Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Castle Frankenstein

Yes, I mean that Frankenstein.

Castle Frankenstein crowns a mountain a few miles south of Darmstadt, Germany.  As legend has it, Mary Shelley spent some time nearby, and was inspired by these eerie castle ruins (and their creepy inhabitants) to write her famous novel, Frankenstein.  Lots of speculative folk seem determined to debunk this theory, but the castle is fun to visit even outside a literary context.  I tagged along with some friends who were going to explore the ruins last month, and was not a bit disappointed at the lack of undead monsters (or mad scientists).

Countless, varying rumors say a much older castle once adorned this hill, but everyone agrees that the current Castle Frankenstein was built in the 13th century.  (That seems plenty old, to me.)  The castle was abandoned as a residence in the 1600s, and then served as a prison temporarily.  It stands today as a ruin, a free attraction for tourists on a tight budget, and a popular destination on Halloween, when the townspeople bring out some elaborate, spooky decorations and throw a massive party.  Or so I've heard.

View from the castle tower.

View of the guard tower from the castle tower.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mondays with Brinks

Brinks moping around our temp. housing.  I think maybe he misses all of "his" stuff.
Happy Monday!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fill in the Blanks Friday

1.  Right now the weather where I live is   amazing.  The sun is shining, the breeze is perfect, and there are puffy white clouds floating across the sky.

2.  The best piece of advice I've been given is:  "You'll always regret the things you don't do the most, even if you fail miserably at everything you try."

3.  My most favorite person in all the world is  my husband.  He's pretty awesome, and our love has always, and will always, come first.

4. If I were to have a "mission statement" for my life, it would be    "Make every day beautiful."

5. My most favorite item in my closet is ...  My closet is empty at the moment.  Everything I own is either in transit to the states, or in a suitcase.

6. The best cure for a bad day is  a blanket, a mug of hot chocolate, and a book.

7.  Today is  my last day as a twenty-one year old.  Which feels strange.  But also exciting.

Happy Friday!
More participants on Lauren's blog.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Burg Rheinfels

On Tuesday, Kyle and I had our first adventure post move-to-Heidelberg.  (Two weeks left in Germany, and counting!)  With a friend in tow, we drove just over an hour to St. Goar, Germany, a little touristy town on the west bank of the Rhine River, to visit its massive set of castle ruins: Burg Rheinfels.  Rheinfels absolutely dominates the mountaintop behind St. Goar.  In its heyday it was the largest castle on the Rhine, and though its mostly rubble today, it's still impressive.  There are countless nooks and crannies for an avid castle-goer to explore, granted you bring a flashlight (or two).

Side view of Burg Rheinfels, from St. Goar below.
Sketch of what Burg Rheinfels looked like before it was destroyed.
My Rick Steves' guidebook offers a brief history of Rheinfels:  The castle was built in 1245, and proved its might in 1692 when it withstood a siege of 28,000 French troops.  But just over a century later, in 1797, the French Revolutionary Army destroyed it.  What was left was used as a quarry until someone decided it would make a fabulous tourist attraction, and today parts of the castle have been turned into a hotel, restaurant, and museum.  Visitors can roam the ruins freely after paying a small (4 euro) entrance fee.

What really sets Burg Rheinfels apart from other ruins (besides its size) is the complex system of tunnels that branch out beneath the grounds.  This underground maze was built in the 1600s as a defense against would-be invaders.  When attacked, the castle's inhabitants would detonate mines in the tunnels underneath the enemy, brutally kicking unsuspecting troops off the castle lawn.  We intended to explore some of the smaller tunnels (some of them literally have to be crawled through), but a few unexpected residents made us change our minds...

The walls to the small tunnels were covered with these not-so-little guys.  
We did not "follow the spiders."  Sorry, Hagrid.
From the walls of Burg Rheinfels, you can see two other popular Rhein River castles.  Burg Katz and Burg Maus adorn hills on the east bank, looking minuscule in comparison to Rheinfels' shell (though they are much more intact).

Burg Maus, as viewed from Rheinfels.
Burg Katz, as viewed from Rheinfels.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

One Last Night in Mannheim

Sunday Kyle and I picked up a couple friends and headed to downtown Mannheim for one last night in our old hometown.  We started the evening with a delectable dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant, then strolled down to my favorite gelato shop for dessert (a blend of strawberry, raspberry, and apricot for me this time), and finished out the night watching the beautiful lights show at the Mannheim Wasserturm fountains.

