Le Avventure Di Sophia Graf

My thrilling adventures in Europe!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


The day we left for Germany we had to wake up at 3:30 in the morning in order to make it to our 8 o'clock flight. We were supposed to leave at 4 o'clock, but were late and didn't leave until 4:30. Still, we managed to make up the lost time while driving. When we got to the airport, we waited for our check in desk number to show up. Since we hadn't had breakfast, we couldn't refuse the Krispy Kreme stand (they have so many Krispy Kreme's here, why isn't it like that in the States?). When the doughnuts were all devoured and our desk number still hadn't shown up, with only an hour until boarding, we decided to investigate. My dad figured out that for international flights on easyJet there wasn't a specific desk, so we went through line and arrived at security with only forty-five minutes left. We had to run to make it in time for our preferred boarding (because we're a family) but we did get there and just in time, too. Once again I was amazed at how much can change after such a short flight. Since Passau is a small town, it doesn't have it's own airport. We landed in the Munich airport and then discovered that both my parents' drivers licences had expired, so we couldn't get the rental car we had been counting on. Because of this, we were forced to take the train, but this proved impossible because of construction, so we had to take a bus, then a train, another bus and finally one more train. When we finally arrived in Passau, we still had a long walk ahead of us to the hotel. The six of us dragged our luggage along the Danube River to our hotel, the Hotel Residenz. That hotel was by far the best one we had stayed at all summer (hah! Italy doesn't even begin to compare). There was a small library, with couches and a snack menu, a bar, free Internet access, and even English-speaking receptionists. Best of all, there were miniature Haribo Goldbear packets on the reception desk the first day we came. When we got up to the rooms, we were thrilled to find Spongebob Schwamkopf on TV. We could pretty much understand it, since Spongebob isn't a very verbal show. We could figure out most of the plots and even saw a few reruns. That night for dinner we went to a cute restaurant that reminded me of Gepettos Restaurant in Disneyland. They advertised that they spoke English there, but our waiter didn't really speak it. When choosing how to split up in our hotel rooms that night, my mom said that she would pay me three euros a night to put everyone to bed and be the "responsible one" at night while she and my dad got to sleep in the double room.

The German breakfast was by far the best breakfast we have ever had (remember the vat of cornflakes? If not, see London). There was yogurt, cereal, dried fruit, canned fruit, rolls, meats, cheeses, juices, coffee, hot chocolate, and many different kinds of tea. The presentation was all fantastic and the eating area was clean. While my dad went to work (this was supposed to be a business trip, after all) my mom dragged us to the cathedral, or Dom, to see what used to be the world's biggest church organ (it was passed up by a church in LA just recently) and listen to a concert. It was very elaborate, but we all got bored after a short time and I had to take Anthony outside early. After that, we went back to the hotel and finished getting ready for the day. We went in search of Bears And Friends, a candy store filled entirely with gummies, that my dad had told us about last time he came here. We found it, after getting directions from the hotel receptionist, and as soon as we walked in the smell engulfed us. Not only were there bags and bags of gummies, but there also gummy creations like a beer glass filled with gold gummies and topped with marshmallows and a pizza with banana shapes for the crust and shoestring candy for the tomato sauce. The store was long and rectangular, with a stairway in the middle going up to a storeroom. At each end of the shop was a till (he he!) where the cashier (I guess you can't say tiller) was making gummy creations and handing out free samples. We wandered around for a while, just taking in the enormous amount of candy surrounding us. I walked over to the window display and found the legendary tortes made entirely out of gummies. The mini torte was about five inches in diameter and four inches tall of solid gummies, and the large torte was the size of a normal, two-layer cake. I was going to buy a mini torte for myself, but then my mom said that she would buy it for the whole family to share. (Now she's threatening to bring it to our family party on Labor Day, I knew I should have bought one for myself too!) In the end I decided to buy a kilogram bag of gummies that were on sale. Later I deciphered the German on the back enough for it to tell me that the gummies had multivitamins in them. No wonder they were on sale!

