Sunday, December 29, 2013

Skipping Christmas - Day 1

Guten Tag!

For Christmas, Eric and I decided to take a 10 night cruise through the Mediterranean. Neither of us had been on a cruise and we found a last minute deal which was very affordable. It also seemed like a relaxing change of pace from carrying our luggage all over the place and eating cheaply from grocery stores. Leaving for the cruise was extra stressful. We had to move out of the apartment, pack for the trip, and get rid of everything in the fridge. Yeah, I know what you all are thinking- AGAIN???. But it is saving us A LOT of rent. The apartment is being rented out to vacationers while we are gone and our stuff is in a secure storage room a mere 2 flights of stairs below. When we move back in (for the last time) it will be to the apartment directly next door.

The cruise started and ended out of Rome. Our flight was the day before the beginning of the cruise because there wasn't a flight that worked arriving on the day of. We had to catch a bus from our apartment to the train station, take the train down to Frankfurt, take the metro to the airport, and catch our flight to Amsterdam. We booked our plane tickets a bit too late and the direct flight was very expensive. Luckily all our international flying over the years has given us a high tolerance for plane trips so only having a one and half hour flight followed by a 2 and a half hour flight to Rome was easy. Eric is excited about being reunited with this airplane snack.

The cruise actually departed from Civitavecchia which is on the coast and about an hour outside of Rome. We made our way to the train station and bought our tickets for the coast. We were not sure about the train situation- there was only one and it was not labeled. Eric reassured me that 'All trains lead to Rome' so we got on. We also checked with a ticket taker and he said it was our train. I think you all can see where this is going- wrong train! We found this out very quickly when the train departed and the ticket agent came to check the tickets. Eric was right that the train was going to Rome, but it was an express train to the wrong station, meaning that we were going to miss our transfer. It was also a more expensive train and the agent said we had to pay the difference. It was only a 6 Euro difference total but then there was a 16 Euro fee for not having the right ticket!!! I was able to sound pathetic and the agent only charged one of us, costing 11 Euros total instead of 22.

Since it was an express train it only took about 30 minutes to get into Rome. The Rome train station has awful / nonexistent signage. We were able to figure out after a time which train we needed and the platform number but could not find the platform. We eventually found where we needed to go but it was difficult and frustrating and involved a lot of walking in circles. The train was once again not labeled on the outside or inside. In Germany there are electronic reader boards in the train aisles announcing where the train is going and what is the next stop. At every stop there is an announcement of the stop name. None of this exists in Italy. We had no idea which stop we were approaching and some of the stops were not labeled on the platforms! Every stop we had to peer out the window and madly look for a Civitavecchia sign. We eventually got there and were able to get off the train without too much of a rush.

We had booked an inexpensive bed and breakfast online. It was right next to the train station and walking distance from the place where the cruise was docked. It was only a little bit of trouble to find it but not too bad. It was in an apartment building and there was a large sign saying that to check in we needed to call the number listed. We had brought our cell phone but when we dialed we were informed that we were out of minutes!! We tried ringing the door bell but no one answered. At this point it is after 10pm and things are not looking too good. We walked back to the train station in search of a pay phone. We found a phone but it only seemed to be able to fax or send text messages, not actually make phone calls. We got a little desperate and approached 2 girls who were smoking outside the station. They did not speak much English but were very nice! They dialed the phone number for us- yeah!!! Only wait- the number is no longer in service!!!! They then used the internet and looked up the B and B online and dialed a different number. No luck either!!! The third number we tried got through and someone was going to meet us at the B and B. Thank you nice Italian girls!!!

We walked back and were met by a very nice old Italian lady who spoke no English, was doing a lot of coughing in her bathrobe and slippers, and was unaware of our reservation. The B and B is a converted apartment that has 3 rooms for guests to stay. She lives in an apartment above. No one else was at the B and B so it wasn't really an issue that she did not know we were coming. We then got a tour which included how to use the coffee machine, how to use the hot water heater, and what time we wanted breakfast.

Day 1

The next day we had breakfast in the kitchen. 

Definitely not the best breakfast I have ever had. I was not sure if it was because she was unaware we were coming or if it is always like this. She did go out to a bakery and buy us some fresh croissants though. We payed for the room in cash at breakfast and she told us she would come back at 11 to give us our receipt. We took our time getting ready to go and spent some time on the internet. We waited until 11:45 and decided to leave. We still don't know what happened to her. We did not know how long getting to the boat or check in would take and we needed to check in by 2:00. Fortunately it was not a hard thing and we made it there in plenty of time. The weather was beautiful and about 60 degrees.

