September 20 – 24, 2018
After our day in Ulm we headed east by train towards Munich. We had plans to stay with friends in Penzberg, a suburb about an hour south of the city. Simone and I were in the same lab in graduate school in Ann Arbor and then in Seattle, and I was so excited to see her and her family back in their native Germany.
One of the more frustating things for me in Germany was my complete inability to recall and/or recite anything in German. I naturally do a lot better with the romance languages, maybe from high school and college years studying Spanish. German was a complete black hole for me. The girls were also struggling with our constant nudging of them to speak up, and their frustration at being unable to communicate shone through in spades as we arrived in Penzberg.
Simone and Martin live on a block quite similar to ours back home – teeming with school-aged kids on bikes, scooters, playing basketball and hanging out. I was thrilled that the girls would not only get to spend time with Simone’s children Lena and Moritz, but meet other kids in the neighborhood, something we’ve been wanting more of for the girls to ease their homesickness. A&A weren’t nearly as excited when we heard the neighborhood shouts of children walking back from the train station with Simone, and were actually really moody and quiet when all the kids came to greet us, which frustrated Wayne and I. Their bad moods lasted about 24 hours (an eternity when you are guests in another family’s home), which made for a rough morning and schooling session the next day, but made it a lot easier for Wayne and I to accept Simone’s generous offer – the girls can hang out here in the neighborhood while you two go for a bike ride with our neighbor Franz. Brooding around your parents is easy; hopefully without us around they’d be forced to smile eventually.
What we thought would be a relaxing and scenic bike tour around Penzberg and the neighboring towns ended up being a two hour mountain bike into the woods, up and down steep logging roads with me gasping for air as I grinded up the hills and clenched the brakes going down. Franz and Wayne chatted easily going up and speeding down, waiting for me occasionally at the tops and bottoms. It was awesome.
It was great to sweat away my mothering frustrations and separate from the moody girls, forcing them to fend for themselves among a welcoming German neighborhood. And miraculously, when we returned in the dark, they were laughing hysterically with Lena and Moritz, playing a card game and excitedly telling us about the adorable kittens they met down the street.
Huge thanks to Simone and Martin and Franz for simultaneously helping us get away and cure the travel-fear-and-frustration-yuckies.
We all spent the next day out at a Monastery-Market-Playfield-Farm with log-created instruments, swampy boat crossings and ziplines, and- my greatest nightmare – a barefoot obstacle course complete with muddy footbath. The kids had a great time running from section to section and collecting as many chesnuts/konkers as their pockets could carry. That evening Martin made pizza after pizza for us all and the kids watched Moana together in Deustch.
The next day was a big one – we coincidentally ended up in Munich the same weekend as the start of Oktoberfest. We knew that, with Simone & Martin being natives with young kids, attending the crowded, over-the-top annual festival on a weekend wasn’t exactly at the top of their activity list. But they kindly indulged our foreigners’ interest and we all headed into the city as early as we could muster with the lederhosen and dirndl-clad mobs.
We drank our massive biers, ate huhnchen (chicken) and brezeln (pretzels) and rode on some of the traditional rides – the huge Riesenrad (Ferris Wheel) being the favorite of all.
We had an early train to Italy the next day so we headed out of the Oktoberfest in the early afternoon when it started to get insanely crowded, did a quick tour of downtown Munich, and headed back to Penzberg.
HUGE thanks and hugs again to Simone, Martin, Lena and Moritz for having us and taking such amazing care of us!!