For an hour or so on warm summer nights, the Wasserturm fountains are illuminated in vibrant colors.  It looks a little bit like a never-ending firework (without the hassle of all that noise), and it never fails to feel magical.  It was a fitting end to an incredible two years in this city.

Auf Wiedersehen, Mannheim.  I hope we meet again someday.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mondays with Brinks

Brinks meets some new friends:  Leia, a tiny baby lab, and Tazz, a not-so-tiny boxer puppy.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Things I'll Miss About Germany: Luisenpark Schmetterlingshaus

Kyle and I made another trip to Luisenpark this week, and my favorite part, as usual, was the Schmetterlingshaus (Butterfly Sanctuary).  I am always fascinated by this exhibit.  It's a makeshift rain forest inside a mid-size greenhouse where hundreds of butterflies flutter around, occasionally landing on a child's outstretched hand (but more often rushing from one tray of sliced oranges to the next).

This setting is a photographer's dream world.  I never spend less than a half hour here, patiently stalking these beautiful butterflies around their home, waiting for the perfect photo opportunity.  I was really pleased with this trip's results.  Maybe I was just lucky, but it seemed like the butterflies were a little lazy, resting longer than usual on the gorgeous greenery.

This will certainly be one of the many things I'll miss about Germany.  I hope I can find another butterfly sanctuary near our next home.  Visiting this one never fails to feel magical.

Other things I'll miss about Germany:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Moving Day

Today all our household goods were loaded into boxes and crates to be shipped across the Atlantic.  We're leaving in a few hours to move into our temporary, furnished housing in Heidelberg.  Internet is not included, so posting will be sporadic for the next few weeks.

We'll see you on the other side!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mondays with Brinks

Nap time with Dad.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Things I'll Miss About Germany: My Barnabunny

Today is a hard day.

Today a very nice family came to adopt Barnaby.

Kyle and I adopted Barnaby Bunny (a.k.a. Barnabunny) last October, almost exactly a year ago, after his original family unceremoniously dropped him off at my good friend's house with no notice whatsoever.  My friend was already housing a small zoo, and couldn't keep him, so Kyle and I brought him home that night.  Us taking Barnaby in was meant to be a temporary arrangement until we could find him a "forever home."

Then I got to know my Barnabunny.

He's just so dang cute.  I couldn't give him up.  So Barnaby lived in our library for eleven happy months.

Barnaby is a very shy bunny, but he and I had a certain understanding.  I would sit in the floor to read, and he would hop around the room freely, occasionally deigning to fall asleep in or around my lap.  I could pet the space between his ears, but never his back.  In exchange for sliced apples and carrots, he agreed never to munch on my books.  And wonder of all wonders, he was litter trained.

We were perfectly content.  We thought we would be Barnaby's forever home, and had every intention of taking the best care of him for years to come.  But then Kyle and I found out we're moving to New York at the end of the month, and our next post absolutely will not allow rabbits in the apartments.  We considered living off base for a long time, but after doing some research we realized that it's just not a financial possibility.  Expensive apartments in New York just won't fit in our budget.

So a tough decision had to be made:  What to do about Barnabunny?

I knew taking him to a shelter was out of the question.  Full grown bunnies aren't as adopted as quickly as tiny kittens and puppies.  (Though I'm not sure why, as bunnies are every bit as adorable.)  So, I posted ads online and began interviewing potential new families.  I was determined to find a happy, loving home that was deserving of such a wonderful pet.

And I did.  Barnaby's new family is great.  He's now their one and only pet, so he'll have lots of love and attention.  But that doesn't mean I'm happy to see him go.

Barnaby has been gone a total of two hours, and I already miss him.  I can't believe I actually let him go.  And yet, I know it was probably the best decision for him as well as us.  An eight hour flight and two day-long road trips would have been hard on the little guy, and it wouldn't even have been our last big move.  Plus, Barnaby and Brinks haven't been getting along well for a while now.  The two had to be separated at all times, and I know a barking dog couldn't have been good for Barnaby's poor nerves.

Still.  I miss my Barnabunny.  And I don't think I'll ever quite forgive the housing department at our next post for being the reason I had to give him up.

Other things I'll miss about Germany: