Monday, March 23, 2015

Fulda & Familie // Fulda & Family

My family came to visit me in Germany for a week over my sister's spring break. Although I've texted / snapchatted / emailed / facetimed them many times over the last two months, it was fantastic getting to see them in person again. I'd forgotten just how strange they are (in a good way... mostly) and how different their mode of traveling is from the way I've been adventuring around the country.

Our meeting point was my cousin's house in Fulda so I took the 10:30a train from Mannheim to Fulda, somehow without suffering any transportation mishaps. My mom, as always, demanded long hugs, while my sister, as usual, refused to show her excitement at seeing me. We spent most of the afternoon catching up and walking through downtown Fulda, a quick walk from my cousin's home. Most of the places we walked through were ones I saw last time I was in Fulda, but this time we also went to an old monastery beside of the Fulda Dom that is supported by a single stone column built in the 9th century. I felt like I had to touch it because it was so old (but to my disappointment it just felt like a normal rock).

On Sunday we had a huge breakfast with family from the area and in the afternoon we took a drive through the nearby Rhön mountains. The tops were still covered with snow and as it was the last day of the ski season, we saw many skiers and snowboarders cramming in their last runs.
Later in the day we drove to Kreuzberg, a former monastery in the Rhön mountains famous for its beer. The main eating area was full so we took a walk through the woods, which were still covered in snow and felt like an enchanted forest. Eventually we made our way back to the food and ordered some beer and cake, a change from the traditional coffee and cake. As I don't like most regular beers I ordered a Weißbier, which for some reason was only offered that day in a non-alcoholic version but still tasted good. 

For dinner we ate at the restaurant inside Schloss Fasanerie, a summer palace in Fulda. We walked the grounds for a bit and witnessed a gorgeous sunset (to which my phone camera could not adequately do justice) before going inside and eating one of the most delicious meals I've had during my time in Germany. We had a very European experience -- we stayed there for over three hours, taking the experience very slowly, enjoying the food and the company.

After a week of traveling elsewhere and returning to Mannheim for my classes, we traveled back to Fulda the next Saturday around lunchtime and again went with one of our cousins to see some more points of interest around Fulda. We spent the early afternoon at Check Point Alpha, an American military post between East and West Germany located in the Fulda Gap. A part of the border still remains there along with a few of the former watchtowers on each side and a house-turned-museum stands right on the borderline. Point Alpha has more of a personal meaning for me though, as it was one of the places my grandpa was stationed during his years in the military and where he met my grandma, who grew up in Fulda.

Watchtower on the East German side of the border
A piece of the Berlin Wall

We also visited Frauenberg, originally a convent in the 13th century, later turned into a monastery, and now church, which stands on top of a hill and can be seen from all around Fulda. A little further up the hill is the stone structure pictured below. The church itself was quite similar to many of the others I've been to in Germany -- huge, ornate decorations at the front and sides of the church, massive pipe organ in the back, and a tall, echoey ceiling.

To make it back to Mannheim for a day trip I had planned for Sunday, I needed to take a night train from Fulda. I said goodbye to my family at the station and left with the image of them taking pictures of me on the train until it pulled away from the station (paparazzi style). I was on the 8:44p ICE with one connection in Frankfurt Flughafen and was supposed to arrive in Mannheim at 10:24p. I only had 5 minutes to change trains and I was worried that, as often happens, my first train would run late and I would miss my connection. I was happily surprised to find that my first train was actually early to Frankfurt, only to have my happiness immediately crushed and stomped into the ground when an announcement over the loudspeaker said that my next train was 55 minutes late.

It was already 10p at this point so all the shops and food stands in the Flughafen were closed and the station itself was bitterly cold. I ended up walking around the station in circles for an hour until my train finally came. I thought this would be the end of my transportation woes, but I was too hopeful. When I arrived at the Mannheim Hbf, I discovered that the 60 bus I usually take wasn't on the board of arrivals and the woman at the info desk didn't know why. I tried taking the No. 1 tram back, only to find out that there was an accident further along the tracks and it had to make a U-turn and return to the station.

I started inwardly freaking out -- it was past 11p and I didn't know how I was going to get back to my flat. I finally found a regional transportation worker who told me that a temporary stop had been constructed two blocks past the Hbf and walked me to it so that I didn't get lost in the dark (God bless you, RNV staff). It was around midnight by the time I was finally in my flat, but I was happy just to have made it back and have been able to spend the extra time with my family. 

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