Saturday, April 17, 2010


Farmgirl Paints (aka Becky) is going on a once in-a-lifetime vacation to Hawaii. She just wrote a blog about how she has always wanted to go, and her dream has finally come to fruition. She is bursting at the seams with excitement. She is also doing a giveaway. What is that you say? I feel my readers come out of their blog-reading haze. Yes, Becky is bringing a mysterious item home from her Hawaiian vacation to give away to a lucky blogger. This is the link to her blog. You can read all about how to enter and get in on the action. Good luck. I entered because it sounds like fun!

When I was a kid, our family didn't take vacations simply for the sake of a vacation. If we left home it was all about visiting relatives. If there were fun things to do along the way, well that was one thing. But to just go somewhere and soak up what was there; that didn't happen. That got me to thinking about my vacations as an adult. It ended up being more of the same for quite a few years, because I was now living out-of-state from the relatives. So, anytime there was time for a vacation, it was spent visiting family. Eventually, my mother, some other relatives on my mom's side, and I all lived in Georgia, while everyone else was still up north.

In the summer of 1998, a good friend from college called and asked me to take a vacation with her. At that time, she worked for an international non-profit company that held their annual meeting in a different country every year. That year it was in Australia. I had been working at my commission sales job for about a year and was doing well at it. I was finally making progress on my debt. I could actually see paying my credit card debt off completely. It was a choice between between paying off my credit cards or racking up more debt. I was too close to becoming debt free and I told her I couldn't do it. In other words, I chose to pay off my debt.

The next summer (1999) she was still with the same company and we talked again. This year the trip was in Berlin. I was now debt free and banking money into savings. I was going! I took two weeks off from work and we started planning. I arrived while their meeting was still going on. That was cool because we had hotel accommodations. We also had dinners for free and they were GOOD. The downside was that she didn't really get to see Berlin and I spent my days touring it alone. However, it really wasn't so bad for me. I had bought a walking tour book for Berlin and felt comfortable.

Random notes about Berlin: This was my first siting of the "tiny" car and there were TONS of them. They don't serve drinks with ice at a restaurant unless you ask. Additionally, you get two mini cubes of ice when you order a drink with ice, and they are almost completely melted when it arrives. I have never been so thirsty in my whole life as those four days. People drink beer on the job on their lunch break, even if their job is construction. There was a lot of construction in East Berlin at that time. There are stones in the road marking where the walls used to be. Just following the stones through the city, noting how close the walls sometimes were and sometimes how far they sometimes were, makes you feel sad right down to your core. The walls went up overnight. Families were trapped; some on one side of the wall and some on the other side. Most of the people who died trying to climb the walls died in No Man's Land, which was the space in between the two walls. I always thought there was only one wall because they called it The Berlin Wall and not The Berlin Walls. The picture in the left corner was found at this site. If you look closely you can see the other wall standing guard across from it. When I visited there were still places where portions of the walls still stood. They were crumbling and graffiti-ridden, but still in place. I don't know if that is still the case. From what I can tell on the Internet, pieces of the wall have been saved, and put on public display so that no one forgets that they existed. I think they serve as a testimonial to what used to be so that it never happens again. It hurts your heart to look at them. Note the photo below of the woman walking the wall. She is following a path of stones that mark where the wall used to be. I got it from this site. I wish I had a picture of me doing the same, but I took that walk alone.

As for Germany, it was summer and quite cool. I brought one pair of jeans that I wore on the plane. I anticipated wearing shorts for the majority of the trip. I did not wear shorts one day that whole week. Those jeans could have walked by themselves at the end of that week.

We each had a train pass to move around that entire trip and our next stop was Heidelberg. A friend of ours from college was German and had moved back. She was living in Heidelberg, and we stayed with her and her family. You learn so much by staying with people who live there, as opposed to staying in a hotel. What I learned from living with a German family: you have to buy food daily because their fridge is mini-sized (2x2?), food is stored outside your front door (that is your pantry) and everyone does this, learn to like your drinks at room temperature because the icebox only has one icetray and it has six minicubes that they forget to refill (now my Berlin experience is making sense), and put on your walking shoes because you walk everywhere. Now, that last one is interchangeable with bike because LOTS of people bike everywhere and I am not talking about motorized biking. I am talking about the pedal kind. I saw more bikers in Heidelberg than any of our other destinations ~ I wish I had taken pictures of the bike racks ~ they were FULL. Had I realized that each place had its own transportation mode, I would have been more tuned in and been snapping away with the camera.

I was totally jazzed about CASTLES. I wanted to see the castles. There are lots of castles in and around Heidelberg. In fact, Heidelberg has its own very large castle. Of course, we saw it and it is massive. Ladies and gents, here is the thing about castles: they don't build them in the valleys. Strategically, it only makes sense to build those bad boys on the top of the hill. I did mention that we were walking, right? I thought so. Well, once you get there, you've been on a quite a journey already... and you haven't SEEN ANYTHING. You are now in the courtyard or just standing outside looking up at the base of the thing. You maybe can walk around and look at the outside of it. But, really the only thing left to do now is...climb the steps to the TOP. Oh yeah, more climbing. They have yet to install elevators in those castles for the weary. I believe that some people would get upset about it ruining the integrity of the thing. I would be one of those people until you made me climb up to that castle enough times. I might then rethink my position. Nah. I would moan and groan, but still think that installing the elevator is a bad idea. Back to my story...

About halfway up, I start thinking "one more step" over and over and I don't even look to see how many more there are, because if I do, I know I will never make it. The deal is that the view from the top is AMAZING. I would love to get to poke around inside that old castle. Particularly, the one in Heidelberg. I don't know why we didn't do that. I am not sure what the deal was.... but we didn't get to see the inside rooms or anything. They may have been totally booked on the tours. It was very busy that day or maybe they were just booked for the next few hours. Whatever. It didn't work for us. Both of the castle pictures that you are looking at are of the Heidelberg castle. In the first one, you can see how imposing the castle is, and in the second you can see just how thick the walls are. I look at that and think about the amount of labor that went into the making of this castle and it boggles my mind. I got both of these photos from this site. What we did see over the next few days were at least six more castles. I thought I was going to die. They are all on hills, all involve steps, and going down was beginning to hurt as much as going up. Ouch ouch ouch. Nevertheless, I kept doing it. It awes me to stand in a place and know that a whole bunch of people lived and died right in "this spot." There were stories that happened RIGHT HERE and all that is left is this stone to pay homage to it. I will never know them, but I can see the rock and I know that were filled with love, sorrow, joy, pain, tragedy, wonder, life, and death.


  1. First, thank you for leaving me a comment and directing me to A DELIBERATE LIFE! And second, your vacation sounds like a lot of fun. I need to get myself out of the United States one of these days. I am adding her blog and mine to my "must reads" and look forward to reading them!

  2. Oh gosh, I miss Europe. I hope I get to go back soon. So glad you had an opportunity to go and check things out on the other side of the pond, especially after passing up Australia. I, too, didn't take a lot of vacation as a kid. And like you, it was usually to see relatives. But I LOVE to travel now, and do so at every opportunity. And yet, we haven't made it to Germany yet. Hopefully soon. :) Thanks for sharing your adventures with us.

  3. I lived in Heidelberg as a child and I vaguely remember seeing castles. What a fantastic opportunity you had to go as an adult!!! Thanks for sharing!


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