Once we had made our purchases, we left Bears and Friends in search of lunch. I found a cafe and chocolate shop with a yummy, reasonably priced menu in English. There were some translation issues, though, because I ordered "pancake soup" wondering what in the world it could be and I got plain noodle soup.

We had quiet time in the hotel room that day where Anthony took a nap and Cindy was forced to wait for Thomas and I do necessary journaling before we could watch any TV. When dinnertime came, we wanted to show my dad Cafe Simon, home of the pancake soup, but it was closed by the time we got there. Bumbling along at eight o'clock, starving and having no idea where to each, we fond refuge in an Italian restaurant where I got some delicious tortellini. Next door we got kiwi gelato, which tasted surprisingly like strawberry.

Our third day, Saturday, was the day that we were going to go to Neuschwanstein Castle, the castle that the Sleeping Beauty castle in Disneyland is based upon, but without a car that was impossible. Instead, we climbed about 100 steps - nothing compared to the Eiffel Tower - to the top of a cliff across the river from our hotel. On top of the cliff is situated a castle, the reason why we had climbed up there. From the top of the cliff we could see most of Passau and all three of the rivers that it is built upon. We went into the exhibit, thinking that it was the castle museum, but it turned out to be the Myths and Legends exhibit that the castle was temporarily housing. The exhibit was really boring because all the English was really tiny and none of the artifacts were labelled in English, but I did find a medieval harp, one more to add to my collection of harps from around the world. Once again, we ate lunch at Simon, but we had to rush because we were late for boarding the Krystalschiff! (The Crystal Ship, made exclusively with Swarovski Crystals, sails a round trip from Passau stopping in Bavaria and Austria three times daily. Tickets are 11.50 euros for adults, half price for children, and free for third and fourth children and children under five.) Luckily, we got there in time and were even waiting a while for the ship to appear. Even the outside had crystal on it: there was a huge arch, full of crystals interspersed with white Christmas lights, that spread most of the length of the ship. From our research we had learned that the ship was spread across three levels, two indoor and one outdoor. What we didn't realize until we got in was the grandeur of the ship. There was a lounge on the first floor near the bow with circular booths, each capped by a throne-like chair. In the middle of the lounge area was a huge Greek-style statue (aka naked) of a woman which appeared to have been spray-painted silver. I decided that the boat would be much improved if I played the harp there ten years from now instead of that statue being in that spot. Behind the lounge was the entryway, with tile floors and a Christmas light studded ceiling. Behind that was the general area, proceeded over by a grand staircase, on which the top of each stair was full of crystals, and topped by a huge waterfall fountain with color-changing lights. Behind the fountain there was a bar and throughout the whole second floor there were tables, just like in the general area of the first floor. The area above the first floor wasn't chairs though, because there was a hole through which the passengers on the first floor could see the huge chandelier (crystal, of course) that rippled out of the ceiling. Behind the captain's area on the second floor there was a refuge for all of the males who got dragged on by their wives/girlfriends/mothers. Well, actually it was a tiny room with a fake steering wheel and a GPS monitor, but Thomas spent most of his time there, partly because there was a big window where you could see the captain steering the ship. The third floor was outdoor and had a lot of picnic tables as well as a bar that was closed because of the bad weather. (I swear, the bad weather follows us. I just hope we don't bring it back to San Diego.) We got two tables on the first floor right next to the "water theatre" under the staircase that was really just a grotto with a mermaid in it behind a projection of different parts of nature and harp music. Across from the grotto was a Swarovski crystal shop where we bought a little crystal as a memento of the trip. Throughout the whole ship there were panels of crystal and columns covered in fabric covered with bits of mirror. The walls were not solid, instead they were huge windows with the beautiful countryside behind them. The two hour ride was really relaxing and fun because we could wander around the whole ship by ourselves. By the end, we had decided that we wanted