Posted in Associate/Youth Pastor's Wife, My Interests, Travel, Uncategorized

A Fairytale Valentines Week: Germany Week 3


On our third week in Germany we were starting feel a little bit more comfortable in our surroundings.  This is when we decided it would be a good time to venture out on our first rail trip.  It was the week of Valentines Day and my birthday, so I had the perfect place in mind Hohenschwangau!  Yes, it is a mouthful.  This is located in the southern part of Germany in the Bavarian Alps region.  What I specifically wanted to do was visit the Neuschwanstein Castle – yes, also a mouthful.  (Honestly, I don’t know how German kids pass their spelling tests!)  This castle is famous to Americans because it was Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella’s castle at the one and only Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  It’s famous to Germans because of its mysterious builder King Ludwig II who died before finishing the castle. 

We left on Wednesday morning of this week after our Tuesday midweek Bible Study.  We were so excited to actually take the train somewhere!  (I will insert here that I am not a great photographer.  I realize this is not a good quality in someone who keeps a blog.  However, I get caught up in the moment so much, that I just end up taking it all in through my eyes and forgetting to pull out my camera or pulling it out too late, but I think I got some good shots by which to remember this fabulous trek.)  The train is nice to take because it saves energy mostly.  It can still be long because of all of the stops along the way, but nobody had to drive or navigate us so that we all arrived ready to enjoy. 

I thought maybe that we would have to cancel the trip.  Lynn woke up with a mysterious pain in his elbow in the night.  When he awoke in the morning it was red and swollen.  By the time we arrived at our destination, the picturesque town of Füssen, it was huge, red, swollen and excruciating to touch!  So, though we enjoyed the trip down, he was constantly reminded of his pain with each movement.  We decided that maybe we should find the apothecary and they could direct us to a clinic or something.  Thankfully, the lady at the apothecary could speak enough English to tell us where we needed to go, but her English was broken enough that we misunderstood some of the directions.  We ended up walking around in the freezing night looking for this clinic!  When we finally found it the Dr. there was stupefied as to what the cause was.  She said they could do a blood test, but that would require him to stay in the hospital overnight – not something we wanted to do.  She didn’t see any reason to believe that it was an infection and thought maybe it was gout.  However, she wasn’t completely sure, as this doesn’t usually show in the elbow in a man of Lynn’s health.  She basically gave us ibuprofen and sent us on our way.  It has since gone down, but we’re putting it on a list of things to check out when we return to the States.

Since we were on foot for this trip, we decided that we should have the hospital call us a couple of taxis to get back to our Airbnb apartment.  Lynn, Katie and Jarod went in the first and Megan and I took the second car.  We had quite a scare as he drove as if we were in some kind of high-speed car chase!  Then he dropped us off a block from our apartment.  Since he couldn’t or wouldn’t speak English we just laughed and walked the rest of the way back.

In the morning we made our way on the bus over to Hohenschwangau to see the castles.  Yes, Ludwig II’s father also built a castle in the town which was a beautiful tour as well.  Here are some pics outside of that castle.

It was finally time to get up the hill to take our tour.  This was the exciting part of our day.  The castle sits up on top of a hill.  A hill that takes over 30 minutes to walk!  There is the option of a bus that can take people part way up the hill, but since it had snowed recently the bus was not running.  We decided to go with option three – a horse drawn carriage that would take us up part way.  However, the line was so long for the carriage that we missed our allotted time.  Thankfully, Lynn talked to the people at the castle and they allowed us to go on the next English-speaking tour.  It really was a marvelous experience to see these beautiful castles!  Like we stepped into a fairytale land.  We were able to linger around and take some fun pics outside of the castle.  On our carriage ride back down the hill we squeezed in with a group of Asian ladies who seemed to be having a fun time.  I noticed the woman beside me was trying to take a selfie, so I kept ducking out of the way until she finally let me know that she was trying to take the selfie with me!  Then they all started taking pics of our family!  They spoke little English but were able to tell us they were from Korea.  After a slight pause they clarified “SOUTH Korea!”  When we saw the same group of ladies in a store down in the town, one of them approached Jarod and rubbed his face!  Guess they thought he was as cute as his momma thinks he is 😊. 

