Meg has been planning a halloween party for several months. Because of Corona, it almost looked like it wouldn’t happen. Germany is introducing stricter contact regulations Nov. 2nd. So legally, we are still allowed to have a party. And ethically, all the other parents and I agreed that the level of risk for the party was not much higher than the girls going to school, since they are all in the same class, and still going to school five days a week (although they do wear masks in the school).
In normal years, the girls would have gone trick-or-treating, but not this year. Instead, we had plenty of candy, and halloween themed food. Meg and Clare did a great job researching fun ways to present food. We also had plenty of fun activities – Meg put together a great scavenger hunt, we carved pumpkins, and the girls found plenty of other fun things to do as well. We lucked out with the weather – it was partly cloudy and about 60F most of the day, which meant that we were able to carve pumpkins on the balcony, which is a lot less messy than inside.
The last activity of the night was making s’mores. We can’t really have a campfire in our apartment, so Clare got a big candle to roast marshmallows with. This worked okay, but soon degraded into simply playing with fire. Good thing for parental supervision.
We ended up altering our original plans for our trip to Greece a fair amount because of COVID-19. We had originally scheduled to take the train from Aachen to Frankfurt on Monday, spend the night there, and then fly out of Frankfurt Tuesday morning. After Frankfurt got classified as a risk area, we no longer had any desire to hang out in downtown Frankfurt, so instead we just got up at 4 a.m. on Tuesday and drove 2.5 hours to the airport. Clare was nice enough to drive.
Our itinerary in Greece also changed. We had booked a flight from Athens to Naxos on Tuesday afternoon, which was cancelled, which meant that we had to stay one night in Athens and take the flight on Wednesday morning. We decided not to stay directly in Athens, but closer to the airport, and ended up in a gigantic villa (for a ridiculously cheap price). The kids really loved it (even though there was no wifi). Luckily we had brought a little bit of food with us, because it was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Clare tried to find a grocery store while the kids and I went swimming, but didn’t have any luck. So we had a dinner of plain noodles with oil, salt, pepper, and oregano. Spencer added peanut butter to his, and discovered that it was quite tasty, so we also followed suit.
Last year we went to the local Oktoberfest celebration in Würselen. Oktoberfest is really a Munich festival, but breweries and festival workers have realized the potential to make money throughout Germany, and it gets celebrated now even in the Rhine region, though not like in Munich. Some people even dress up in traditional Bavarian clothing, even though it is also not traditional for the region here. Last year I got a jacket while I was at a conference in Graz. Clare ordered a Dirndl, but it was too small, and there was not enough time to return it.
This summer we got her a new one. There are no large gatherings allowed right now, so instead we just invited our downstairs neighbors who lived in Bavaria for several years for a traditional Bavarian Frühschoppen, with weißwurst, pretzels, obatzda, daikon radish, and wheat beer, at 11 a.m. (yes, this is the tradition). I made the Obatzda from scratch, but the pretzels were just frozen, though we have decided that they are actually just as good as from the bakery (but not as good as at the Bergkirchweih in Erlangen). I also added an American twist with an apple pie for dessert. The kids were very helpful cleaning the apartment and decorating. Meg also did a great job entertaining their 4 year old daughter.
It has been quite rainy lately here, so this afternoon when the sun came out Clare and I took a little walk to get some milk in our fancy clothes. One couple we walked past commented on our clothes, and even asked if my mustache was real (it is).
After we all had a little break, we played a game of Risk and had some leftovers – Spencer ate two weißwurst at brunch, and an additional six while we were playing Risk! (Naturally the game ended in a combination of yelling, tears, and nearly fisticuffs. I guess that is what you get in a game of world domination.
For the most part our trip has gone really well in spite of Corona measures. Perhaps the worst part is border crossings. Today we waited over 90 minutes to cross from Slovenia to Croatia. It was incredibly hot in the car, as you can see by the sweat dripping down Spencer’s face. Fortunately I read some of Surely you’re joking Mr. Feynman for entertainment.
2020 Easter is not like most others, but we managed to make it as nice as we could. In particular Meg went out of her way to try to make it as nice as possible with lots of decorations, and she even came up with some fun games for us. She hung up some candies from our loft, which we had to jump and touch, in order to get them. We also had a race trying to hold easter eggs on a spoon. Meg was the only one who didn’t drop the egg.
We also kept up some old traditions, in particular making hot cross buns. Meg helped a bunch. She has been practicing making pizza dough the last couple months, and she is getting pretty good at kneading. We are lucky that we had enough flour and yeast, which have been hard to find during the Corona-virus crisis. We also lucked out with the weather. It has been sunny and around 70 F all week long. We enjoyed our Easter dinner of ham, green beans, and potato dumplings on the balcony.
While Clare were doing the wine tasting on Monday, we asked the honeymooning couple what their favorite thing was in Sorrento, and they said taking a boat tour of Capri. This hadn’t really been on our list before, but we decided to try it, and indeed it was one of the favorites of everyone. It was one of the most expensive things we did, but it was worth it. The boat ride was very relaxing. It left from the port just a 2 minute walk from our apartment, the guide was great, the weather was beautiful, and seeing the coast of Sorrento and of Capri up close from a small boat is surely the best way to enjoy its beauty. Capri itself was not that interesting to us. We enjoyed a nice pizza lunch near the harbor, searched for the funicular to the top of the island for 20 minutes, finally found it, and then just did some souvenir shopping.
We got a relatively slow start again on Monday. After breakfast, we got dressed and headed up the elevator to town. There happened to be a market going on, which we perused, but nothing caught our fancy. We went to the basilica, which was fairly unassuming from the outside, but very beautiful inside.
After the basilica we found the train station, which we would need to use later, and then headed further into town. We found the Deutsche Bank ATM (just down the street from Hotel Klein Wien), and a very nice Gelateria right across the street. After some window shopping, we headed to the grocery store, and then back to the apartment.
After some lunch we had a little time for some swimming at the beach. Then we made some food for the kids, and Clare and I went off to a wine tasting in Sorrento. Our first experience with the so-called “worst train in the world” was actually not too bad. We did end up getting back after the elevator had stopped operating (after 8 p.m.), which meant we had to walk down the switchback road, but it actually was not too bad because there was not much traffic by this point. We stopped at a different pizzeria this time for another tasty treat to enjoy at home with the kids.
Sunday morning we slept in and had a lazy morning. After the long day of traveling on Saturday, we planned to simply relax and hang out at the beach. We decided to go to the private beach right by our apartment. We were worried it would be expensive, but it turned out to be only 2€ per adult; the kids were free. Whenever I told one of my colleagues at work we were going to Italy in October, they said it would be too cold. I think what they really meant, was that it would not be too hot. The water was a little chilly, but refreshing.
We spent several hours at the beach in the morning, then came back in for awhile for lunch. After some relaxation, we took the elevator up the cliff to the botanical garden to see the sunset. They also have a free museum there, with some Roman art they have discovered in the area. The sunset was very beautiful. They also had a large checkers and chess board, which we enjoyed.
After we enjoyed the beautiful sunset, we headed back to the elevator. As we were getting on, a man was getting out with some takeout pizza which smelled wonderful, and even though we had already eaten dinner, we suddenly had hunger again. We stopped at the restaurant right across from our apartment to get some takeout pizzeria margherita. We discovered that the waitress there lives in the same building we were staying in, and we were happy to support the ultra-local economy. The pizza was not quite as good as the one we had in Naples, but for 4€, it is hard to complain.