Monday, August 20, 2007

planes, trains and automobiles - without the planes

Yikes, where have I BEEN? Well, I'm back now, all better and ready to talk.

As I mentioned, on Aug 11 I took an overnight trip to visit Claire and her delightful German (he's a keeper, Claire!). Just over an hour's train ride from Hannover, the city of Bremen was my first stop. From there I caught the NordWestBahn (NWB) to Wildeshausen where the two love birds reside. A relaxing 40 minute ride through fields and forests with our charming hostess waiting at the station to meet me.

It was Claire's 30th birthday and she's pregnant for the first time too so there was much to celebrate. J also came along to join in on the fun but arrived from Bremen on his bike, his prefered method of transportation. After we arrived we got the grand tour of Claire's awesome new house. She and the German are hard at work turning it into the perfect home for their needs and they're doing a superb job. I think it's so important, especially as an expat, to have a peaceful oasis to come home to after a hard day of dealing with the natives.

The party was great. Lots of good food and interesting people, including Claire's in-laws. Claire-Dude, from what I could see you totally lucked out in the German in-law department. We partied until the wee hours and although I didn't touch a drop of alchohol, I was pretty tired the next day. That wouldn't have been so bad had the NWB on the way back to Bremen not been wall-to-wall people. All the seats were taken before I even got on. It was Sunday shopping in the big city, a rarity in Germany. Ooops. Wrong time to take the train. 40 minutes of being crammed into a corner between baby strollers, whimpering children and sweaty grown-ups with very large behinds wasn't my idea of fun and I was really glad that I had a 20 minute break in Bremen to air my sopping wet self out before I had to catch my connection.

So I arrived back in Hannover on Sunday afternoon and the very next day the Mausi family found themselves getting up at 6 a.m. to board yet another train heading in a different direction.

This time the Autostadt Wolfsburg was our destination. The in-laws bought themselves a new Volkswagen and we volunteered to go and pick it up for them, seeing as the picker-uppers get the royal treatment, including a tour of the immaculate grounds (I really wish the rest of Germany looked like that) and restaurant and gift shop vouchers.

The factory where the cars are made was closed for the summer, unfortunately so we could only see it from the outside.

There are two towers where the new cars are stored before delivery. A forklift-type contraption moves up through the core and pulls out the vehicles as needed.

The in-laws chose a little Polo to replace the Golf they've had for the past 10 years. They seem quite pleased with it.

V Dub is in da house!

While the adults are drooling over the latest VW technology, there's plenty for kids to do at the Autostadt, including getting their own "junior driver's licence"

VW fun for the under-10 set

I don't care much for new cars, but I LOVE old cars and there were plenty of those in the various pavilions. I grew up with all sorts of vintage automobiles and I kind of have a thing for old Volkswagens, not all that suprising, really, considering that my dad was employed by Volkswagen Canada for several decades. The "History of Volkswagen" display was delightful. I think I found my dream car but they wouldn't let me take it home.

1950 VW Beetle

We also visited the Bentley, SEAT, Audi and Lamborghini pavilions where Boy11 found HIS dream car

saving up for a 2000 Lamborghini Diabolo GT

The drive back went smoothly although we were pretty exhausted from all the excitement and I felt like I was coming down with something.

Of course that didn't stop us from heading out to the Hannover Zoo all day Wednesday. Mr. M is on holiday, as are the kids and we had two free passes to cut the expense a bit. Viewing caged wildlife costs you an arm and a leg these days! The weather held and we had a good time catching up on all the new stuff they've been building. And I tell you, if you're a bit shy about explaining the facts of life to your kids, just take 'em to the zoo and the naughty monkeys will do it for you. Even I learned something!

Thursday was a welcome day of rest and Friday we headed off the celebrate the in-law's 50th wedding anniversary. A low-key affair, thank goodness.

Saturday evening we had friends over for dinner and I spent all day preparing way too much food. Smoked salmon and arugula tortilla spirals, shrimp, Vietnamese salad rolls, grilled rosemary chicken skewers, fresh corn saute, tomato and mozarella salad, herbed focaccia bread and a peach melba mousse for dessert. Boy were we full!

