Monday, November 5, 2012

Take *that* GPS!

Hurrah!  I just got Marky and I home from the store - a 15-20 min expressway drive - *without GPS*!!!  Woo hoooo!  I know, I sound like a complete moron.  But you come for a drive over here and you'll be congratulating me too!  ;)

I am usually pretty good with directions but over here I am completely clueless and constantly disoriented.  Nothing seems to be laid out on a grid.  All roads are like - no pun intended - a pretzel.  They go up, down, in and out of tunnels, around and around.  You get the gist.  There seems to be no true East/West, North/South.  In fact, the highways usually don't state a direction.  Instead of taking I-94 West or I-75 South, you drive towards a particular city destination.  This can be especially confusing when you don't know the lay of the land.  And the tunnels... you go in one way but there may be various outlets... which to choose?!

So far GPS has been my closest friend here.  Or, Junie B. Jones as Peter calls "her", our GPS lady guide with a strange British accent.  But I have to say I relish the small victories I have without Junie B.  Some days it feels like I will never be without her here, that I will never ever ever figure out which way to go on my own.  Other days, like today, I feel a small glimmer of hope.  I just might be able to figure this big pretzel out!

Anyways, boring topic.  Sorry.  But that's my big news for today folks!

Visit me tomorrow where you can learn all about everyday stuff here in Germany.  This past week I've been compiling a list.  A very loooong list.  I had bronchitis last week and am *finally* starting to get over it.  Not being able to sleep great, I sat up and sipped hot tea and started my list of the Fab, the Bad and the UGH-ly here.  So if you're bored and have time, stop by and read it.  Or read it in small chunks so your eyes don't glaze over and fall out of your head!

Hope all are well and having a good driving day.  With or without your GPS friend.  :)

(Here are a couple of picts that show typical roads and scenery in our immediate area.  I pulled these from Yahoo Images but will post some of my own soon.  Stuttgart is very beautiful... in a deep valley surrounded by office buildings and residences bizarrely intertwined with farms and vineyards.  We are up from the valley, altitude level about 1400 ft.)

We live very close to the Stuttgart Airport.  I was on these roads today.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Halloween in Germany is, hmmm... how should I word this... still developing.  Most stores had a tiny - as in maybe one kiosk - display of Autumn/Halloween things like felt leaf cutouts, plastic fangs and maybe a few scary window clings and black capes.  Halloween candy as we know it was pretty much non-existent as far as I could see.  I had been told otherwise but then again, many people who are affiliated with the military have access to the Commissary on base which has all things American.

Peter did get a little bit of Halloween fun in at his Cub Scouts meeting on base Monday evening.  It wasn't much but my sweet Pete made the most of it and had a fun time with his scout buddies.  Thankfully, I brought his NASA astronaut costume from last year with us and he wore that and looked awesome, if I do say so myself.

I did buy some candy (don't think Costco here!) to have just in case.  We were told that "the Germans" know where the Americans live and will come begging for candy.  What gives us away?  Our Target Halloween clings in the windows?!  Well, we did get some trick-or-treaters.  4 to be exact.  All together in the same group.  Mike's coworker friend lives a couple buildings away and brought his 2 kids and 2 of their friends.  They were all dressed up "scary" but I don't think they completely understood the premise.  2 kids had tiny plastic bags that looked like they could maybe hold 10 mini candy bars.  The other 2 kids had nothing!  Luckily, part of the Halloween goodies we received from the boys' grandmas had a few little bags so I gave those to the boys without.

So, as far as I can see Halloween is still very much an American holiday!

We *did* do something fall-ish and Halloween-ish this past weekend.  We drove about 40 min north to the Ludwigsburg Palace.  This is a gorgeous Baroque palace built around 1704 that amazingly survived WWII.  Each year they have the world's largest Pumpkin Festival on their massive and beautiful garden grounds.  There is a different theme every year - from the Jurassic era to creatures of the oceans.  This year was a tad lame, in my opinion... it was all about Switzerland.  I think the young ones (and me, I have to say!) would rather see dinos and whales built out of gourds.  Anyways, they have around 500,000 pumpkins, 450 varieties and pumpkin-inspired tasty treats and drinks.  Unfortunately, the weather was miserable.  We had just gotten snow and the temps were just above freezing.  We did have a good time despite this and hope to return next year, possibly earlier in the season with more fall-like weather.  Also can't wait to tour the inside of the palace... a great winter "indoors" activity, as well as tour the fabulous gardens in the summer.

Below are some picts of our Fall adventures.  If you click on one pict, I think a slideshow pops up on screen to allow you to flip thru them larger.   :)