Tag Zehn

The apartment got surprisingly hot at night, partly due to the plastic mattress pad, but also partly due to the stormy weather, that prevented us from opening windows. Regardless, sitting on the balcony with a cup of coffee (we brought Hilary’s Nespresso machine with us) was just marvelous. Too bad we had to leave.
Hitting 200km/h

We hit the road early enough and headed for Heidelberg where we were going to meet Michelle’s cousin Angie. We hit 200km/h on the drive, and for the first time, the Autobahn felt legit. We met Angie in the center of Heidelberg for lunch at an Italian restaurant in the plaza. The ladies caught up while we waited for food and it was fun to watch cousins catch up and talk in a way they couldn’t at home.

Lunch in Heidelberg


MG in the plaza in Heidelberg

Heidelberg was that classic mix of dirty/aged but also pretty. Maybe the gray weather accentuated the look, but it very much felt like the city that all the pictures from my Langenscheid books from highschool were taken. We spent a good 3 hours in Heidelberg before having to say goodbye. But we had a short jog to the Miramar bath and waterslides. The girls were bonkers once they saw the slides as we approached. And they continued to have a blast as on the various slides and pools for the next 2 hours. However, I was a little overzealous and did a swinging leap into a slide and the speed caused me to slam into the walls during an s-curve and I felt like a broke my hip. Michelle managed to get herself stuck in a tub slide ride that spins in to a giant whirlpool. The kids loved it, but we had to continue our drive to Köln.

Miramar slides

Once back in Köln, we headed to dinner at Kölsch Kultur. Parking is a challenge in Köln, but we squeezed in to a spot and walked to the restaurant. The restaurant, the beer, and the meal was easily the best in Germany. I was forbidden from getting the saurbraten made with Pferd (horse), but the cordon bleu, the savory crepes, the kartofeln, the schnitzel, and the beer were just fantastic. Ella ate the bacon out of the crepes once she was done with the crepe itself.
Mural outside Kölsche Kultur

I probably don’t need to explain how Kölsch is served, but the local beer is served in small glasses, and the server comes buy and replaces them frequently and marks a coaster with the total number of refills. This Kölsch was delicious and we enjoyed quite a few. The server was gregarious, helpful, and teased the girls in a playful way. It was the perfect meal for the last day in Germany.

When we returned to the car, several other cars had pulled around ours and had parked on the sidewalks, against bike racks, and up against the buildings. It was amazing and made me nervous for the future of our neighborhood. Still, I found that I loved Köln and wish we could have spent more time there.

Tag Neun

We were exhausted and slept in a bit today (except Hilary, who got up early to take photos). The apartment was great except that the bathroom ceiling sloped down to such an awkward angle that I had to shave on my knees to see the mirror. Also, there were some idiosyncrasies in the bathroom wiring. What better place for unusual wiring?

Rental balcony in Halblech

Unusual side note: Both Ludwig II and Van Gogh were institutionalized before their eventual deaths in 1886 and 1890 respectively. And they were about the same age.

We had originally skipped getting insurance for traveling in to other countries, but tried to get a hold of the rental agency before venturing south in to Austria. No luck. We’ll just have to avoid crashes. Insurance be damned! We crossed in to Austria after crossing the Lech River. We refueled and continued on past Reutte (more traffic) to our first stop, the Highline 179, a 1/4 mile long, 364 foot high suspension bridge. Michelle, not a fan of heights, rushed across the bridge thinking that our goal was somewhere across the bridge. She was not impressed when she learned that the bridge itself was the destination. But she conquered (or temporarily ignored) her fears.
Highline 179

Crossing the bridge

The bridge was really cool. I didn’t sway much considering the length and height, and we were able to see the autobahn traffic below and get great views of valley. Some of us really enjoyed the crossing. Some didn’t. After crossing, we climbed up to the castle ruins above. The view was spectacular, and there’s still enough freedom in these places that kids (and adults) can climb around a bit without having to fill out disclaimers. But I digress. We explored the ruins for a bit, caught our breath, then worked our way back towards the car to find some lunch. We found lunch in Lermoos on a patio with a great view of the Zugspitze. The girls found some nettles on the playground, cried a bit, then recovered.

