This bird lives in Zurich and has nothing to do with the post I am about to write.
Photo-op the morning we left Switzerland, with Tim's colleague NingYu.
As you can see, none of us are morning people.
Before Germany, we went to Liechtenstein (so we could say, 'Hey, we've been to Liechtenstein' - what else). At the risk of sounding moronic, I'll admit I didn't realize this was a country until we were there. You can drive from one end to the other in less than half an hour, and it looks exactly like Switzerland. We had coffee and sent a couple postcards (and yes, we thought about Sir Ulrich quite a bit on our way out).
Incidentally, Liechtenstein is officially the 18th country Isaac has visited. Lucky little five year old.
Afterwards, we drove to Neuschwanstein Castle and took the tour of the finished rooms. Whereas the Bavarian countryside was stunning ...
... The castle itself was a bit disappointing. The photos we'd seen on postcards were taken from the air and beautifully photoshopped, and did not at all resemble the castle we were able to see from ground-view on an overcast day. It did, however, come with a charming story:
Once upon a time, Ludwig II built the castle as a homage to Richard Wagner, and, after spending an eternity and a fortune on the intricate designs and advanced technology (including a real telephone, which he could never use because no one else he knew actually had one), he was only able to live there for a short time before he was informed of his own insanity and removed to a facility where he drowned.
It's a great story. If they make a movie, I will definitely not watch it.
We spent the night at a hostel in Heidelberg, and explored the charming downtown area the following morning. Cobbled streets, colorful cafés (pictured next to Liechtenstein), public outdoor weddings. This was the fifth or sixth wedding party we'd seen since leaving Denmark, and by far my favorite because the bride wore a pillbox hat with a netted veil, the groom smoked a cigar on his way out the door, and the getaway car was vintage.
After Heidelberg we continued on to Wolfshagen Im Harz, a quiet village just outside Berlin, and a last minute alteration to our roadtrip because we didn't feel like staying in Heidelberg another night - and the restaurant-hotel we'd found (run by a friendly couple from Montenegro) was practically the same price as the hostel.
In the morning, after a little laundromat detour ... (the friendliest laundromat in the world - one man even stopped to wish me well on his way out the door. Actually what he said was, "Good luck with your wash. I hope it will be clean enough." And I think I said thank you but now I'm not sure; it was a confusing moment for me) ...
... We continued on to Berlin.
We stayed in Berlin two nights, canvased much of the downtown area by foot and visited several monuments as well as the Checkpoint Charlie museum.
We could have stayed in the museum for hours, just taking in the stories, photographs, and art displayed on all the walls - the heartbreak and hardship interspersed with ingenious escape plans and moving paintings about how the wall affected the citizens of Berlin.
In particular, I loved this quote by philosopher Ernst Bloch:
'The testimony of artists and poets has enabled us to understand the hopes in the past and so to recognize the potentials of the future.'
Isaac, pre-haircut, standing in front of a BMW Isetta. The Isetta was considered too small to transport hidden passengers, and was subsequently exempt from inspection. Of course, someone figured out how to modify the 'trunk' space in order to fit a small person inside, and then used it to carry several people to freedom. They were only discovered after an untimely sneeze which shook the whole vehicle while the driver was standing outside ... and it was all up for the Isetta after that.
Tim and Isaac standing in front of a remaining piece of the Berlin Wall.
There are several pieces like this one throughout the entire city, transformed into art and occasionally connected by a stone path that marks where the wall once stood.
Me and my babe (post haircut).
We also visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe - pictured below. The memorial is composed of over 2700 concrete slabs of varying heights and arranged across a paved, sloping landscape of just under 5 acres. Although the memorial is said to have created much controversy, I found it beautiful. It isn't something you can overlook, and once you've seen it you have to ask what it means.
And so art continues to tell a story.
... And the next day we went home.
21 days, 2 trains, 2 planes, 5000+ km in the car, 10 countries, 11 beds, hundreds of photos, an extraordinary amount of Asian cuisine (don't ask), and a 'clean enough' load of laundry later ... And we were finally back in Denmark!
It's odd to arrive in a country that is not your own, and yet feel such an overwhelming sense of relief that everything is, once again, familiar.