Thursday, September 19, 2013

We're Back! Vacation Report, Part 1.


Hello, Dear Readers, and thanks for remaining loyal during our unexpectedly extended trip to Germany. Agnes and I really appreciated your condolences on the passing of her mother, and I feel it's now my duty to make the long absence up to you with some (hopefully) interesting observations from the better parts of our trip.

First of all, let me extend my sincere thanks to our worthless Senators and Reprehensives who are unable to accomplish simple tasks like funding the government ... we got a lesson in the impact of the Sequester and other such ass-clownery on Tuesday night when we were part of an enormous crowd of travelers returning from overseas and arriving at immigration at Dulles Airport. The huge number of arriving people (on the US citizens & Permanent Residents side of the hall) was being processed by two - count 'em - two ICE agents*, with a third sitting by herself and keeping an eye on the other two. I don't know how many were working the non-residents' side. I wonder if our elected reprehensives have to go through that agony when they travel ... probably not.

Okay, I've got that off my chest. Now, here are a few random observations from our trip ...

We began our trip with a visit to our son Jason and his family who live near Kaiserslautern. We had a great visit with them, marred only by the accident Agnes had while pretending to be a kid again - she took a nasty fall from a scooter and badly banged up her leg, which is still (nearly a month later) somewhat swollen and tender. I'd post a picture of it, but that leg turned a number of colors that my camera couldn't reproduce. Instead, here's a picture of Agnes and I with all four of the Munchkins - Noah, Marcy, Ava, and Joe ...


We then went by train from Landstuhl to Reutlingen to visit Agnes's cousin Anna and her husband Volker, and to attend the wedding of their son Frederik. We always enjoy spending time with them, and this time was no exception.

Agnes had stayed with them when she was in Germany back in July, and on the last day of her visit, a section of Reutlingen was hit by an intense and very powerful hailstorm - the part of the city where Anna and Volker live was pounded with hailstones the size of tennis balls that did a huge amount of damage. You don't have to see the "RT" on a car's license plate to know it's from Reutlingen - you can tell by the big dents and shattered windows. Here are a few pictures I took of some of the damage ... this is the roof of the shed in Anna and Volker's garden ...


and this is a house a few streets away, the smashed roof of which is being covered with plastic sheeting to keep out the rain ...


Many people put down their Rolladen (privacy blinds) to protect their windows ... and those suffered some major damage, too ...



In addition to viewing the hail damage (Volker called it Katastrophentourismus, or "catastrophe tourism"), we made a pair of quick side trips with Anna to two local sites of interest: the "Nebelhoele," or "fog cave," and Schloss Lichtenstein, a very beautiful castle. Here are some pictures from the cave ...

Not a place for claustrophobes ...



But full of beautiful arrangements built by centuries of the action of water on stone ...


It was difficult to get good pictures in the cave, so you'll need to use your imagination. You can also find a website with some more information and pictures here.

From there, we went on to Schloss Lichtenstein, a beautiful castle sitting on a mountaintop not far from the center of Reutlingen. There aren't any bad pictures of this wonderful edifice, but here are a few of the representative ones I took ...

It's such a romantic place that Anna just had to take a picture of Agnes and I. The two little guys holding up the bench don't seem all that impressed with the whole thing ...


This is the drawbridge leading up to the entrance to the section of the castle that is open for tours. Sadly, we weren't allowed to take any pictures inside, where there were many fascinating displays and fabulous views in all directions ...


This is a picture of the main part of the castle, taken from an overlook across the valley. One of the interesting things about this picture is that you can see the "emergency exit" from the castle which would have allowed the residents to escape in the event of a siege. If you click the picture to enlarge it, then look straight down from the pillar supporting the drawbridge, you'll see a rectangular black opening in the rock ... that's the exit; during the tour, the guide showed us the secret panel inside that led to the tunnel leading to that exit.


A view of the grounds ...


Another view of the grounds, in which you can see the (empty) moat overlooked by a fierce-looking gargoyle ...


And here's one last picture, which is one of my favorites. I think I'm going to start saving up to buy this as a retirement home ... after all, who wouldn't want a home with an escape tunnel for when Congress finally completely wrecks the country?


That's all for now. Tomorrow, we'll continue the vacation adventure with pictures of the Big Wedding. For the moment, I need to wake up enough to go back to work. Wish me luck.

Have a good day. More thoughts and pictures coming.

Bilbo

* If you've ever transited Dulles Airport's international arrivals area, you know there are about 20-odd separate counters just for US citizens, and a similar number for non-citizens. The fact that only two were manned is ridiculous.

11 comments:

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Welcome back to the U.S.A.! I'm glad you and Agnes had a safe return. It looks like you saw some awesome sights, like Schloss Lichtenstein, and attended wonderful wedding.

My heart is out to Agnes with her loss, and with her injury as well.

The hairstone damage is mind-boggling! They must have been like rocks!

Duckbutt said...

An amazing trip! I am so sorry about Agnes's mother. I'm glad the wedding was a happy event, as was that trip to a storybook castle!

Hailstones that large can be amazing in how much they can damage. There were a number of roofs in East Tennessee that had to be replaced.

I'm sorry going through customs is like that now. We've planned a trip to Italy and ATL.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Welcome Home!
The photo's are beautiful.
I must admit I love the one of your kissing your bride. :-)

Big Sky Heidi said...

Welcome home! Thanks for posting those great photos. I'm sorry going through customs was so long and complicated.

The castle looks like Cinderella's!

Mike said...

The hailstone damage looks like WWII all over again.

Kristen Drittsekkdatter said...

The Schloss Lichenstein looks beautiful beyond compare!

The hailstone damage just stretches the imagination.

I'm glad you had a safe raturn. I'm sorry about Agnes's mother. Please give her my condolences.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Stunning pictures! And I do read your blog :P Its just capatcha hates me

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Bilbo, I'm glad you're safely back. The pictures of the castle were wonderous, as was the one of you kissing Agnes. Bravo!

That hailstorm must have been fierce!

I am so sorry about Agnes's mother.

Amanda said...

WOW! That looks like an amazing trip. It must have been scary to have been in the homes when that hailstorm struck.

That castle looks incredible. I'd love to visit a real castle one day.

John Hill said...

Great pics!
Welcome home.

Dave Hess said...

I'm glad you and Agnes made it home safely. A little over a week ago there was a car parked in our street that looked like it had been worked over with a ball-peen hammer. Now I think I know where it got those dings.