Lunch in Lermoos

After lunch, we took the tram to the top of Zugspitze. Michelle had done enough with heights for the day and stayed in town to explore. She visited a church, walked the villa, and read a book in an outside plaza. Hilary, the girls and I took the tram to the top of the Zugspitze, then walked out to the actual summit. The ride up was super fast and my ears popped 8 times! From the top of the tram, you have to scramble another 100yds (and maybe 30yds vertical climb) to reach the the summit. We had to wait our turn for a picture with the standard gold cross atop the summit (a strange adornment on most German peaks). Strangest of all was a woman who clung to the ground but insisted on taking no fewer than 50 selfies while the rest of the climbers grew annoyed or mocked her. Some of the climbers had actually hike/climbed the whole way.
Just a little bit more to go

Summit of Zugspitze

My girls are sure-footed

My girls got their picture with the summit mark. That, with the scrambling they did to get there (and their comfort) made my heart swell with pride. I’m pretty sure I teared up at work telling coworkers about it. They were so confident, comfortable, and adventurous. After we summited, we grabbed hot cocoa and beers to enjoy on the summit. Though as we sipped, the clouds and rough weather came in. So we headed for the tram to get back down to the valley. The wind and weather reared up, and we had to stop on our descent several times as the wind rocked the the tram car side to side. We managed not to collide with the towers, but it was an adventure.

Cheers from Zugspitze

When we hit the ground, we drove around to find Michelle. We’d forgotten to get a sticker from Austria so we drove around trying to find a place open that had stickers. No luck. So we headed back to Füssen for Dinner. We went to a medieval themed restaurant for dinner in the old town. We were made to wear bibs, drink from crockwear, and I was finally able to order a 1 liter stein of wonderful Bavarian lager. For dinner, I had the schweinbraten and Michelle had these horrible sauerkraut cakes that everyone agreed were horrible.


After dinner we wandered the town some more, took in a band playing in the city center, then headed back to the apartment to start packing for the drive back in the AM. Plus, everyone agreed that some alone time would be welcomed. Hilary and I walked around the villa of Halblech and stuck our noses in some farms and just took in the local flavor. I even found a decoy traffic sign that was made from random parts to trick people in to slowing down. We explored until the impending thunderstorm arrived and we retired to the apartment and went to bed early.

Swallows roosting on a cross in a dairy barn

Chapel in Bavaria

Tag Acht

We woke around 7am in our Bavarian lodge and made breakfast of eggs, toast, coffee, and a few of the Emmental Pringles that we picked up from the store. Our mission was to tour Neuschwanstein Castle before the masses. We already had tickets, so it was a matter of driving over, getting the printed tickets, and hiking up. We had to stop several times to take pictures because the view was amazing as the light climbed over the alps and lit the castles. While waiting for tickets, I was able to snag some places from Ukraine, Andora, and Lichtenstein. (yes, dork alert)
Sunrise at Neuschwanstein


We completed the tour through the castle, which is incredibly ornate. The girls seemed to be impressed as well. I think the king’s cave retreat was best, but so much of the castle just displays a level of craftsmanship and opulence that you can only find in castles or the homes of megalomaniacs. But it sure is fun to enjoy it as an onlooker. At least when it’s done well. Oh, no photos in the castle. Because they want to sell books and postcards and stuff. So I took some from outside.
Pano of Neuschwanstein entrance

Horse knocker
Alpsee from Neuschwanstein

(more from Alpsee later)

Family at Neuschwanstein

After the tour, we walked up to Marienbrücke (Mary’s bridge) for an even better view of the castle. It was packed compared to our visit 21 years ago. In fact, tour busses were letting off throngs of tourists with the expectation that they walk down towards the castle. But something was lost in translation because as I crossed the bridge an started climbing the somewhat challenging trail up the steep ridge, I ran in to a big group of Chinese tourists, aged 40-80, none of whom were wearing appropriate shoes. Also, they were standing on a cliff edge while taking pictures with full-sized tablets. I eventually ran in to someone who spoke English. They were asking if this was the trail to the castle (which it should have been obvious that it wasn’t). After that, a whole platoon of tourists turned around and headed back in the right (safe) direction. The view is stellar, and worth the hike. Though you may have to fight for a spot to take pictures.
Location, location, location

Afterwards, we headed back to Füssen and had lunch at a small cafe named Via. Salad, antipasta, burger, and sweet, sweet Bavarian beer. Then we wandered around town shopping and exploring the lovely village. I was tempted to get some used lederhosen, but chickened out. Hilary did find a dirndle for her trip to München in September. And while wandering the streets, I heard singing and we followed it to a church where we were able to take in a concert.

