Monday, April 2, 2012

Roadtrippin' up north!

Hey, what's that thing in our driveway? Looks like a...wait, could it be?

YES! My car finally made it to Germany! :D And better still, the harp was lying safely in the backseat!

This was a pretty big weekend for us. We got word last week that the car had arrived in Bremerhaven (a port city in the very north of Germany, about 6 hours away) and we had to arrange to pick it up. The pick up times were pretty inconvenient (M-F 8-4) and it would've cost almost €1000 to have it shipped farther south closer to us. But we got lucky and Fionn got Friday off so we hopped on the train early Friday morning and headed up to Bremerhaven.

Bremerhaven was a cool place, but it was freezing cold and windy. There was some brief sunshine but mostly it was just cold. Since we had to go right to the port to pick up the car we were right on the water and it made me miss home (though it didn't have that typical ocean smell, this was just the North Sea after all).

After some annoyances we finally got the keys and had to go and find the car amongst the others waiting to be picked up. It was an odd mix of fancy cars that probably cost more than my college education, old classic cars (Germans go crazy for them), some busted up cars, and then normal but very American looking cars (like big pick up trucks and mini vans. not exactly the norm around these parts!). I quickly spotted my car and was so happy to get in and feel its familiarity. The sounds it makes, my little bottle of hand sanitizer in the cupholder, the CD in the stereo (it was a recording of one of the shows I did with the Ceili Band last year, how funny!), and of course, my beautiful harp laying happily in the backseat, not a scratch on it and mostly in tune (that in itself is a miracle). So happy!

Fionn got to work taking the plates off to put the temporary plates on. Bless him (and his Leatherman) because it wasn't the easiest thing. I almost went to ask the people inside if they had a wrench but we didn't need it (since he's awesome like that). Thank God for the Google Translate app because I had NO idea what "wrench" was in German. For the record, it's "Schraubenschlüssel". Holy consonants, Batman!

Plates on, papers in hand, the car started right up and we headed towards the customs hut. They gave us very confusing directions in broken English telling us we needed to go to the "gray container" to get our forms signed. Well, there were two gray "containers", and one had a parking lot. So we pulled up to the first gray container with a drive thru window and tried to explain to the woman there that we needed to get our papers signed (implying we needed the other gray container). She got all frustrated (maybe it was the wind blowing the important forms every which way, or maybe it was the language barrier or maybe she was just grumpy) and finally yelled at us, "I am the customs officer!! I have the stamps!!" and then huffed away back into her container, documents in hand. Fionn and I just kind of looked at each other and tried not to laugh. About ten minutes later she came back, all smiley and have-a-nice-day and handed the papers back, stamped and signed. We were good to go, but I have the feeling "I HAVE THE STAMPS!!" is going to stick around as an inside joke..

Hamburg was only 2 hours away and we have talked about visiting there for ages, so Fionn surprised me by booking a hostel there. So we got on the Autobahn and headed towards Hamburg. The hostel was nice, very centrally located, and the best part-free parking on the weekends literally right outside the front door. Love that! :)
the port at Hamburg!

En route to Hamburg we'd started talking about the Hunger Games and came up with the idea to see it in Hamburg. Fionn found a theater showing it in English, so we reserved tickets and decided we'd see it that night. Once we were settled in the hostel we headed to the city center to explore before the movie started. We ended up in a really cool shopping district, ate a hamburger (in Hamburg! har har har...sorry!) and then went to the movie.

Ok, now I have to get on my expat soapbox and complain about something that drives me crazy about my host country. In Germany, you have assigned seats at movie theaters. And they are SERIOUS about these seats. for example: Fionn and I got our seats, found them and sat down. The movie theater was practically empty. SEATS EVERYWHERE IN EVERY DIRECTION. This couple comes in, sits down a few seats down from us. Five minutes later, another couple comes in and makes them move since they're in their assigned seat. The first couple moves right next to us. Again, seats EVERYWHERE, only like 5 minutes til the movie starts so you know they're most likely staying empty. Ok, whatever. More people trickle in. The row we're sitting in is almost completely full, leaving the rest of the theater pretty much empty. Then, a guy comes in, by himself, checks his ticket, and goes to sit down right next to me, looking all annoyed I had dared to put my jacket on his seat.

