Thursday, July 21, 2011

Countdown to blast off

Wednesday morning arrives with leaden skies that develop into rain as we set out on our drive to Aschaffenburg where we will spend our last night of vacation.  Since the actual driving part of the drive will only take about 3 hours, we make the decision to stop in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  This city had its heyday in the Middle Ages as it was on the road to the Crusades as well as the trade route with Asia.   The quartering of troops in the town in 1634, followed by an outbreak of plague left it poor and empty; effectively turning it into a backwater village with little change.  In the 1880s, the artists from the Romantic movement "discovered" it once more and put it back on the map for tourism.  At that point laws were created to prevent major changes and to preserve its 17th century state.  This means that the old fortress walls and towers are intact.

We make our way towards the old medieval town in the center, park the car and head in through one of the gates in the wall and wend our way to the center.  A few blocks in, I recognize a coworker whom I knew was going to be in Germany at the same time, but never dreamed that we would both be anywhere on the same date at the same time.  

We ate our lunch in the main square after catching the clock's noon time display.  This consists of a window opening on each side of the clock face and a figure in each window hefting a large tankard (of beer) and drinking heartily.  Of course, you have to be told that is what is happening before you "get it".  We walked around a few streets for a while enjoying the ambience of the old wall, towers and houses.
We even found a 1 Euro Store, but we didn't go in. I'm sure that would have been a highlight of the entire trip.
We then headed for the Criminal Museum along the south wall.  This museum consists of 4 floors of torture devices as well as displays that covered how all manner of bad behavior has handled in past times.  An Iron Maiden, a water torture device and a rack are some of the larger items.  Manacles and shame masks were also present.  These shame masks are iron masks that are clamped on your head for a mandated period of time.  One was a wolf head for a person that told baudy jokes.  There were masks for gossips too.  Women who fought were placed in a double yoke.  Outside they have a pillory that people can pose in for a picture.  (First three photos courtesy of Hayley)

The rain had stopped before we arrived in Rothenburg, but started again as we arrived in Aschaffenburg.  I had saved the map in Google the night before, but made the mistake of not getting a good enough reference of where the hotel was in the town so we had only the directions provided on the hotel confirmation email.  We eventually found our way to the hotel, but I think the big lesson here is that taking the GPS would have been a good idea.

We went out for a nice dinner at a Restaurant called "The Potato" (in German of course) where it  was "schnitzel day".  Everyone had a nice meal that was even reasonably priced.
Then it was back to the hotel to begin the preliminary weeding out of items from our luggage in preparation for our flight home and an early bedtime for all. 

The next morning we drag ourselves out of bed. Justin and I were kept awake last night by live music being performed loudly and close by.  Bob and Hayley have slept through it all.  Justin correctly points out that it would have been easier to tune out if the band was lousy, but it wasn't.  The female vocalist had a nice sound. 

At this point, we have packed our bags in preparation for the heavy-handed treatment from the Condor agents at Frankfurt airport, eaten breakfast and head to the car.  Lucky me, there is a yarn shop on the street that we stop at on the way to the car park and the kids each pick out a ball of sock yarn to be knit up for them.   This is probably the most shopping I have done on the whole trip.  6 balls of sock yarn.  Harumph.

Onto the Autobahn for the last time with a stop to fill the gas tank of the rental car before dropping it off.  We get to the Condor counter where there must be about 15-20 stations in a row.  There is one agent on duty, with someone watching over her shoulder.  The same family has been standing there for over 10 minutes as the line begins to grow and some official person begins to run the line back and forth like a ride at Disneyland.  Eventually 3 more people show up and begin to check people in.  Entire process took maybe 20 minutes which wasn't too bad.  Unlike in Seattle on our outbound flight, no one has any interest in weighing our carry on to ensure that they weigh less than 6 kilo.  Mystified, we check our luggage and head for the gate.  
Oddly, we don't go through a central Security Checkpoint, but instead they have all the scanning equipment at the gate.  We are informed by a fellow passenger that they cannot let us into the gate because the plane has not yet arrived.  The flight was scheduled to leave at 2:30p, and they didn't begin scanning us until 1:30.   This is the first time in all the flights I have taken with Bob and the kids that they get additional attention and I sail through.  Works for me.   We're now sitting in the gate area where they have a little shop where you can buy snack type foods, magazines and beer.  As we sit there we have some fellow Seattleites surprisedly and loudly greeting acquaintances from back home while drinking beer standing in the boarding lounge.  
Having a seat at the back of the plane, we are boarded first.  As we sit there with our 6 kilo of carry-on, on come passengers with luggage bigger than the bags we checked and proceed to shove them into the overhead.  We are baffled as to why the flight out of Seattle was so horrendously handled by making everyone check in their carry-on AND make everyone adjust their luggage to ensure nothing over 6 kilo was carried on.  Go figure.  The experience with this airline on the way home was almost as if we had flown a different airline on the outward bound portion.  I think we'll avoid this airline in the future.
We arrived on time in Seattle.  The kid's mother had offered to pick us up so I called from my phone to let her know we were at the curb and ready to be picked up.  The calls kept going to "this subscriber is not available".  After a worried hour wait, we decide to catch the bus home which took another hour.  Once home, Bob gets his cell phone and calls the correct number (she had a new cell phone and I didn't have the new number).  Turns out that she'd been circling the airport, calling the airline and worrying about us for the last few hours.   She quit circling the airport and came by and got the kids on her way home.  Bob started a load of laundry and we crashed early.  
We're now all back in our old routines, none the worse for wear.  We have a lot of outstanding memories to reflect upon or as Marcel says "we can eat from our memories for a long time".  It was a fun trip, we saw a lot of cool things, took some great pictures, ate some very nice food and shared a lot of laughs.  Can't say anything against all that!   I wonder where we'll go next?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ellen,
    Thanks for posting about your trip. I was amazed by the notion (and photos) of the "shame masks"--wow. Glad you've been traveling and keeping up with the blog.