Homeward bound

Thursday 10 October was our last everything – our last day with our beautiful host, our last day in Germany, and our last day overseas. We packed up Tanja’s car with mixed emotions and the clouds cried on our little party as we drove from Nuremberg to Frankfurt for the first of our last flights home.

After a beautiful lunch at a traditional German restaurant in Frankfurt we said tearful goodbyes at the airport and set off on our journey home.

It’s hard to know how to end this series of posts. I am so fortunate to have been able to share this experience with the man of my dreams and for all of the special memories we have captured in our hearts and minds, in photos, and in words.

We left Australia talking about ‘if’ and we return engaged talking about ‘when’. I’m so excited about our future together – to many more adventures and to lots of fun, laughter and happiness. I wish the same in life for you.

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Ich Liebe Tanja

T thoughtful
A adaptable / affectionate / attentive / authentic / awesome
N not enough words to describe just how nice she is
J joyful
A a special person / always in our hearts

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Tanja picked us up from Heidelberg on Monday 7 October and drove us to Nuremberg to stay with her for our last few days in Germany.

The hostess with the mostest, Tanja had seven different kinds of cheese and various cold meats in the fridge when we arrived (despite the fact that she is vegan!) and had also taken a few days off work to act as our tour guide.

On our first evening we visited a lively street festival with two of Tanja’s friends in Fürth. We indulged in lángos (deep fried bread with cheese, garlic and sour cream), mushrooms in bier dough, original Nuremberger sausages, gingerbread, crepes and chocolate coated fruit until we were about to burst and Ed impressed us all when he opted to ride on ‘The Burner’ after a couple of biers!

On Tuesday we cooked the BEST BREAKFAST EVER and then drove into Nuremberg to explore the Altstadt. On our way we passed the Ehekarussell (Marriage Carousel) where Ed and I recreated the stages of “bittersweet married life”.

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On Lorenzer Platz we took in St Lorenzkirche and the Tugendbrunnen (Fountain of the Virtues): Faith with a cross and a chalice, Love with two children, Hope with an anchor, Courage with a lion, Moderation with a jug, Patience with a lamb, and Justice with blindfolded eyes, a sword and a crane as a symbol of alertness.

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Other highlights included: Frauenkirche (Our Lady’s Church), built on the site of the destroyed synagogue of the former Jewish quarter (pogrom in 1349); Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain) where we spun the two brass rings embedded in the fence for good luck; St Sebalduskirche, Nuremberg’s oldest church; and the Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle).

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We ate lunch at a restaurant at the foot of the castle before returning home via a few department and food stores. Ed and I cooked up a storm in Tanja’s magnificent kitchen for dinner and then taught her to play Yahtzee which she won three times in a row!!!

On Wednesday Tanja drove us to beautiful Rothenburg ob der Tauber. We walked around the low and narrow city walls and stopped on occasion to take in picture perfect views of the romantic road and surrounding countryside.

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I spent a good hour or so browsing in the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas shop and managed to resist buying another suitcase load of decorations.

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After lunch we walked the castle gardens and I taught Tanja how to find the right light for portrait photography.

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On our way home we visited the house where my Dad’s grandmother was born.

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We were also lucky enough to be joined for dinner by my Dad’s uncle Helmut, his wife Lydia, and their daughter Sonia (Tanja’s Mum).

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Despite language barriers, Tanja was able to expertly facilitate our conversation and Helmut shared beautiful stories about our family and history.

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It was an emotional, moving and humbling experience and a night I will never forget.

I Heart Heidelberg

We woke up to the sound of rain on Saturday 5 October and made our way slowly and cautiously along the autobahn to heavenly Heidelberg and the Hotel Goldene Rose.

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We bid Black Betty adieu, took a tram into the city and sought shelter from the rain in a local department store for the afternoon. I purchased a few special Steiff bears, a Villeroy & Boch colander for Mum, and innumerable Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas decorations. [Note to self: buy a Christmas tree when you get back to Melbourne.]

The rain continued on Sunday but could not dampen our spirits. After a hearty breakfast we wandered along Hauptstrasse and took the funicular railway up to Heidelberg’s captivating half-ruined castle.