Now that all that's over and Mr. M is back to work, I'm trying to relax and make the most of the kids' last week of summer holidays. And from now on I solemly swear to post more than once every ten days!

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At August 20, 2007 3:42 p.m., Anonymous Lee said...

If you go to Dresden, be SURE to take the tour through the "glass factory." I do believe we had to wait for a turn, but got through it. Quite impressive. As it was being built, Dresden was somewhat aghast. But seemed they "warmed" to it, other than the fact that it took space FROM the LONG-TIME and honored little train in the adjoining Grosse Garden. I understand that one comes in, orders THE car, then in a day or so, including watching it being built from comfy viewing rooms, hotel, opera tickets, wine, etc., one drives it out the door!

NOT on this subject, but again, if you go to Dresden and wish to tour the newly opened Green Vault ... we tried for tickets this morning and the FIRST ones available are April ... 2008. So we ordered for November 2008. Hope both of us are alive!

At August 20, 2007 5:14 p.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

Green punch buggy! HA! I said it first! :)

I LOVE your posts, Christina. I always read every word and enjoy every second. Bremen, BTW, is one of our favorite cities in Germany! You sure did accomplish a lot in a few days, so no wonder you're exhausted. I hope you stay well!

At August 20, 2007 11:07 p.m., Blogger vailian said...

I don't see how you remain so cool and collected on your various adventures with feisty menfolk. What is your secret?

At August 20, 2007 11:56 p.m., Blogger Dixie said...

Lots of fun doings there in Mausiland! Makes up for any of those ordinary days that creep up.

At August 21, 2007 4:27 a.m., Blogger Expat Traveler said...

I loved your post too! And have you know that I didn't pay attention to Rick Steves and read your post instead!

That is way cool to know about the VDub place. Why don't they store cars like that here???

And wow - didn't know aobut Claire. I guess I can't keep up working too many hrs these days.

At August 21, 2007 4:49 a.m., Blogger Lilian said...

It looks like my sons would love that place and riding in those cute cars!

At August 21, 2007 10:26 a.m., Blogger Claire said...

Wow! What a busy week! Yes, you are right. Why is looking at animals behind cages so expensive? I hope it is because the animals are getting good food and nice homes.

PS Your weekend dinner TOTALLY blows mine away (frozen pizza).

At August 22, 2007 2:33 p.m., Blogger christina said...

lee - That sounds really interesting.

ginnie - Aww, thanks, my friend! We're planning on exploring Bremen some time soon as a family. Lots to see there.

vailian - I just go to my happy place. :-) Oh yes, and they all know that *I'm* the boss!

Dixie - Yep, compared to what's usually going on around here that's about a year's worth of excitement all crammed in to one week. :-)

Expat I think they want the place to be a sort of adventure for the people who visit so they think up a whole bunch of fancy stuff.

lilian - It's so much fun for little kids. They have more activities inside the buildings - little go karts, science experiments and such.

Claire - But the highlight was visiting your place. :-) They have done a lot of renovations in the zoo and they mostly try give the animals a "natural" environment so I guess it's worth it.

At August 22, 2007 5:55 p.m., Blogger Schokolade Madchen said...

What's "peach melba mousse"? Like a cobbler or just a mousse? Sounds really good:)

At August 22, 2007 10:40 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Schokolade Madchen I just made it up! It was cream cheese, whipped cream and sugar mixed with peaches and raspberries. Sort of like a really soft, creamy cheesecake.

At August 23, 2007 8:01 p.m., Blogger tinakala said...

So this is where you`ve been. No wonder there was no time for blogging :)

At August 24, 2007 4:10 a.m., Blogger susan d said...

I need to come for dinner. That sounds fabulous!

At August 24, 2007 5:34 p.m., Blogger Angie said...

Boy11 and I have the same taste in cars! :)

At November 17, 2007 7:37 a.m., Blogger s.j.simon said...

:) You know, the swiss were very late to lay rail tracks. check this out


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