16 June 2017

Europe Trip Day 1: A train, a plane, and some automobiles

Some of my first memories involve watching The Sound of Music.  I remember a light green pleated knit skirt I had that could pass for a sailor skirt and marching down the stairs in my house to the sounds of an imaginary whistle.  I remember having a great (if imaginary) fondness for schnitzel with noodles (something I wouldn’t actually eat until I was in my 20s.) I remember wanting nothing more in the world than to be Gretl.  (For some reason it was rarely Maria, it was Gretl.)

I think some of this love came naturally as a result of the general charms of the film and its easily singable score, but a good portion of this love was passed down to me because of my father.  

Dad served a mission for the LDS church in northern Germany in the early 1980s.  (“But The Sound of Music is set in Austria!” you say.  “I know,” I sigh. “But I was so young and they’re practically the same, right?”)

(If you just felt the earth shake, it was probably my grandfather’s ashes turning over in his urn.)

Regardless, my dad’s association with Germany and all German speaking countries along with the beauty of that movie made me really want to visit Europe from a young age.  And a few years ago, I was lucky enough to do just that.  With a few of my best friends, we took a boat down the Rhine, wandered around the Alps, drank the waters of heaven in Hallstatt, and explored Berlin.  It was a dreamy trip, but in the back of my mind I’d always imagined that the perfect trip to Germany (or any other German speaking place) would have to be with my dad, the one who introduced me to it all in the first place. 

Fast forward to November of 2016.  Fresh off a dream trip to England and a second dream trip to Boston, I wasn’t anticipating any major trips in my future - or at least not the very near future.  My love of travel is accompanied by a love for a healthy savings account and even with a decent stipend for taking on extra classes this last year, my plans for another European adventure were distant - maybe two or three summers away.  

Then my brother got accepted to a study abroad in Portugal and asked if I’d tour around Europe with him afterward.  And, well, it would be irresponsible not to, right? He couldn’t be left to wander amongst the jungfrauen all on his own! 

To be clear, that’s not to say that Jared isn’t totally capable.  He’s notorious in our family for wandering off somewhere only to have us find him in a panic while he asserts that he knew exactly where he was.  This has happened in Arlington National Cemetery (we had the police hunting for him), Xel Ha (an outdoor water “park” in Mexico that’s really just a semi-lifeguarded jungle to swim in), and the first time I went to the temple with him (where I waited outside the dressing room for half an hour thinking he’d want help finding where he was going only to have him come down the stairs and ask if I needed help.)

No, no - Jared could totally manage Europe on his own.  But SHOULD he? No way.  When your sibling asks you to go to Europe, YOU GO TO EUROPE. 

We started planning.  Initial plans were varied and grand with him wanting to see pretty much anything and me wanting to see places I hadn’t seen yet, we tentatively settled on a bit of time in England but with time concentrated on the Benelux and Germany. 


That’s when dad’s ears perked up.  While we were planning over Christmas, pouring over guidebooks and websites and making lists of possibilities, dad’s creative wheels started to turn too, and by the end of the week, he decided that he wanted to come too.  Once that piece of the puzzles was settled, the rest of the trip fell easily into place. Dad hasn’t been back to Berlin since his mission in the early 80s, when Western and Eastern Berlin were still a thing.  We had to go back.

I think he felt a little guilty at first.  I could be wrong (and since I’m guessing he’ll read this at some point, I’m sorry if I totally misrepresent you here!) but it seemed like he was worried about crashing the party or completely disrupting plans (with dad on board the Benelux became Germany/Austria/Switzerland), but truthfully, I was thrilled from the beginning.  You see, I think I got my cultural fascination from my dad.  That’s not to say mom didn’t contribute - sick days when I was a kid were cultural education days where mom introduced me to things like Sense and Sensibility and While You Were Sleeping and The Importance of Being Earnest, but it was my father who first took me to see a big Broadway show (Phantom of the Opera) and who spent so much time traveling for work when I was young.  I love my mother and I would love to go to Europe with her, but for some reason, I always thought of Germany as something I really wanted to do with my dad.  

I just never thought the stars would align like this, and certainly not this fast after another trip only last year. 

Even sitting in the airport yesterday I felt a bit like I do in theater when we haven’t done full hair and makeup yet and are only just getting fit for costumes.  It still feels like pretend.  I’d gone through all the motions of preparing for a trip but it felt so utterly bizarre to actually be going.  Plus, 90% of the travel I’ve done in the last decade of my life has been with friends, not family.  It didn’t fit the picture.  I still don’t think it’s hit me.  I see cars with drivers on the right side and do a double take.  

Even if it hasn’t “hit me” that I’m here and this trip is a reality and will be a reality for the next few weeks, I can’t think of a better place to be to figure it out.  One of the great side benefits of being a gainfully employed single woman is the chance to travel and I take as much advantage of that as I can.

I wish I had a camera on the two of us last night, though.  The seats on the plane were way more cramped than I remember and when I think something is cramped, it must be horrible for my dad.  We each took an Ambien to try to sleep but I’m not wholly convinced they weren’t total placebos, or at least that they didn’t cause some sort of restless leg syndrome, because the two of us (ok, I’ll take most of the blame here) were kind of a tossing and turning mess all night.  I vaguely remember dad pinning me down with my head on his lap in an attempt to calm me, and also vaguely remember him practically falling on top of me in that “nodding off” sleep way people have.  If you, whomever you are, die before I do - ask to see the tape.  I’m sure it’s a pretty fantastic dance.  Maybe if we’re lucky someone taped it and we’ll go viral online.

The rest of the day was mostly travel as well - jet lagged wandering through Heathrow, a long coach to the Stanstead airport, then a shuttle bus to our hotel.  We’re only here for a bit since we’re headed off to Berlin tomorrow morning at what I will affectionately call the “butt crack of dawn”.  As such, we got in, dropped our bags and went to get dinner (dad at McDonalds, which I thought was pretty funny after he watched The Founder on the plane. “That man is a schiester,” he said while eating his burger.) I went to a Marc's and Spenser fuel stop to grab a pre-made salad and some fruit (both of which were delicious.)

Now it’s off to bed for this night owl.  Dad is already asleep (he took an Ambien about five minutes ago and it seems to have worked better on him tonight than it did yesterday as he’s already snoring. Err. . . Definitely sleeping.  May the Ambien Gods smile so kindly upon me. 

Tomorrow: Berlin.

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