Streets of Füssen

Douchy lederhosen
Tuba for tips

We headed back to our rental and discussed our plans. We wanted to swim somewhere and Fritz suggested we go to Alpsee instead of Obensee (we were able to reuse our parking pass from earlier). While it was threatening rain, we shed our clothes and dove in. The water felt great, and we ended up swimming near swans. MG made friends with a girl who had previously lived in the US (and spoke english) but now lived in München. We enjoyed ourselves for some time until it started to pour rain. We changed clothes in the parking lot before heading to Schloßbrauhaus for dinner. The rain persisted, but we were able to sit under an awning with a great view of the castles and have dinner. The women ordered Wienerschnitzel with Allgau sauce, and Andy misread the menu/specials and ended up with liver and onions. The kids got kartoflen and weißwurst (which Andy stole bites of).
Swans in Alpsee

MG in the skylight

Afterwards we headed home and crashed. Hard. after watching a lovely, cloudy sunset.

Tag Sieben

Woke today to a loud bird outside Hilary’s apartment. We did a simpler breakfast of cereal and MG lost her phone privileges because she failed to put her socks away for the umpteenth time (and insubordination). We loaded up the rental and moved the loaner Golf in to the garage then struck out for Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Michelle put on her headphones as the rest of us finished the Masterminds audio book. Traffic easily added another hour of travel just to our first destination. We adjusted routes and ended up on the Romantischer Road, which was pretty, small, and windy.

When we got to Rothenburg (ob der Tauber), we were all hungry. We parked outside the city walls and walked through a gate. It’s a medieval walled city that is incredibly charming. I think Hilary described it as “looking like Germany threw up all over the place.” It had all the “German” charm you could hope for and not have it be Christmas. We ended up having lunch in the street outside an Italian restaurant. It was a mix of pastas and pizza, which thanks to our hunger, really hit the spot.
Drive thru


After lunch, the girls and I went to climb the tower at city hall while Hilary and Michelle went to visit the Museum of Crime & Punishment (a.k.a. the torture museum). We climbed some very rustic stairs and ladders to eventually peak out of the top of the tower from a small walkway. The view of the town was excellent and I think the girls have a knack for climbing and being up high. By the time we got down, Hilary and Michelle still hadn’t gone to the museum because they had been enchanted by the streets of the town itself. So we split up again. The girls and I walked along the wall, looking out through the archer holes, and stopping to visit shops. We did our best to look with our eyes, not our hands.
Ascending the tower


Rothenburg skyline

Arrow holes

Once the ladies had finished the Crime & Punishment museum, we got some Eis (gelato) and stopped at some ATMs to get some more walking around money (geld). Then we exited the charming walled town and got back in the car (next to a Russian Federation license plate) and continued on towards Füssen. There was more traffic, and I learned that Waze really doesn’t work very well in Germany. Plus, it had totally eaten up a bunch of my data plan trying to load things because it doesn’t let you pre-download street data for places you know you’ll be.

Anyway, several hours later, we watched as the flat lands turned in to rolling hills and then we could see the Alps jutting up on the horizon. We continued past rich green pastures with forested hills and eventually saw signs directing us to either Füssen or to Reutte, Austria. We had arrived.

We stopped in town at a grocer to pick up food (and Bier!) for our stay. I have no idea what the food shopping was like because I was overwhelmed at the options for beer. We were in Bavaria now and there were so many delicious looking options. I had to pick things we couldn’t get elsewhere, but also wanted a wide swath of options to see what was best. We checked out, bagged our food (having to purchase an extra bag for all the heavy, heavy beer), and drove towards Halblech. We passed Hoenschwangau and Neuschwanstein castles in the setting sun and the girls were appropriately impressed at the beauty and whimsey of the situation. The light was excellent as we approached Gasthaus Fritz, our AirBnB.


We were given a tour by Herr Fritz to the apartment above their home. It was a spacious loft with 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a kitchenette (well equipped), and a living room with a small deck overlooking the alps. Fritz showed us all the idiosyncrasies of the home (don’t turn the key left, the stove stays hot, this part of the fridge freezes, here’s the heater because sometimes it snows in July) then wandered a few blocks down by large dairy cows to a restaurant that served local faire. I had the suckling pig (excellent), Michelle the local schnitzel (which she didn’t care for, sauce-wise) and we all had spatzel.