Valentine’s Day at the Castle!

After our castle tours, we boarded the train again and headed for Innsbruck Austria.  It was only a three-hour train ride away and we thought it would be a great experience to get to see a little part of another country.  We weren’t going to have much time for exploring as we needed to get back to Mannheim for Church on Sunday.  So, we decided to take the cable car from the middle of town up into the mountains.  Before we went on this trip, I made sure that we all had new hats, gloves, coats and boots.  I was ready for snow and mountains.  What I was not ready for were the breathtaking views and the warm air!  It was amazing to be surrounded by so much snow but not feel frigid.  Check out some of our views at 7,400 feet above sea level!

Looking down on the city of Innsbruck, Austria

 Coming from Oklahoma we had never been skiing (well, the girls have tried out skiing in Nebraska, but, well…).  We didn’t try here either.  However, we had a blast watching these crazy risk takers!  We watched some of them tackle the slopes that were at a 70degree angle down.  One lady that rode the cable car up was at least 70 years old and said she had been skiing this area for 14 years.  At the next stop down from the summit was a landing area where most of the skiers hung out with a restaurant and beach chairs set up on a deck looking down the mountain.  At this point we watched the ski jumpers doing their thing making my heart skip a beat each time one came over the hill. 

We took the cable car down another to another stop where we at lunch at a little Alpine café.  The whole area had kind of an American beach town vibe with skiers instead of surfers.  I was so grateful for the experience.

Each week we’ve learned new things on this journey of ours.  One thing we learned on Friday evening as we traveled home was that the Friday night trains are crowded and that means you stand or sit wherever you can if there are no seats open.  So, we ended up sitting.  This wasn’t too bad until the train came to a halt before we even reached Stuttgart.  An announcement came on over the speaker, but we couldn’t understand as it was all in German with no translation follow up.  After about 20 minutes like this Lynn finally asked some of the men around him if any spoke English and if they could tell us what’s going on.  One young man said, “Something was blocking the tracks.”  This is when another man approached and let Lynn know that was a kind of “code” for a suicide occurred on the train tracks.  Apparently, this isn’t a rare thing in Germany as there are hundreds of suicides on the train tracks every year delaying trains countrywide.  I’ve read since, that the number has even thought to be upwards of about 800 per year.  Goodness, what a horrific thought!  As we waited for the next hour and a half, Lynn kept talking to the man who had shared that information with him.  Giving him as much of the gospel as he could as the man was clearly an atheist.  However, he was very congenial and they both enjoyed talking with one another so extensively.  We have prayed for this man since then.  Praying that God would open his eyes and convict him of his need for salvation.  It was a terrible cause for delay, but a divine appointment indeed for one man.

We finally made it home much later than expected, but thankfully we had Saturday to sleep in and recuperate.  We’re still getting used to the different schedule of the church over here.  There is only one service on Sundays, and it is at 4:00 pm.  We hardly know what to do with ourselves on Sunday mornings, so we’ve been having our own family time of listening to sermons from our home Church’s App so that we can keep up with what our own Pastor is preaching back home.  It’s been a sweet time of fellowship for us.  Just to keep it real though, I may struggle a little bit when we return, and I can’t have Sunday morning church in my pjs.  “

