SO much has happened since I last blogged about the trip. Too much to try and recap well. I'll hit the highlights only.
After an unsure destination leaving Rome, due to some flooding in parts of Venice...we ended up deciding to go anyway. We had to find a new hotel, but we decided to go.
It was so worth it. Venice is always worth the trip. We took the kids to all our favorite places. We shopped excessively and ate our body weight in gelato. We stepped over the puddles of standing water in St. Mark's Square. We are so glad we went. There is no city in the world like Venice.
After buying so many souvenirs that it became questionable whether or not we could get it all home, we boarded an overnight train to Munich, Germany.
I wish I could explain to you how NOT wonderful a sleeper train actually is. I know it looks romantic and wonderful in all the movies...but that is not reality. In reality, a room that sleeps 3 people is so narrow that one person has to climb on a bunk if another one wants to get out the door to go pee. And the bathroom...Lord above, its small. When I sat down to pee, my shoulders had an inch of clearance from the walls on either side.
We had to brush our teeth missions trip style because the sinks in our rooms wouldn't spit out water.
Train staff spoke much less English than we expected. Making our needs known was a task we quickly abandoned. I handed out dramamine and told everyone to sleep.
At 4:30 a.m. we had a loud, insistent bang on our door.
Armed German Police, asking for passports, requiring a look at all the leery, confused faces, questioning us about our destination and reason for visiting.
You could be the kindest person in the world and I would hate you at 4:30 in the morning. Just FYI.
Arrival in the Munich train station added to the shock. It was breathtakingly cold. Chilled to the bone in 5 minutes kind of cold. Nothing prepares the thin-blooded southerner for 27 degrees F.
It was very empty when we arrived, but for the police and the homeless people. We were asked for money more than once. We witnessed one man being verbally dressed down by the police.
It was all a bit overwhelming.
We bundled up in all our layers, stored our bags in lockers at the train terminal, and hiked to our tour bus to drive to the famous castle, Neuschwanstein. Two hours on a warm bus, with plugs to charge our devices and a bathroom that wasn't any smaller than the train, were welcome reliefs.
The countryside of Germany is so lovely. Picturesque. I could live there, other than the fact that the thermometer never showed above ZERO celsius the whole day.
The snow flakes were enormous when they started to fall, and stuck, fully formed, on every surface.
The palace and castle of King Ludwig II were remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime sights.
The city center of Munich was an experience all its own. Its a big city, but there in the Marienplatz, it felt old, from another time. We shopped even more in the Christmas market, where all food was classically Bavarian and all the ornaments and trinkets were reminiscent of days gone by. Ignoring our already bulging luggage and waistlines, we ate and purchased and laughed and FROZE nearly to DEATH. It was a magical day.
We ran out of time and didn't get to do everything we wanted to in Munich, but all in all I"m glad we made the trip, terrible train and frigid station not withstanding.
And now we are headed stateside. And, honestly, we've never been so glad. We are ready. Singing "God Bless America" and everything. There's really nothing quite as wonderful as the place you call home.