I had such grand plans.
Plans to post from each new place we visited on our trip. (But we didn’t always have internet. And three of us with computers had to share we one Northern European adapter. Plus, there wasn’t always time for blog posts: we were on vacation.)
I had plans to keep a journal as we traveled. (When the kids were younger, we all kept great travel journals. We’d sit in cafés in Paris and write in our journals and glue in empty sugar packets. The kids drew pictures of Picasso’s art, and I listed the meals we ate. But somehow it was harder this time, keeping an eighteen-year-old and a fourteen-year-old and an eight-year-old happy all at once. We didn’t do a lot of lingering in cafés–unless there happened to be free Wi-Fi, in which case everyone was happy to linger. The ever-resourceful Lulu did, however, manage to keep a journal with admirable diligence on this trip.)
I had plans to–at the very least–jot down notes as we went. I’ve always appreciated Pico Iyer’s advice that one ought to write down first impressions of a place right away, while everything seems new. (Did I do it? Nope. And I call myself a writer. Sheesh.)
We’ve been home for a week. I had big plans of catching up, posting about the places I hadn’t blogged about yet: Ribe, Denmark; Munich; Salzburg. (But two days after we got home–when Mr. T was still jet-lagged enough to wake up every night at 2:00 a.m. and stay up the rest of the night playing–we left again, for a long holiday weekend at the lake with family. Which was relaxing and all, but it didn’t leave me any time to catch up in this space.)
The trouble with grand plans is that they freeze you up, and make it impossible to accomplish anything. I wasn’t sure how to catch up here. Should I post about the places I hadn’t written about yet; should I post about traveling with kids in general? Should I write about how this trip was bittersweet–the last before H. goes to college, and the first in which he’d have preferred to be home with his friends rather than traveling with us?
I finally decided to stop planning this post and to just write it. Plow forward with a few highlights of the rest of the trip as they come to me, before I forget them–since I didn’t take Pico’s advice when I should have.
So, random highlights from the rest of the trip:
Making dinner in our little kitchen nook, in our bed & breakfast in Ribe, Denmark, with nothing more than a tiny toasting grill. Open-faced sandwiches, green salad and Greek salad. Not very Scandinavian of us–but we were craving veggies. * Eating it in the gorgeous courtyard garden, which we could only get to by walking out our small front door, going down the cobble-stoned street and around the corner, and through a fence. We finally hit on the idea of passing our plates out the bathroom window.
Visiting the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark and being just as amazed that so many kids in one place could have blond hair as we were with the Lego models of the world’s cities. And amazed too at the fact that Ben and Jerry’s is a big hit in Scandinavia. There’s something funny about hearing Scandinavians order Cherry Garcia * Being in Ribe for their midsummer celebration, which involves having everyone in town follow a woman dressed as a witch alongside the river, as the sun begins begins to set at 9:30 p.m., while local children dressed in old-fashioned rags berate her in Danish, and then everyone gathers to sing a song about some fellow named Sankte Hans, and watches a scarecrow-replica of the witch lady get shot down a zipline across the river into a great bonfire (and, apparently, as the old lore dictates, back to Germany.)
Re-watching The Darjeeling Limited with Chris and H on H’s computer before our own sleeper train overnight to Germany. Sweet lime, anyone? * Finding out, on said sleeper train, that sleeper train compartments sleep six, while we are a family of five. Which meant, of course, that someone (who came to be known as The Stranger) would be joining us to sleep. This freaked the kids utterly out. Turns out that The Stranger didn’t board the train until 12:30 a.m., after we had already gone to bed. Although I did mumble a little awkward hi in the dark as he stowed his backpack under my bunk. He climbed up the ladder and on to his upper bunk, and then disembarked before the kids woke up. Although I woke up when he left. And couldn’t help singing to myself lines from the old Supertramp song: Goodbye stranger, it’s been nice… * Drinking 1-liter large steins in a Munich beer garden, and watching the locals carefully salt and then eat heaping plates of shaved white radishes. Next time I’m trying those.
Commenting on a few favorite blogs in the Apple store in Munich as Chris waited in a very long line to buy an iPad cover. * Seeing the beautiful sanctuaries built in recent years at the concentration camp at Dachau, to promote peace and healing.
Watching Lulu try on dirndls. She decided not to buy one, but not until the salesgirl had tied at least fifteen different-colored silk aprons around Lulu’s waist, one after the other, searching for the perfect shade. * Seeing the German team win their World Cup game against England in a beer garden, and then watching the Muncheners take over a wide boulevard to parade and party and celebrate.
Discovering that the laundry room in our hotel had a vending machine with giant bottles of cold bubble water for 80 euro cents. There was a heat wave in Munich, and we couldn’t get enough of that cold, cheap bubble water. The machine also sold big bottles of beer for one euro each! * Taking Mr. T to the modern art museum on Sunday morning while the older kids slept.
Leaving H behind with a high school friend who’s in Munich for the summer, while the other four of us took the two-hour train ride to Salzburg, Austria for the Sound of Music tour. (Lulu’s choice.) Saw many of the film’s sites while our tour guide charmed us with his sounds-exactly-like-Arnold-Schwarzenegger accent and his lederhosen. I wish you could hear how he said streudel. Sht-ryoo-del. * Taking a break from the Von Trapp sites for an exhilarating summer luge ride down a mountainside metal chute.
Finding out, for the 11-hour plane ride home, that the plane had been overbooked, and we’d been bumped up to business class. Private compartments, seats that reclined to beds, chilled silverware and food that actually tasted good. What a way to end a trip.
And so ends a trip which began as yet another grand plan. I’ll never forget the sunny hej hej we got from all the Stockholmers (it means hello and sounds like hey hey) and I’ll never forget the young Munchener who teased us when he thought we were English, after the Germans beat the English soccer team. We talked to him for a minute amidst the celebratory crowds and he whispered confessionally to Chris, “We’re a new generation. Not for Hitler.” It surprised us. We thought he knew that we knew that–that we’ve known it for decades.
No matter how carefully you plan a trip, you never know quite what will happen, or what will stay with you in the end. Which is one of the very best parts of traveling.