On the walk back home (or piggyback rides for the girls), we wandered past and spoke with the dairy cows as an amazing thunderstorm rolled in to town. The thunder lasted all night, but the rain was relatively minimal.
A better chapel shot

Xmas 2017

What a year!

While the kids continue to grow, we’ve managed to squeeze in some excellent adventures this past year. Two highlights have been our trip to Germany in July. We spent 2 weeks with Hilary exploring Amsterdam, Cologne, Fussen (Bavaria), and Paris. It was a fantastic trip where we probably drove a little too much, but we ate a lot of pork and drank well, climbed to the top of Zugspitze, and saw the Eiffel Tower lit up with fireworks.

Freeds on the terrace

The other highlight was probably our camping trip to Central Oregon to see the total solar eclipse. We camped for several days at Tumalo State Park, played in the water, fished, ran the dogs, and celebrated Ella’s birthday. For the eclipse, we got up early and drove some backroads to get in to the path of totality. We found a nice spot up a dirt road and made breakfast while we waited for the eclipse with about 60 other people. The eclipse itself was fantastic. Waiting as it grew darker and cooler, listening to the birds get quiet, and then the minute of total eclipse was mesmerizing. Hard to fully explain, but well worth the trek.
Solar Eclipse Panorama

In other news, the girls have both transferred from Trillium back in to the public school system and I think everyone is happy for it. Both girls are adjusting, making new friends, and doing very well academically. At a recent parent-teacher conference, both of their teachers expressed what a joy it was to have such kind, helpful, and engaged kids in their respective classes. We’re proud.

Ella turned 11 on the day of the eclipse and also got a real cell phone. It’s a new world, but somehow it hasn’t ended yet. So we’re taking that as a positive sign. She had decided to give up soccer after spring season (to dad’s disappointment). However, when starting the new school, she reunited with several of her former teammates and they needed more people on their team. So we (dad here) got to play this fall. Ella did very well as a defender. She also continues to be more mature, thoughtful, and helpful beyond her age. She helps out around the house, decorates her room, and has really started to enjoy cooking with mom.

Girls on Zugspitze
Madeline is 8 and got her braces off this year. She’s bolted in height and we often forget that she’s only a 3rd grader. She’s also a powerhouse of energy and emotion, and is at times the opposite of her sister. She’s a voracious reader, a talented cartwheeler, and is easily the best singer in the household. She’s made some new friends this year but is also struggling with the age difference between her, Ella, and their bestie Ava, who is entering her teens.

Michelle is in her 6th year of practice and it continues to grow. They added a 2nd associate this year and are already bumping in to the walls of their relatively new office space. This year her annual office holiday party was not cursed with an ice storm, so the turn out and the food was great. She continues to run but has been dogged by a hip injury and is jumping through the hoops of healthcare to treat it. Last year she ran about 6 10ks, and she’s hopeful this year will be the same. She’s participating in a number of boards and committees related to her work which sometimes prevents her from bringing Kona with her.

Kona just turned 3 and is finally maturing to the point where she can go to the park without a leash (so long as the promise of BALL is there). If you follow Michelle on the Facebook, you’ve probably seen many photos of Kona on the bow of a boat, or swimming. She’s a sweet, needy, and clingy dog that brings joy to the family.

I’m a year older, still at the same job, still have the same few gray hairs, and still savoring the time I have playing outdoors and with family. Oh, and I bought a janky old aluminum drift boat this August. It has been a joy to row down rivers, fish, and just savor the sounds of water, the birds, and conversations with friends and family. So far, we’ve taken the boat down the Bogachiel, Clackamas, Cowlitz, Deschutes, Kalama, and Lewis rivers and had it on a couple lakes. I think I’ve found my happy place on the Deschutes, which is just a desert wonderland that also has trout and steelhead. I’m still trying to catch a steelhead on a fly rod and came close this past week on the Hoh river up on the Olympic Peninsula.
Shiny boat sitting on the bank of the Kalama river near Beginner hole

We’re looking forward to the coming year to see what other adventures we can have, what learning we can do, what service we can provide, and what enjoyment we can take from each other’s company. While we live in a country and society slowly tipping away from compassion, we will continue to work to make the world a better, more just place.

Peace to you and yours in the new year,
Love the Freeds