Posted in Associate/Youth Pastor's Wife, My Interests, Travel, Uncategorized

First Impressions: Germany Week 1

Exhaustion thy name is jet-lag!  I cannot recall when I have been more physically tired in my life than upon the day we landed in Germany.  We flew out on Monday Jan. 28th at noon from Oklahoma.  We landed at 8am Jan. 29th in Frankfurt, Germany.  However, to us it was more like 1am!  The Clarks met us at the airport to help us get our rental car and settled into our apartment for the week.  They encouraged us to NOT give in to the overwhelming desire to take a nap, but one by one we fell prey to this debilitating fatigue.  I believe someone could have performed surgery on any one of us without the threat of our awakening.  Truly this was awkward in many ways.  For one, we have never been to their home in Germany.  I was hoping my kids, as well as Lynn and I would give a polite and warming first impression.  But the luring weariness, just controlled us all.  Here I was excited to be in a new country and see my friends’ home for the first time and I simply laid out on her sofa and fell asleep!  When I awoke looking for Lynn, I went up to their third floor bedroom/office to find Bro. Walter studying at his desk while my husband was practically passed out across their bed!  I didn’t remember having this feeling when we went to Romania a few years ago, but it was the real deal now.

Our random greeter at the rental apartment we stayed in the first week.

That first evening we went to the Bible Study that they hold on Tuesday nights at the church.  We were all nervous but also excited to meet everyone.  Bro. Walter did a good job leading the Bible discussion, but I must be honest – I cannot even remember what the discussion was as the room was spinning while I struggled to stay awake.  At one point I thought I was falling out of my chair!  My only hope is that I was able to keep my eyelids open enough that nobody would notice! 

After dinner we went to a family’s home that were members of the church.  When they can, they hold a prayer meeting on Thursday evenings.  We were impressed with their sincerity and openness with the prayer time for their personal needs as well as the church needs.  They were all very welcoming and we enjoyed the fellowship after our prayer time.  This is where we were introduced to all that the Google Translator App can do!

The view from our little apartment. Yay for snow! Boo for parking, only allowed on one side of the street and usually full. We had to do a lot of walking that week.

  Driving was an intimidating concept to say the least.  Only Lynn was on the rental as a driver since we would only have this vehicle for the first week until the Clarks left for the States.  However, as I observed and learned the rules of the road along with him, I was overwhelmed.  There aren’t any stop signs over here, just turnabouts.  This is a good thing in my opinion as it keeps the traffic flowing.  However, there are many more pedestrians and bicycles than what we ever see in the States.  Our family joke has been repeating Bro. Walter when he told Lynn, “Watch out for the bikes and pedestrians.  They really frown upon hitting them over here.”  As if they don’t frown upon that back home.  But we understood what he meant, they have rights over here and are in more abundance over here than at home in Oklahoma.  So added to the observation of the driver is the roundabout rules, the yielding rules to the side roads on your right and the bikes and walkers.  This doesn’t even touch on the Autobahn and all the rules of that road.  you can practically feel the breeze as cars speed by at warp speed.  Believe me there are no problems with people dawdling in the left lane around here!

This guy was hanging on the wall at the Schnitzel restaurant making me feel guilty throughout my meal.

Schnitzel:  Walter and Dalene took Lynn and I into Heidelberg on night three.  By now, we were still tired, but able to function like normal humans.   This is where we tried Schnitzel for the first time.  Basically it’s chicken fried pork cutlet with any of 101 sauces over it.  The atmosphere was great, the company was great, the conversation totally enjoyable.  The schnitzel -meh.  I think it will have to grow on me.  I guess I have 100 more options to try before my final verdict, but so far, I do not care what Julie Andrews says, this is NOT one of my favorite things.  We walked around Heidelberg that evening and totally enjoyed the old European flair of this amazing city.  The castle was lit up above us on the hill and was awe inspiring to behold!  Lynn and I both felt like we were at an amusement park in the States that was built to look like we were in an old European city …but, no, it was real!

Heidelberg at night! The castle is so pretty all lit up!

This leads me to my next impression:

  Grocery Shopping:  Dalene took the girls and I into town to grocery shop on Friday.  We started with the bottle recycling area. 

Fun times recycling plastic bottles! Seriously, we need this back in the States.

