Friday, April 21, 2017

Easter Weekend

When we were in Greece at the beginning of the month, we decided that it would be fun to spend Easter together. So after a series of failed ideas (Easter weekend is a very popular travel weekend here so to go somewhere over Easter was going to be really expensive!), it was determined that everyone would come to see us in Münster over the weekend and that we'd go from here on to a series of different adventures. The real fun would be spending time together anyway.

So Jaime came to us on Friday evening, and we walked straight to dinner at What's Beef, a burger place we hadn't tried before. There we had the juiciest burger I think I've ever experienced! After dinner, Carson had to rush back to Skype in with FSU for his year-end review, and Jaime and I took our time, talking and finding eis (ice cream) for our dessert. We walked back to our apartment by way of the lake, and spent a relaxing evening in the apartment, making popcorn on the stove and watching the 1991 Beauty and the Beast (Jaime hadn't seen it!). 

The next day, Jaime and I walked around the Altstadt for several hours, had lunch, and did a little shopping after Carson met up with us. We met Jordyn's FlixBus at 5:30 and went back to the apartment to drop off her things. Our first stop was the grocery store, since we'd decided to make an Easter dinner over the weekend (we chose Easter Monday so we could all be together for the meal). After we got all our supplies, we made a quick pit stop at the train station ticket office and then out to dinner at the Vapiano Hafen. Full from dinner, we walked down the Hafen area (Hafen=harbour) before walking home. That night, we watched the movie Hidden Figures (it's really good!) and enjoyed more popcorn.

I've written a whole post of our adventures on Sunday, since it was a really full day, but we went to Easter mass at the Cathedral in Cologne and had lunch at a burger place, meeting up with our friend Ben over there. After that, we went to Kӧnigswinter to see Drachenburg Castle. We finished off the evening with face masks and prep for our Easter meal. That night, we were too tired for a movie, but stayed up just long enough to greet Jenna, who arrived at about 1am. 

On Monday, we made the decision to sleep in, which everyone was grateful for! Carson, Jordyn and Jaime went on a run around the lake near our house (Aasee), and Jenna and I got ready a little slower and opted for a walk around the lake, where we stopped periodically to take pictures. Everyone was showering and getting ready for the day when we returned, and shortly after we'd prepared, we headed into the Altstadt to show everyone the city and to eat lunch. Lots of places were closed because Easter Monday is an official holiday here (can't go shopping or to most cafes, and government buildings are definitely closed), so we enjoyed empty streets. Ben met us at lunch, in from Cologne, and together we all walked around looking at churches and the Schloss, stopping for eis in the process of course.

I thought the bunny breads were so cute, and I liked the Easter lamb bread too! 

We visited the Botanical Gardens behind the Schloss.

(the greenhouse fogged my camera lens)

When we got back from our walk, it was prep time. Jaime and Jenna finished the mashed potatoes, I made deviled eggs, Jordyn put the finishing touches on her pasta salad, and Carson and Ben got to work putting together our little grill (we found one at the grocery store for 7 Euro and I'm so excited we have it!) and starting the chicken, wurst and vegetables we'd prepped. We enjoyed chatting as we worked, and popped open some peanuts to really get the party going.

We dyed eggs the night before and it was so odd! The eggs didn't sweat, but the dye bubbled a little bit on the eggs and made them look really unique!

I don't know before if I've mentioned how much I love German windows - they crack open up top or swing open - we were able to use the windows as a pass-through for meat and other foods, and in between watching the coals the boys were able to chat with us.

The evening was REALLY chilly, but Jenna and I wanted to eat outside if possible, so as the sun was low in the sky, we bundled up and headed out and passed dishes through the window, setting up on the table in the backyard. It was so cold, but everything was delicious and it was so fun to eat with friends! I was proud of us for pulling this off in a busy weekend and for making everything from scratch!