to decorate our house in San Diego like the Crystal Ship. when the boat came to Passau again, we rushed off in order to get back to Simon before they closed in order to get one of their delicious desserts. We got cherry-coconut pound cake, cherry strudel, and Simon's specialty, a liquor and chocolate cake with gold flakes on top. I tried them all and have to say that the cherry strudel was my favorite. We went home (to the hotel) for our daily dose of Spongebob. later, Anthony and my parents went out together for dinner while the rest of us laid around watching TV. By that time I was really tired because every day Cindy and Anthony woke me up at like seven, when we had only just gotten to sleep at ten or eleven the night before. I know that doesn't sound that bad, but in Hungerford I had been sleeping in until nine every morning and I still hadn't caught up on the sleep I lost when we flew over to Germany. My parents brought back fish and chip (french fries), both clearly previously frozen, since I have developed quite a discriminating taste for fish and chips here in England.
On Sunday we went to church at the Dom (remember? it's the one with the big organ) and ended up at the festive mass. We had decided to take the later train to Salzburg at noon rather than have to go to the 7:30 mass in order to make a 9:30 train. Salzburg, in Austria, is famous for being Mozart's birthplace and the place where The Sound of Music was filmed. When we first arrived, we went to the tourist information booth and booked a semi-private van tour to get an overview of the city. On the tour we saw the place where Mozart was born and the place across the river where his family moved when he was like five. We also saw the von Trapp mansion from the movie from across the lake and supposedly saw the abbey, but since it was on a hill I couldn't find it. The tour dropped us off by the cathedral in a square with a statue of Mozart and a cathedral, so we went into the cathedral. I don't remember it being very amazing, but maybe the number of cathedrals I have been to this summer had dulled my admiration. After going into the cathedral we wandered around for a while and found the strangest, coolest shop I have ever seen. It was a shop filled with ornaments made out of eggshells. "Filled" is an understatement. It was absolutely overflowing with eggs in huge egg cartons, all sorted by color. There were even scenes painted on ostrich eggs with their own stands. My favorite eggs were pastel colors with cutout designs edged in embossed white paint. They reminded me of Victorian lace. There was also a cute jack-o-lantern egg and a snowflake edged in glitter. After we had finished looking through the shop we wandered through the streets again and decided to have an early dinner. We found a restaurant with Austrian, Italian, and Indian food that suited every one's tastes. For dessert we got ice cream at a shop in the first floor of the building where Mozart was born. My mm also bought "Mozart chocolate" for some of her friends. We found a palace garden kind of like the one in Paris and decided to play there for a while. The play area had a giant pyramid that had a huge slide that lasted for about twenty seconds. The only problem was that it took almost twenty minutes to get Cindy and Anthony up it, because it was like they have at McDonald's with the alternating platforms you have to climb up. Having taken too long at the park, we rushed back to the train station and got on our train. It didn't get to Passau until late at night, so we took a taxi from the station to the hotel. On our last day, we had that wonderful breakfast for one last time, then spent the morning shopping while my dad was at work. I got a black and white crinkle shirt and a blue German barmaid shirt (they sell the dresses everywhere, even in department stores, so I think it must be like kilts where they wear them instead of "black tie"). We found a Pimkie and went in, but didn't end up buying anything. We met up with my dad at the train station a 3:30 and them did the train, bus, train, bus rigmarole (because of the construction) to get to the airport. We sat at out gate for a long time, waiting to board, but it wasn't until long after the supposed takeoff time that there was an announcement saying our flight had been delayed. Our plane finally did arrie around ten and we got to London Stanstead soon after. The worst traveling doo doo all summer happened that night when we had to wait in the passport control line for almost two hours. Even when we finished that, we still had a two hour drive to get home, and sadly the Krispy Kreme was not open, so we didn't get in bed until about three o'clock in the morning.


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