Side note:  Germany is green extreme!  This is not a criticism, it’s an admirable thing.  The garbage isn’t even near the same as they recycle everything they can, so there are four trash bins, paper/plastic, compostable, glass, and then the “everything else” bin.  As good a thing as it is, I’ll admit, I suffered from a paralyzing fear of putting something in the wrong trash bin for the first week or so. 

Basic run of the mill garbage cans in Germany. Can you see why I got nervous?

Anyway, we were walked through the steps of taking plastic bottles to recycle so we could get credit on our groceries.  This wasn’t much different than when I was a little girl and we would take in our glass pop bottles to get dimes at the grocery store.  We were at the store for a couple of hours I’m sure as Dalene showed me the differences and how to find the things I’m used to finding.  This proved to be one of my biggest culture hurdles at first when I tried this on my own and felt lost and rushed.  Thankfully, that church members who introduced us to the camera feature on the Google Translate App saved my life as a shopper!   I can scan the shelves at the store and translate items so as to choose the right one.  It’s not 100%, but it sure is a life saver!  It still takes me a couple of hours to grocery shop, but some of that is my own dilly dallying around the store.

How Cool is this grocery cart feature! There’s a little extra shelf that flips out when needed. I could also see myself using this as a step stool #shortgirlproblems. As you can see all stores work like Aldi back in the States. You have to put a coin in to get your cart and you get it back when you return the cart. You also have to bring your own grocery bags/baskets or buy them from the store.

Bratwurst (brot vurst):  On Saturday of our first week, we went with the Clarks into downtown Mannheim.  It’s a bustling large city like most I’ve been to, so the size wasn’t too unfamiliar.  Of course it mixes the old with the new as some parts of the city or buildings are older than our own country!  It was here we tried our first pretzel on the street – oh so delicious! Then, for our first real German bratwurst. Of course I didn’t get pics because I was too busy stuffy my face. This too was delicious and large!  It was a delightful day navigating around this large metropolitan area.  Our favorite part was the marketplace that had stands with fresh cheeses, olives, flowers and the list goes on.  It was abuzz with people everywhere.  It was unfamiliar with the language barrier and trying to navigate a large city, but we felt at ease having the Clarks with us as guides.

Money:  We fast learned that people in Germany do most of their transacting with cash only.  Even Burger King!  This wouldn’t have been a big problem but that even though we had gone to our bank before ever leaving the U.S. to make sure our ATM card would work, we still ran into problems.  After a few emails with our bank’s fraud dept. things were set straight and we were able to access our accounts and navigate on our own without having to constantly trade money with our friends. 

Rhein River Baptist Church: Mannheim Germany

Church:  The whole reason we are here!  We went with the Clarks in the morning to a service of another missionary in town who holds his services all in German.  It was a good service, well as much as we could get out of it.  We did feel our novice status here as we were observers more than participators in the service. 

     However, in the afternoon at the service with the church for which we came to help, we were able to feel more at ease.  They share the same building as the church that holds the morning service, but minister to an entirely different demographic of people.  Rhein River Baptist Church is made up of an international group who all speak English due to their diverse backgrounds.  There are people from Brazil, Russia, the U.S., England and Africa all in one little body of believers. I love this diversity as it feels like a glimpse of Heaven to me!  Sometimes, in day to day life we get caught up with our own little part of the world and forget that we have brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world!  I find it such an energizing feeling when I am able to meet people like this!  Of course this is also a relieving detail since Lynn doesn’t have to learn an entirely different language or work through an interpreter for this short 3-month stint as filling the pulpit. 

     Since it was also the first Sunday of the month, they have a time of pizza and fellowship after the service.  This was an enjoyable chance to get to know some of the members and chat for a while.

The Clark family. Our favorite Germany missionaries.

We felt like we were getting our land legs as the jet lag was subsiding and we were learning new things each and every day.  That one week felt like an entire month, but we were in for more as we approached the time of the Clarks leaving us for the States…