225 days. That's a long time to be away from your family. This month, I was reunited with my mom, two younger brothers, cousin, and my grandma and grandpa. The reason? German students get two weeks off of school for Easter every year. My family and I decided to take advantage of this and take a little road trip around Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria. But before this could happen, of course I had to bring both my American family and my German family together. What better way to do this than with the traditional German Kaffee und Kuchen? After my family pulled into the driveway in their rented 9-person van, we wasted no time and after introductions we all sat down for a yummy strawberry torte and two traditional Easter cakes in the shape of a lamb and a rabbit.
My American family brought my German family a bunch of flowers (and brought me American things that I had missed), and my German family put together an Easter basket full of German sweets for my American family. My host sisters and I went shopping together earlier that day to determine what candies were uncommon in Wisconsin. The results were Maom, Haribo gummy bears, Smarties, Kinder Riegel, a chocolate Lindt Easter bunny, and Brause-Pulver.
While my host mom was making dinner, my American family and my host dad piled into the van and drove to the Tagebau, which is the main attraction in my area. Although I had already been to the mining site at night on one of our convertible rides last year, seeing it during the day revealed the true extent of it.
As you can probably tell from the pictures, the weather wasn't exactly ideal. I had told my family that the weather was going to be in the 50's, which in my defense is what was forecasted, however they took this as meaning that they wouldn't need to bring jackets. Because of this misjudgment, we didn't end up staying very long because it was so windy.
A lot can change in less than a year. Not only does one of my brothers now have braces, both of my younger brothers are now taller than me! But it was no surprise that they still don't like getting their pictures taken.
If you haven't eaten some homemade Schnitzel, are you even allowed to say you've been to Germany? I think not, which is exactly why I requested for my host mom to cook it for our big blended family dinner. Along with potatoes (a no-brainer) and some yummy fresh white asparagus, we dug into our Schnitzel.
We braved the chilly weather in order to show my German family the wonder of s'mores. I even had my mom bring graham crackers from the U.S. so the experience would be more authentic. We then baked Stockbrot and roasted marshmallows over the fire before my family got too tired from the seven hour time difference and day of travel.
A trip to Cologne is never complete without a visit to the Dom. After my American family had time to rest after their long journey, we set out the following morning for Cologne by train. This was the first time riding a train for both of my brothers and my cousin.
The main goal of our trip to Cologne was to eat a traditional German meal at Früh, a brewery/eatery.
I opted for the classic Bockwurst mit Pommes.
After our lunch, we headed out to Hohenzollern Brücke, a big bridge that goes over the Rhine River. One of the unique parts of this bridge is that couples and friends attach all shapes and sizes of "love locks" to it and then throw the key into the river, which is supposed to symbolize their loyalty and devotion to each other. Although locks are sometimes cut off to combat the weight problem that they create (it's estimated that together the locks weigh two tons), the entire length of one side of the bridge is filled to the brim with them!
After our day of sightseeing, eating, and shopping we took the next RB38 back home so that I could finish packing for our next adventure.