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Our enigmatic tour guide told us about the history of the castle and while it has suffered much damage (the castle was struck by lightning in 1537 and 1764, and damaged on numerous occasions by war and fire) its half-ruined state only added to its romantic appeal.

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In the cellar of the castle we gaped in awe at the Heidelberg Tun, an extremely large wine vat that had a capacity of over 220,000 litres when it was constructed in 1751. Originally used to hold taxes (paid in the form of wine) from the local winegrowers – the idea of drinking such a concoction gave me a headache!

We made our way down steep, stone-laid lanes for a late lunch at Brauhaus Vetter before enjoying a quiet afternoon indoors.

Back in Black

After a delicious buffet breakfast on Thursday 3 October we hit the road once more and wound our way through the deep, dark Black Forest to Trieberg.

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Framed by three mountains (hence the name), Triberg is a clockwork shrine to German punctuality with two duelling cuckoo clocks that claim to be the world’s largest. It is also famous for THE original Black Forest Cake at Café Schäfer. Not wanting to go without, we thought it best to burn our breakfast calories before morning tea and spent a couple of hours walking alongside Germany’s highest waterfalls before entering the small town.

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After exploring the cuckoo town, admiring the local wood carvings, and indulging in the heavily liquored Black Forest cake, we jumped back in the car and continued on our way to Freudenstadt.

We checked into our boutique accommodation at Hotel Warteck and pottered about town for the afternoon. A highlight was the ‘rough around the edges’ mini golf course on the outskirts of town where I lost my cool on an impossible hole but managed to scrape a two shot win!

On Friday we walked up to the Kienberg (Freudenstadt’s mountain) and took in panoramic views of the surrounding countryside from Herzog-Friedrich-Turm.

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Our next destination was swish and sexy Baden-Baden. We drove up tiny roads and narrow alleys to reach our accommodation and were blown away by the picturesque Hotel Rebenhof, situated on rolling hills in the greenest of vineyards.

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After a quick lunch we jumped back in the car to get our Roman on in the thermal waters of Caracalla Spa. Boasting an indoor pool with massage jets, neck shower jets, bubble seats and beds, two outdoor pools with a water current channel and whirlpools, hot and cold water grottos, aroma steam baths, brine inhalation rooms, solariums and relaxation lounges, the spa was a wonderfully relaxing treat.

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Oh, and did I mention the adults only (aka ‘in your birthday suit’) area with steam baths and saunas ranging from 47°C to the fire sauna at 95°C? It was hot! And just to be clear, I’m talking about the temperature!

Gone cuckoo

We drove from Füssen to the oh so charming town of Lindau on Monday 30 September and spent a few hours exploring the tiny island in the afternoon.

We caught a glimpse of Switzerland across the misty waters of Lake Constance and took in the Bavarian lion monument and lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour.

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In the evening we indulged in mouthwatering steak, grilled chicken, giant baked potatoes smothered in chive cream sauce and lightly dressed salad at Wissingers. Oh my was it delicious!

From Lindau we skimmed the eastern shore of Lake Constance to arrive at Birnau’s gorgeous baroque church.

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After exploring the surrounding vineyard we continued along windy back roads through rolling hills and misty vales to Villingen.

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We stopped for lunch in the medieval town before taking in more dreamy scenery on lanes bristling with firs and pines between Villingen and Vöhrenbach.

From Vöhrenbach, picturesquely tucked into the folds of the countryside, we shadowed the gurgling Breg to Urach where we travelled via a tiny country road to arrive at our final destination for the day, Freiburg.

We set out to explore the vibrant university town in the evening and were careful not to slip into the Bächle – the permanently flowing rivulets that run along the footpath. It’s said that if you fall into one you’ll marry a Freiburger or a Freiburgerin and we weren’t willing to risk our marriage before we’d even said ‘I do’!

We zigzagged our way up to Schauinsland on Wednesday and were treated to knockout views of the Rhine Valley and Alps at the summit.

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After a quick walk around Todtnau waterfall we continued on our way to Furtwangen and its (surprisingly) fascinating German clock museum. Boasting more than 8,000 items I literally lost track of time (pardon the pun) learning all about the history of time keeping and clock making.