After we'd eaten our fill and decided enough was enough with the cold, we passed the dishes back through the window and came inside to hang out. We played two truths and a lie and a game of Rummy, then watched the movie Now You See Me while eating popcorn. We'd gotten cookies as dessert a few days before, but they looked good so we'd finished them off already.

We didn't get much sleep that night before heading off to Amsterdam where we'd finish off our time together! Our apartment was so crowded but we pulled off housing three people (Ben went back home that night) and we had so much fun in the process! Who needs sleep?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Easter in Germany

Usually on Easter, we dress up, go to church and spend the day with family or friends. 

It was 45 degrees on Easter Sunday, so we skipped the dresses. We were invited to join our friend Ben at the cathedral in Cologne for Easter services. Now, this is a Catholic service and we of course are not Catholic, but we decided that since the service would be in a language we only nominally understand, that making the trip to spend Easter in a beautiful cathedral couldn't hurt. 

We left at 6:15am to ensure that we made our 7am train. It was windy and chilly with a few rain drops as we walked to the train station. Our train change in Duisburg was delayed by 45 minutes, so we made it to Cologne only 10 minutes before the 10am service began. There weren't seats by the time we arrived for the service, so we stood in the back. We arrived for the choral service, which we expected to be a service with mostly singing by the youth choir and maybe some readings, but it turned out to be a 2 hour mass! 

After the service, we walked to Ben's favorite burger place (The Bird), which was absolutely delicious. Not a typical Easter dinner at all, but it was tasty, and we really enjoyed the time with our friends!

After we'd eaten lunch, we decided that since we had the Schӧnes Wochenende ticket ("Happy Weekend" an all day weekend ticket for anywhere in Germany on regional trains, we should go somewhere else. We decided to get on the train to Drachenburg Castle in Kӧnigswinter, near Bonn. I think it was about an hour by train from Cologne. 

 Right before our train was due to arrive, we spotted a wrapped chocolate bunny on the tracks. We joked about getting it off the tracks, and if you know Carson at all, you know that he was ALL EARS for that idea. There was a train employee not ten feet away, but Carson waited until he glanced away and hopped down to grab this chocolate bunny. At that moment, our train began to pull in. I didn't document the actual bunny retrieval because I was just a little nervous about the fate of my free-food loving husband, but he and the bunny emerged from the tracks unscathed before the train finished pulling in, and everyone enjoyed a piece of the bunny later in the day (it was Lindt chocolate!).

Drachenburg Castle
You can take a funicular up to the castle, but we didn't know that at the time, and I think we would have chosen to walk up to it anyway. The walk from the train station in Königswinter was very steep, and by the time we were near the top, we'd shed our jackets for the most part because we'd warmed up so much. 

We got to the entrance of the castle and discovered that it was 7 Euro to go inside or even go up to the castle, and we didn't really want to pay (nobody would be paid by the grant program for a few days, so we were on major budget plan), so we walked around the gift shop instead. We saw these cute fuzzy bat magnets that were cheaper than admission so we tossed around the idea of getting one of those instead in honor of our friend Jenna (who studies bats), but opted to take pictures instead.

We also captured what we could see of the castle from the outside.

I think that's probably the city of Bonn as seen from near the castle.

We walked opposite the castle on the hill and got as much as we could of the view, before heading down that way.

Our Easter 2017 picture. I tried to go with my springiest scarf and green sweater - you do what you can here.

Once we got back to the apartment, we changed into comfy clothes and got to work on our Easter potluck meal for the next evening. We prepped potatoes for mashed potatoes, Jordyn's pasta salad, and boiled eggs to dye and to later turn into deviled eggs. Jenna arrived a little after midnight, and Carson went out to meet her train while we finished the prep, dyed eggs, and did the scariest looking face masks (they're supposed to be black jaguars!).

This was probably the busiest Easter Sunday we've ever experienced. We had a fun time with our friends. I really wish we could have attended church in a language we understood, with like minded fellowship, but experiencing a service in the huge Cologne Cathedral was beautiful too. Life just looks so different this year!
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