Monday, January 14, 2008

strudel and beer and shopping, oh my

I have to preface this post by saying, we had the BEST time. Amazing. Unbelievable.

But. And this is a big but, when I tell you about everything that happened whilst on this trip, I think you are almost going to think I'm lying about having a great time. We hit a bit of a string of bad luck surrounding the trip, and I'm not even counting the sinus infections and ear infections and Coxsackie and germiness. Anyway, let's get down to the stories.

We flew out of Boston, via Amsterdam to Bonn, Germany. Unfortunately, on those flights, we seem to have encountered the rudest airline employees known to man. These airline employees refused to allow us to bring a car seat onto the flight, even though the seat next to us was open, they yelled at us about how "Americans don't know how to form queues," they spilled water all over the guy next to Josh without apologizing, they snapped at me and actually muttered "Oh my God," when I spilled my drink in my efforts to keep Gabe contained during the 8 HOUR FLIGHT, and were generally unpleasant and unhelpful.

Gabe refused to sleep, refused, for the entire red-eye flight. He threw his pacifier down approximately 79 times in protest. I'd brought lots of snacks and bottles and toys, but certainly not enough to keep him entertained for 8 hours. By hour 5, I discovered that the individual television on the seat in front of us carried Baby Einstein movies. Now, I have an ardently held belief in no television for Gabe, but when my ears starting bleeding from all the whining, I decided that one flight of television wouldn't hurt. We spent the rest of the overnight flight with our eyes glazed over watching video after video. I could have kissed the monitor, truly.

As our flight was nearing Amsterdam, it became apparent that we were at risk of missing our connection to Bonn, Germany. This meant that Josh would miss his business meeting, and that we'd be stuck in Amsterdam for several hours until the next flight. The plane landed, and we RAN. You have to picture us madly dashing through the airport, with a stroller, a car seat, a child, two coats, one snowsuit, one briefcase, two carry-ons, and a partridge in a pear tree. Most distressing, as we are running and searching for signs on which terminal to run toward, there were time descriptions of how far the terminals actually were. We had 20 minutes before the flight was scheduled to take off, and the first sign we encountered, before Customs, said that terminal C was 21 minutes away. I almost cried.

We didn't lose hope, though. We raced through Customs, ran through 3 terminals, and hoped that if anyone made it to the plane before us, they'd tell them to wait for the poor fools who were traveling with the 11 month old and all the accompanying gear. Finally, terminal C was close, and in front of us, a beacon of hope dressed in an airline uniform holding a walkie-talkie gestures wildly toward us and asks if we're on our flight, we say yes, and she starts yelling in Dutch over the walkie-talkie "blah blah blah baby blah blah blah". We made the flight, with seconds to spare. We walked on, and they shut the doors behind us and were taxiing before we'd even gotten Gabe's car seat strapped in.

As you may have guessed, though, our luggage was not as fortunate. Josh attended his business meeting in jeans and a tee-shirt, and Gabe and I spent a day running around Bonn in our slept in, spit-up on, dirty clothes. We also had to buy German formula and German baby food. It was quite an adventure, trying to deduce what the packaging meant in German. I just hoped I wasn't feeding him anything random! The bags, thankfully, arrived in the middle of the night. Most importantly, Josh's suit and my formal gown arrived in that bag prior to the holiday party for which we'd flown to Germany. It would have really stunk to have to attend the party in my stretched out jeans and filthy t-shirt.

Bonn was lovely. Adorable and charming and clean and full of German Christmasness. There was a Christmas Market scattered throughout the center of town, full of food stands and art stands and sweet treats and gifts and people, oh my goodness, the people! Germans apparently love their Christmas markets, and the town was bustling. We arrived on a Thursday morning, and Josh's schedule was jam packed with meetings and dinners and social functions until Saturday morning, so Gabe and I contented ourselves with shopping and eating and people watching.

This child, unbelievably, was a saint. After not sleeping on the overnight flight, being thrust into a strange situation, strapped into a stroller for hours while we prowled the city, he never complained. Not even once. He was wrapped in a sleeping bag in the stroller with only his hands and head peeking out while he sweetly looked at all the sights. After surveying the moms and babies in town, though, I realized that Gabe was sorely lacking a good hat. We didn't see a single baby whose head was uncovered, so I sacrificed and bought him an adorable German cap. Ok, two adorable German caps. I also bought him a strap for the pacifier that I could attach to his clothing so that we wouldn't have a repeat of the pacifier throwing incidents on the return flight. Those Germans definitely know how to make good baby products, I had to restrain myself for all those hours by myself. I wanted to buy everything in sight.

Since the company hosted the party and the trip, we were sharing a room with Gabe. A not so big room with two beds, a desk, some chairs and a portable crib. Also unbelievably, this turned out not to be a problem. Due to the time change (6 hours later), Gabe was falling asleep much later, so we all settled into bed around midnight, shut off the lights, and although he peeked at us over the edge of a crib a couple of times, he went to bed without any problems. The first night in Germany, we did wake up around 3am to play for an hour or so. I just got up with Gabe and complied because it seemed a little selfish to be very strict with him after everything we were putting him through. After that first night, though, he slept through the night with no problems. We kept him on that later schedule for the whole week and it worked out well, again, unbelievably.

Saturday night we attended the holiday party, with Gabe down the hall with a babysitter provided by the company. I checked in on him every 20 minutes or so and tried to enjoy the party. Dinner was fantastic, the people were interesting, and we had a great time. I finally dragged myself out the door with Gabe on the 1am bus, and Josh stayed until close to 4am, enjoying the dancing and the band. I was tempted to stay, but the buses only ran at 1am, 3am, and 5am! I suspected that the hours between 1 and 3am might be a couple of REALLY LONG hours, so I opted to head back to the hotel instead. 1am, 3am, and 5am, can you believe it? I don't know how people kept their eyes open for that long, I was falling asleep on my feet by the time I hit the bus, but of course, when we arrived at our room, Gabe was practically ready to go out to the clubs. I'm wondering if maybe there was caffeine in the German formula I selected.

Our flight to Prague left on Sunday at 1pm, so after a rough wake up and speed packing, we made our flight to the Czech Republic to start the actual "vacation" part of the trip with no business meetings or functions. Bonn was amazing, though, and I am definitely forcing Josh to stay with his company (not a difficult task since he loves it) at least until next year. I can't wait to go back!

Vacation Installment #2 To Come: Prague and Amsterdam (Take Two).


Geggie said...

I was just in Prague for the second time this it. I imagine it's perfect at Christmas time. I'm planning our second trip to Amsterdam currently with our first trip to Berlin, too.

Can't wait to read your next update.

Beth & Rob said...

Thanks for the great story and update on your trip - can't wait for the next instalment. We went to Prague on our last hurrah trip before we got pregnant and loved it. And as for the pictures of Gabe - especially the one where he is sleeping. Well, my uterus flipped!He is DIVINE.

ttulizzy said...

Wow! Sounds like a fun trip. And a bit stressful! Can't wait to read part 2!

Chatty said...

You're so worldly. You're our most world-travelly friends. I want to come next year!

Kristin said...

Love the stripey German hat! :)

Norman said...

Very interesting article and wonderful pictures! I visited Prague two times! And enjoyed my trips so much! Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe especially due to its historical sights such as the Prague Castle , Charles Bridge or the Old Town Square! And also it is a modern European city with a big choice of Prague hotels, restaurants, cafes with traditional Czech cuisine and amazing night-clubs (I liked one night-club on the ship board)!
And you´ll find there one of the best beer in the world!!!