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We ended the day back at our hotel in Freiburg and settled in for a quiet night of tea, beer and Black Jack.

Fantasyland

We drove from Munich to Füssen in our luxe Audi A1 on Saturday 28 September and joined the locals for a stein in the evening before dinner at a cosy restaurant.

After an early Skype call with Ed’s parents on Sunday morning we donned our winter woolies and followed our inbuilt GPS to Neuschwanstein Castle, reputedly the inspiration for Disney’s Fantasyland Castle.

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Our entrance time to the castle was 3:05pm and we whiled away the time with a stroll around a nearby lake.

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After lunch we wound our way up the hill to the entrance point where, unfortunately, the visibility was much the same as I experienced some 12 years ago.

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What we saw …

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What we had hoped to see …

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Our tour commenced at 3:05 on the dot (hats off to German efficiency!) and lasted approximately 30 minutes. Highlights included the beautifully decorated Throne Hall, King Ludvig II’s extravagant bed chambers, an illuminated grotto and the Singers’ Hall.

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The castle provided a fascinating glimpse into the romantic king’s state of mind (or lack thereof) and reflected his twin obsessions – swans and Wagnerian operas.

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In the evening we returned to an Italian restaurant for delicious bruschetta and hearty vegetable soup.

A toast to cheer and good times!

We took a six hour train ride from Ljubljana to Munich on Thursday 26 September and were greeted at the station by my beautiful ‘great cousin’ (my dad’s mum’s brother’s daughter’s daughter).

Tanja was our tour guide for the afternoon and took us to see characters dance around the glockenspiel (carillon) at Neues Rathaus before a stroll in the Residenz gardens.

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We ate dinner at Max Pett, Tanja’s favourite vegan restaurant in Munich, and the food was delicious! No animals were harmed in the making of our meals and even Ed enjoyed his tofu!

We woke up early Friday morning and quickly dressed / squeezed into our dirndl / lederhosen in preparation for a day of bier, wurst and gemütlichkeit (cheer and good times) at Oktoberfest!

Tanja picked us up at 9am and recommended a traditional German breakfast to line our stomachs for the festival. She also advised that I tie my dirndl on my right hip, rather than at my back, to indicate that I was no longer a ‘single lady’. What would we do without her?

After breakfast we joined the zillions of Bavarian wannabes and traditionalists on a pilgrimage to the Theresienwiese grounds where the beers were already flowing.

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We arrived at the grounds and passed countless stores filled with gingerbread, chocolate dipped fruit, sugar coated nuts and other fructose filled temptations on our way to the hangar sized beer ‘tents’ / halls. It’s hard to believe they’re not permanent structures!

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Ed made the sensible decision to try a couple of wild rides and roller coasters before his first stein but unfortunately his lederhosen weren’t quite up for the challenge and he tore a hole in his crotch on the first ride of the day! More room for beer, I say!

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Keen to get in the swing of things Ed purchased a wurst and a pink ‘ich liebe dich’ (‘I love you’) gingerbread for me before we entered the Löwenbräu beer tent for a stein (or two)!

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Tanja managed to nab us great seats on the first floor balcony and promptly ordered our first round. We swayed along to ‘Ein Prosit Der Gemütlichkeit’ and chugged our beers on eins, zwei, drei, g’suffa!

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Our vantage point provided great people watching opportunities – big bosomed wenches carried up to 11 steins of beer and platters of roast chicken through the crowd, girls (and one guy!) in dirndls joined the band on stage and the somewhat inebriated masses cheered on as people stood on benches to down their stein in one go!

I managed to drink a whole stein (my first ever!) and was thankful when a fellow beer drinker offered their pretzel after my final chug to soak up some of the beer.

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After lunch we ventured out to explore the grounds and some of the other beer tents. Without a reservation it proved impossible to find a seat so we took a spin on a roller coaster, ate another wurst and made a start on my gingerbread before heading home.

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Oktoberfest 2013 – 6.7 million steins of beer!
Kate – 1 stein of beer! Boom tick!