Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Finally home

July has been a busy month. Usually it's a supremely lazy month - day off from work for the Fourth, heat and humidity driving everyone indoors, no end-of-summer rush yet. The flurry of final summery activity belongs to August, with July kicking back in the shade.

I spent July moving. First I moved from interesting site to interesting site. Then I moved out of my apartment in Germany. At last I moved back to the States and am temporarily ensconced in my parents' house before moving to my new apartment in August, thence to begin grad school.

But more on that later. To the stories!

My family came for a vacation and to help me move. We saw my apartment and school, visited cousins, and then set off for some dedicated sightseeing. The town of Dinkelsbühl was probably our cutest stop. It's at least 1200 years old and was completely ignored by bombers in World War II, so its medieval buildings and cobbled streets are original, unlike the rest of Germany.

A look down the adorable street
All the buildings were titled with similar fonts...
...except this holdout at the edge of town.
And that holdout flower shop? Out of business. Serves it right for breaking the rules of cuteness and conformity.

Dinkelsbühl offered a few other memorable moments. In the evening we took the night watchman tour, which ended up resembling a pub crawl more than anything else. Interspersed with more educational stops to impart information about the town, we stopped at ten different guest houses where the night watchman sang a song, and each house brought out a glass of wine or beer for us to drink. In our group of eleven, five people refused anything more than the occasional sip and we weren't allowed to take the glass along. It became something of a chore to down a full glass every time we halted and at one point we poured a glass into a potted plant. The night watchman himself refused to drink anything and forbade us to give any to the patrons as well. Plus, he only spoke German, so I was the translator for my family and a Japanese couple who knew some English.

"Snails meeting for the first time, sniffing eyestalks"
 My brother titled this sculpture.

We got a parking ticket not because we were parked incorrectly, but because we'd parked in a one-hour zone without putting up the little "we'll be back at" clock that all German cars have. I'd forgotten to mention it to the family when we unloaded the luggage. Then it turned out that city hall closed at 4p, despite their door listing official hours as 8:00-17:00. We paid the next day before leaving the city.

Sad to leave though - it's really like a storybook city.
Then it was on to Salzburg, Austria, where we retraced Sound of Music sites and I picked up a little Jägermeister bottle full of holy water (no really!) at the church where the wedding scene was filmed. Several visits to the oldest bakery in town and a trip to the cathedral completed our time there.

The Untersberg, one of the famous mountain sites of Salzburg
I officially checked out of my apartment, though not before breaking the toilet seat when I stood on it to clean the shelves in the bathroom. Oops.

The penultimate stop was Bruges, Belgium. There we ate chocolate, climbed a clock tower, took a canal tour, and wandered around happily.

Typical Belgian architecture

Swans in the canal
 The story goes that the citizens of Bruges once killed a tax collector called "Long Neck" and as punishment were ordered to keep sixty swans alive to forever remind them of their crime. They now have two hundred.

Bruges clock tower, 82 meters high. We climbed it.

Isn't he cute just before he bites your finger off?

It's a trap!

View of the city from the clock tower
 And finally we found ourselves in Cologne for a day before flying out of the Cologne Airport.

Naturally we saw the cathedral

The official seal of Cologne
 The commas stand for St. Ursula and the ten virgins who where martyred in Cologne.

At least, on our way home
Twenty hours of travel, with flights from Cologne to Munich to Toronto to the States, and we were home. I went straight to bed, and spent the last four days sleeping, making and attending appointments, and generally trying to get my head screwed back on straight. It's good to be home.

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