Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chapter 18: Spring Stirrings

Acquaintances who have lived here awhile tell us that this spring is a late one. It has been consistently cold since we arrived, usually hovering just above and below freezing. Today felt like a change, a stirring of spring. The sky was clearer than we have seen it since we arrived: cloudless and blue with just a bit of haze in the hills. The highs are in the forties--still chilly, but not really cold. Today has been a beautiful day.

It would have been a beautiful day for an excursion, but we had already had a pretty busy three day weekend, so we slept late and spent the rest of the day shopping at the base exchange for household stuff. We would have shopped on the economy, but nothing much is open in Germany on Sundays. Overall, it has been a slow but pleasant day, closed out by an outdoor dinner on the patio (a little chilly, but worth it) and gorgeous stroll through the nearby woods. We also caught up on our communications with our family, calling Brian, skyping Michael and calling our parents. Technology is a wondrous thing!

As early as two days ago, Friday, as our three day weekend began, the temperature was bone chilling. It even snowed some. We drove northwest to the wine country, winding along the Mosel River on steep, narrow roads. On the way we ate at a wonderful Italian restaurant and then made our way to our destination, Eltz Castle. The Eltz family has owned this incredible place for about a thousand years. They don't live there anymore, but they keep it up with the help of the state and private donations. It looks like a fairy tale castle, something designed for Disneyworld, but it is a real castle with a long and sometimes violent history. I have included some exterior pictures, but we were not allowed to take pictures inside. Built straight up as it is, the endless narrow stairways are labyrinthine, and it would definitely be easy to get hopelessly lost in the place. Germany is full of such castles, and as you drive along the autobahn to visit one, you see multiple signs advertising other such castles. The history in this area is unlike anything we can experience in the States. Ancient history is everywhere.
Eltz Castle
Mosel River

On Saturday, we spent the day in Kaiserslautern, which is not the most scenic city in Germany, but it does have a pleasant downtown market area with plenty of shopping and cafes. We strolled through the historic areas and ate crepes with strong Italian coffee. Later, we headed to the outer areas where Kaiserslautern has its big box stores and shopped for lamps and patio furniture. We shopped at an enormous three storey housing goods store called Mobel Martin which has just about anything for the home that anyone could possibly want. Each floor is about the size of a Home Depot. German stores in the suburbs are absolutely enormous. Their most popular electronics store, Saturn, is at least twice the size of any Best Buy that I've seen. Germans love to shop, and their stores are not stingy about stocking merchandise. While the exchange rate between the euro and dollar does not favor American shoppers, there are still great deals to be had. The base exchange is frequently more expensive for an equivalent German product, and, of course, the local German variety is much greater. Germany is a fun place to spend money, and the food and coffee is wonderful.

Me in the Eltz courtyard
Lawna overlooking the Mosel
At the Eltz

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