Saturday, February 17, 2018


Last Thursday, Feb. 9, we visited Trier, which is about 2 hours away from Wiesbaden.  It was a cold, dreary day, which was probably not the best weather for tromping around an old city!  Bob and I had been to Trier on our honeymoon, but at that time I was really not remotely interested in Roman history, so I didn't pay that much attention.  Now, after all my years with Latin, I have become much more interested, and this was probably the place I wanted to visit most.  Others were not that interested or excited, however.

When we got to Trier, I was in front, which is never a good thing, and I didn't turn at the place where I had wanted to go to find parking.  So we parked further away, and when we came up out of the garage, I was completely disoriented.  All we had was a tiny map Siri had photocopied from my library copy of Fodor's Guide to Germany, and it didn't have that many street names on it!  We found 2 street names and launched out in the opposite direction.  Unfortunately, we veered too far in one direction, so we ended up way off course, once we found another street name on our map.  Oops!  The younger set was tired and cold--and we hadn't even gotten anywhere yet!  Caleb really shined with his map reading skills, however, and he got us back on track.  Eventually we made it to the Imperial Baths (Kaiserthermen), which I had remembered seeing on our honeymoon.  Now they have a nice visitor's center with a movie.  They were doing construction to preserve the ruins.
We were allowed to walk under the bath ruins.
The tunnels were creepy for the littles, but I thought they were actually neat.  There were "skylights" every so often, so it didn't feel too dark.  There were water passages in here, and this was also where the slaves heated up the water.
It all reminded me of some of Jonathan's mine craft mazes!
A look at the part of the ruins that remain above ground.  It was an enormous complex back in the 300's!

I had wanted to visit the amphitheatre, but alas, it was flooded and ice-covered, so it was closed.  Instead we walked down towards the center of town, towards this pink palace and huge basilika.  I took a picture of Bob in this same place when we were here on our honeymoon 24 1/2 years ago, so it was fun to take a picture here again, with 8 of the kids!
Right after this picture, we stopped at a cafe that was attached to the Landesmuseum, which we did not tour (but seemed like it would have been really interesting, with all sorts of Roman artifacts).  We again got hot chocolate.  They offered both white chocolate (the waiter said it was Swiss white chocolate), and brown, so we got a cup of both.  The consensus was that the white chocolate tasted like warm milk and wasn't very good, but the brown chocolate was pretty good, and we ended up getting 2 more cups of the brown.  Again, not as good as Saalburg, however.  It was a nice break for us though, and everyone warmed up.

This is the south wing of the Electoral Palace, which was finished in 1756.  It is very detailed and beautiful!
The palace was added onto the Basilika of Constantine, which he commissioned as a throne room in the early 300's.  It's being used as a church now.
At this point we were trying to find the parking garage again, since everyone was ready to head back home.  We remembered we had parked by a church, so we headed toward a steeple.  That steeple turned out to be the great Dom of Trier, the Cathedral of St. Peter, the oldest cathedral in Germany.  It was so massive--it's actually 4 basilicas joined in the middle by a baptistry.  It was built on the foundations of a Roman palace, and the church got burned down several times before it was restored around 1000 AD.  Interestingly, it is the resting place of several relics--the skull of Constantine's mother Helena, the soles of St. Andrew's sandal, a nail of the cross, and the "seamless garment" Christ wore while being crucified.  I'm not sure how verified these are, but they are in the treasury, which regretfully we did not see.
Another part of the Dom, built in a completely different style, so it looks like a completely different church.
That part was open, so Jonathan and Bob peeked in.  Bob said it looked like the cathedral in his hometown.  The doors are pretty neat!

We headed in a new direction, and this led us to the main old plaza in Trier.  Again, I remembered seeing this with Bob on our honeymoon!
The buildings are so neat.  The corner one has a McDonalds on the bottom 2 floors.
Another church, another steeple ("Be vigilant and pray" is what it says by the clock, if I remember my Latin correctly), and more cool buildings.
This was a neat archway.
Hey, look, a store just for me all the way over here!  My parents used to be stationed at Spangdahlem, which is not too far away from here before I was born, and my mom said this store was definitely new since then!  Ha!
And lo and behold, we made it to the Porta Nigra, or the Black Gate!  I was so happy!  We didn't go to the other side, because everyone was very much done at this point, but I was glad to see it.  It was built around 170 AD.  It is so unreal to think about how old these things are that are still standing solid and strong!  Amazing!
We were also happy to see "Fleishstrasse", which was a street we recognized from when we got out of our parking garage (if only we had taken it then!).  We walked down it, passing another cool square with this Roman-y statue in it.  And then--hooray!--we were back at the corner where we started our day!
This was actually the church the parking garage was next to.  It seemed plenty big when we were first in Trier, but after seeing the Basilika and the Dom, it seemed quaint and tiny!

We had the long drive home, made longer because once again I failed to read the GPS correctly, and I got off at the exit before the one it actually wanted me to.  (In fairness, they were close together, and it is really hard to look at the GPS and look at the ever-darkening roadway!)  So we had to wander through a cute little town, and then do this pretzel-like maneuver to get back on the road we were supposed to be on.  I was glad it wasn't dark yet!  Bob said it only took 3 minutes to catch up to their car, but it seemed like it took longer to me!  That is the downside of driving 2 vehicles.  The upside is being able to park in parking garages and other small places, lol.  So we made it home with no further incidents, but we were all pretty fried after the long, cold day.  We got frozen pizzas from the store Hit and cooked those, since the C's had headed off to a previously planned ski trip to Garmisch.  Then we collapsed into bed, exhausted!