Here is our cheesy check in photo. We did not want to pay for it so I just took a picture.

We made it to the boat! Our room and bathroom were larger and nicer than expected! 

Life vests in the closet!

Welcome wine and chocolate covered strawberries!

Our first priority was FOOD. We pretty much only had dry toast and jam for breakfast and it was well past lunch time. We found this restaurant- it was complimentary! We both got much needed nutrition with soup and salad. And some less needed calories with chocolate brownie sundaes. I am very excited about my free ice water- something that I have sorely missed living in Germany.

We then wandered and explored the different things to do on the boat. We even found this giant game of checkers to play! They also had a giant chess version on the other side.

We had to do a not so fun emergency situation drill. All the announcements are done in 5 languages so it takes a long time to get through everything. We got some exercise at the gym and went to dinner at the casual buffet place. There are A LOT of restaurants on board. There are some that are complimentary but there are a fair number that you have to pay extra for. We loaded up our plates and ate out on the back deck so we could see the water. It was a little chilly but no one was around so it was nice and secluded.

When we got back to the room Eric discovered that room service was FREE! He was very excited about this but we had just eaten! He then called and made some poor employee bring him a cup of tea to the room.

Day one is a success- Auf Wiedersehen!

Thanksgiving & Marburg Market

Guten Tag!

You may recall that on Thanksgiving this year Eric and I were moving to the New Apartment! Not a very special holiday for us. We decided to rectify this by hosting a slightly late Thanksgiving in our new apartment for all our German friends! We moved in on Friday and hosted the event on Wednesday. It was a bit stressful getting everything put away in time as well as shopping for the meal. It was also stressful because our apartment is very tiny and we were having 20 people over!!!

Eric and I provided the bird, stuffing, gravy, and pecan pies. We sent out an email with the other dishes along with recipes to follow. Our friends then signed up for a dish. Cooking all this food turned out to be extremely ambitious on our part for a few reasons:

1.) This was the first thing we cooked in our new kitchen!
2.) This was the first large bird we have ever cooked!
3.) The kitchen was very poorly equipped.

On the day of there was a worrisome amount of Google searches happening such as 'how to use a meat thermometer', 'what to do if you don't have a bird rack', and 'how to cook a goose'.

Here is our bird all ready to go into the oven. We could not find a turkey and so this is a goose. It was not as large as we would have liked but our oven is small so we did not want to risk it not being able to fit it in. Our solution to not having a meat rack (thank you internet!) is sliced potatoes and onions- you get the bonus of veggies cooked in meat juice.

Here are my 3 bowls of stuffing. We did not have a large mixing bowl so I had to use my three largest containers to get it all prepped.

We did it! We successfully cooked a goose and it was done on time! Sadly I don't have a picture of the bird done but I have these two middle stages.

 Here are some Thanksgiving pictures.

We used this empty shelving unit for the desserts. Germany doesn't have pie pans! Eric had to cook his pecan pies in spring form pans- he also used a pastry croissant crust. The pumpkin pies got creative and were baked in bread pans.

Overall Thanksgiving was a huge success! Everyone had a good time and ate way too much food. People stayed until almost 2 am, the sign of a good party.

Just a few short days later our friends the Grözingers came to visit us. They had never been to Marburg before and decided to check out the Christmas market. The Marburg Christmas market is much smaller than the Frankfurt market but still has the same pleasant holiday atmosphere. And sugar, lots and lots of sugar.

When the Grözingers arrived they brought a massive amount of presents! Some highlights are the homemade Christmas cookies, cider from the harvest, jams and lots of spätzle!

On our way to the market Alyssa discovers a real Marburg treat.

 Christmas Market Time!

Elke bought a delicious deep fried potato skewer and shared with us.

 Germans love everything Bratwurst.

Group photo.

Scenic overlook and coffee break.


The next day we went to the schloss!! Eric and I have been up to the castle many times but this was our first time inside.

Fire breathing dragon or green eating donkey?

I found Marburg Pottery- which I did not know existed.

This is a cool picture of Marburg from the 1800's. It is special because this is the exact location of our first apartment!

There was a Brother's Grimm exhibit at the castle (no surprise!). We spun the wheel to find out which fairy tale character we were. Eric got 'Mother' and I got 'Prince'!

Here is some random exhibit stuff. The castle had a little bit of everything.

Eric is deeply contemplating whether this painting is a man or woman. 'She' is wearing a dress but has a 5 o clock shadow...

After the schloss the Grözingers treated us to a delicious lunch!

Thank you Grözingers for a great holiday weekend- Auf Wiedersehen!