something different. We ate spring rolls, and an Egyptian appetizer platter with bread and dip, plus grilled Chicken, couscous and salad. Then on to crepes before heading home.

Tips for Festival Attendees in Germany

  • Get your kids a balloon as soon as possible, it’s the easiest way to spot them!
  • Feel free to sit at a table or bench that other people are sitting at, Germans share tables with strangers all the time and it’s a fun way to make friends.
  • Drinks are usually sold in separate stalls than food. So, send one person to get drinks and the other to get lunch.
  • Drinks are also usually sold in glasses. You pay a small deposit when you get a drink in a glass, so you can either keep the glass as a souvenir or do what most people do and return them to get your deposit back.

Now that our local festival is done, I’m ready to check out other festivals this summer. Here’s a list of some interesting festivals:

Other Summer Festivals in Germany

  • Cathedral Steps Theater Festival, Erfurt: A theater festival probably doesn’t sound so fun, but with the Erfurt Cathedral in the background and plays specifically for children, it’s worth a visit. This year the festival will be held July 4-21.
  • Rhine In Flames: For one day each month a different section of cities along the Rhine River host a spectacular display of fireworks known as the “Rhine in Flames”. I’ve watched this in the city of Koblenz in the past. With Koblenz being the intersection of the Rhine and Mosel Rivers, and the city’s Castle Ehrenbreitstein being more wide than tall, it is unlike any firework show I’ve experienced. This year the show will be on August 10. Koblenz will also have the Koblenz Summer Festival at the same time, August 9-11.
  • The best festival of all: the one you stumble upon when you’re walking around and notice a large gathering happening in one area. These occur not only in cities as I mentioned above, but even in local sites and attractions. I don’t think it’s possible to spend more than 3 days in Germany during the summer and not pass at least one festival.

Have you been to one of the summer festivals in Germany, or is there one that you’ve heard of that you want to go to? 

This post is part of Friday Daydreaming at RWeThereYetMom.commander les lubrifiants en ligne pas cherST6030Street Storm STR-9970 Twin

Fun for the Whole Family – Organic Farms in Germany

“We went to a farm.”

“Hmm… that sounds… fun?”

This was a common conversation with my friends Monday mornings. It seemed that at least one of my friends would visit a farm with their family over the weekend. And while they seemed to flock to farms, I was doing everything I could to avoid them.

Farms, they just aren’t my thing. When our friends would bring that option up to us, we would suggest anything and everything else. Then one day, we were tricked. And the plans we had settled on, well, they changed at the last-minute. Instead of the beautiful park walking distance from our apartment, we were going to go to a farm.

The whole drive there, I was nervous. I’m not an animal hater, but I’m not an animal lover. I didn’t want to pet anything, feed anything, milk anything, and I definitely didn’t want to clean up after anything. Our drive took us out of our city, past several cute german towns, on and off the autobahn, more cute smaller towns, and finally into a large area where we could scream as loud as we wanted, and no one would hear us.

We found the farm and walked in and I was immediately happy that we were there.

Yes, there were animals. Cows, goats, donkeys, probably other things to; I wasn’t even paying attention. The farm was filled with families! There were kids from my son’s age (2) and up!

Immediately we all noticed that there were plenty of riding toys for the kids. There was actually enough for each kid to have more than one! (And so my son and his friend immediately grabbed two each. One to ride, and one to drag.)

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There was a field filled with playground equipment (a see-saw, a trampoline, swings, slide, climbing toys).

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They kids could play on big tractors.

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And while the kids ran, jumped, slid and played, the adults could sit outside with a cup of coffee and a slice of organic cake sold at the cafe on property. The cafe even had a small area of handmade goods on sale.

barn1

The best thing about all of this? It’s free! The snacks were typical cafe prices, but all the activities at this farm were free of charge. The crowd is definitely more local, but the staff speak great English. I highly recommend a farm visit for any family looking for a relaxing day for themselves away from a city, and some fun activities for their children.

Oh, and I didn’t have to milk any animals!

For more information on this farm:

We visited the Hof Zur Hellen, located less than hour from the city of Dusseldorf, Germany. For a small price, you can arrange a tour with the farm to learn more about organic farming. The website is in German, but translates nicely with Google Translate.

I never knew that a visit to the farm could be so fun. So tell me, is this how farms are everywhere? Have you visited a farm, what was your experience?

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Five Tips for Using the German Rail with Babies and Toddlers

 

rail updateFor the first two years of my son’s life, we relied solely on public transport to get from one place to another. We learned a lot using the German rail system both locally and nationally. Here are 5 cost-savings and/or sanity-savings tips for conquering the trains in Germany.

german rail with kids

Here we are using the Kinderabteil room for the first time. It was nice to be able to keep W safely buckled in his stroller while on the train.

1. Kids under 6 travel free. So do their strollers. The German Rail website sells a pass for 4-11 year olds, but if the child is under 6, they are free when traveling with an adult.

2. Some trains allow reservations. On those trains, try to book a “Kinderabteil”. This is a kid room. Instead of the typical 6-seat configuration, there are 4 regular seats and two-fold down seats. Strollers go where the seats fold down. On some trains and in first class the Kinderabteil is even larger than the regular 6-seat configuration areas, giving kids some space to move around without bothering others. If the Kinderabteil is not available for reservation, then it is first-come, first-served.

german rail with kids

On this train we noticed (see where the arrow is pointing) that the seats lift up to make space for things like strollers. Be on the lookout for that sign if you need the space. It’s usually at the end of the car.

3. Many tips for flying with kids are applicable for riding the train with kids. There are three things to consider about train travel that differs from plane travel: train seats don’t have seat belts, there are no liquid restrictions, and the train often stops. For children who are easily distracted, try to schedule train trips to avoid their nap times. I know anytime I thought my son was going to fall asleep, the upcoming stop was announced. If that didn’t wake him up the group of people exiting and entering the train sure did.

german rail with kids

This time we weren’t able to secure a Kinderabteil. Even though kids under 6 travel free, they can still get a seat reservation. We put our suitcase in the area in front of him for added protection.

4.  Kids love to snack. Unlike airports, train stations sell food and drinks for prices similar to what they are at regular stores. No need to shop at the grocery store to save prices before going to the train station! Snacks are also available on a lot of trains. They are sold by an employee walking the aisle and/or at the restaurant car. These snacks are a little pricier, but still reasonable.

5. In almost all cities in Germany shops are closed on Sundays and holidays . Main train stations (Hauptbahnhof) and airports are the exception. If diapers are running low on a Sunday, head to the Hauptbahnhof to replenish stock.

This post is part of Travel Tip Tuesday. Click the link to read more great tips.

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