So the movie starts, and I'm not kidding you, there is ONE person not sitting on our row. Everyone who came to see this movie is sitting in the same row. SPREAD OUT, PEOPLE!! Screw assigned seating!! You don't come to a movie to listen to some stranger talk to his friend or chomp popcorn all up in your space! You move away from them! You only sit near strangers if it is absolutely necessary! And these people are actually getting mad that someone would obstruct them from their crappy assigned seats when there's literally an entire theater at their disposal?

Ok, end of rant. But really! We couldn't help but laugh. I told Fionn I really wanted to take a picture of it from the front of the theater just to prove I'm not making it up. Assigned seating at movies! What is this nonsense? You may ask, well why didn't you two just move, since there was all that space? We were exactly in the center of the aisle, so by the time we realized they were taking their assigned seats super serious it was pretty hard to move without tripping over 8 people in each direction. Plus we were trying be good Germans ;)

The movie was great though. We were both excited to see it and liked it. It wasn't exactly how I pictured it when I read it, but hey, it never is. I liked it anyway. Funny we had to go all the way to Hamburg to see it! :)

Saturday we had planned to drive back to Bavaria, but we used the morning for sightseeing. We did some shopping (Fionn found the hat he gave to his dad that he originally bought in Savannah last Christmas!) and looked around, but it was pretty cold. Like REALLY cold. It actually started hailing and then lightly snowing for a few minutes. We were disappointed since we were so excited to see Hamburg and it would've been awesome to enjoy it on a sunny day. A little bit of sightseeing and a döner later, we decided we should get on the road and get started on our 6 1/2 hour journey south.

sweet hair in windy Hamburg :)

I drove the first few hours and then we switched and Fionn ended up driving the rest (since he can stay awake better that way). It was cool to see Germany by car, we drove through some really pretty places. The Autobahn wasn't too bad either, it was just like a regular highway except you've got people going super fast in the left lane. Ok, that's another I don't get-a lot of these highways are two lanes for a long time. Big trucks have to stay in the right lane and can't go faster than like 60 or 70 mph. then you've got Speedy Gonzales in his Audi flying down the left lane at like a million miles an hour. This doesn't seem to make sense to me-if you're just a regular car going along at a regular highway speed, you're constantly stuck behind slow trucks in the right lane, or you're running the risk of some speed demon running into the back of you because you're only going 80mph in the left lane. I dunno, I thought it wasn't the best planning.

I was also AMAZED by how expensive gas is. Holy wow. I can't believe I ever complained about gas back home. My little car needs about 9 gallons of gas to be full. The price was like 1.60 for a liter (I had no idea how much a liter was in regards to gallons), and when the car was full the total was a little over €50!! That's almost $70! For 9 gallons? Wowza.
A sign for a restaurant at a rest stop. American burgers, eh? :)

Things we learned on the roadtrip:

-We really miss American radio. Six hours of awful radio was making both of us a bit snappy by the end.
-the whole paying for the bathroom thing. Goes like this: Good, a rest stop! I need to pee. Oh wait, we need 70 cents each...dangit... *praying to find change in between seats*
-sometimes Germany really looks like a postcard
-the news interrupts the radio at the top of every hour
-Germany has a lot of rest stops
-Every village has a castle it seems
-we aren't planning on roadtripping anywhere anytime soon :)
-just because it's April doesn't mean you get spring weather haha

Luckily we got home safe and sound Saturday night. Sunday we went to church and the potluck (I made some whoopie pies for the kids, I'm just too Southern to go to a potluck empty handed) and today is my first day having a car and a harp again. I've really loved playing the harp again :) SO nice!

Anyways, that's it for now. Sorry about my expat whining, I think I'm at that stage where the host country starts to get on your nerves and you start comparing everything to home. I'm trying to keep it in check, but no free water or bathrooms is starting to get to me :P

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