Friday, February 16, 2018


Thursday was Faith's birthday, and we decided to stay more local.  We headed into Wiesbaden.
Siri gave us great directions right to the parking garage, which came out in front of this beautiful church.  We were surprised at how much graffiti was on the church though--we hadn't noticed it on other churches.
Our first stop was a gigantic 3 story book store.  We wanted to get Anna a few German books for her to practice with at home.  We looked around for awhile, but finally we settled on 3 kids books (one was a children's Bible, so that should be easier to translate and understand, since she is already familiar with the stories).  We also got a family cookbook, and a fantasy kids book that was bigger and harder for later.  Oh, and one more "seek and find" kids book that conveniently has vocab under the things you are supposed to be finding in each scene.  We were sorely tempted by a Nutella cookbook, however we passed.  We don't actually have all that much room in our suitcases!
Then we wandered toward a fancy tea room that Siri had taken Christine and Elena for Elena's birthday when they were over visiting.  She had given us clear directions, and I had looked at a map on the computer too, so it should have been easy, right?  This part of the town was really cute, and they had this handy model map for us to look it!

We found the street she gave us, and walked up it . . . but we couldn't find the restaurant.  Eventually we got to a part that didn't look like anything Siri had described, so we turned around.  Fortunately we spotted it on the way back down--they were doing construction on its facade, so we had completely missed it!  It's a good thing we found it too, because people in our family were literally dying of hunger, fatigue, cold, etc.  It was tragic.

It was pretty crowded in there, but amazingly there were several tables open.  The waitresses fended off some other people so we could take all of them.  We definitely felt a little awkward as a big group in this restaurant filled with little tables, so we were glad to sit down and be out of the center of attention!

Anna and I went up to the counter to order our desserts.  We decided to sample 3 things.
We got a cream puff thing with blueberries in the middle of the cream layer (just okay), an adorable petit four which was perfect for Faith's birthday, and a little round thing of chocolate mousse, which was in a chocolate shell (this was the best!).  They were all so beautiful!
Bob also ordered a terrine of soup and 2 hot chocolates (not anywhere as good as the ones at Saalburg).  The waitress had to help us figure out what soup to order.  We ended up choosing a "goulash" soup, which was a thick beef stew like soup.  It was so good, and it hit the spot on a cold day!  We passed the terrine around, along with the hot chocolate.  Then we split all the desserts so we each had bites of each kind.
Here we are outside the restaurant.  They had a display with these fake old ladies in the window.
On our way back to Siri's, we drove right by the Wiesbaden Hotel!  It used to be a US military facility, but we have since given it back to the Germans, and now they are using it to house refugees.  It played an important part in my story though!

Back in 1963, my dad was in between his sophomore and junior year at USAFA.  Back then, the cadets went on an overseas field trip that summer, so my dad was in Germany, and the cadets were staying at the Wiesbaden Hotel.  But then President Kennedy came through, on that trip where he gave that speech with "Ich bin ein Berliner" in it, and his entourage needed the Wiesbaden, so the cadets got kicked out.  They all headed over to Ramstein to stay there, but they didn't have anything to do. The wives club kicked into action and organized a dance at the Ramstein Officer's Club.  They invited any and all single young ladies in the vicinity--which included my mom.

My grandpa was assigned to a small radar station near Ramstein the summer before my mom's senior year of high school.  She did NOT want to move to Germany for one last year of high school, so she lobbied heavily to be allowed to stay behind in Springfield, VA, where she had been for the previous 2 years.  But my grandpa was adamant that the whole family stay together, so they all went.  My mom had just graduated from high school and was waiting to head back to the US to go to college at Vassar.  She went to the dance, and when she walked in the door, one of the hostesses selected my dad out of the group of cadets, and introduced the 2 of them!  And that was that!  My dad even came back and visited her family after he and some friends had taken leave and traveled around Europe by themselves after the official trip was over.  So my parents really have Pres. Kennedy to thank for them meeting!  

After another delicious dinner, Siri had made a horse cake for Faith, as well as a second caramel one with crunchy caramel frosting that was so good!  I think Faith had a very special birthday that she will remember forever!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Saalburg Fort (Feb. 7)

Last Wednesday was my birthday!  It was SO fun to be able to celebrate it in Germany!  Four years ago, I celebrated it with the C's in Hawaii--I wonder where they will be in 4 more years?!

It was still cold, but it was sunny, so we decided to venture out to a reconstructed Roman fort originally built in the early AD 100's called Saalburg.  The guy at the front desk was very kind and gave us the family rate, even though that usually means for 2 adults and 2 children, so we obviously were way over that, lol.
Here we are at the entrance.  It was so neat, set up on a big hill (which totally makes sense, given that it was, in fact, a fort)!
It had 2 moats or trenches.
I'm guessing this is Emperor Hadrian, since he was emperor when the fort was constructed?
Group shot inside!  Then we went in the big building right behind us, which had many artifacts, some of which were found at this site, and some that were just from that time period.
The boys were particularly interested in the weaponry.  These are some reconstructed spears of various types.  You can see the pile of spear heads at the bottom there.  We bought a souvenir magnet for our fridge like that shield in the top left.
These were leather shoes.  The ones that look new were obviously made recently to look like ones from back then, but the dark ones are fragments that were found.  They looked just like you would think Roman sandals would look like, straps and all!

Then we walked around to other parts of the fort.  Again, we were able to watch the movie in English, and it was very interesting, detailing the history of the fort from so long ago.  All this talk of the Germanic tribes made me want to break out my Henle Latin books again!
This was a room for soliders, probably high-ranking ones, since it was so beautifully decorated, even on the ceiling.  (In this part of the fort, nothing was translated into English, so we were just sort of guessing, lol.)
The crenellations on the walls were really nice, especially against the backdrop of snow.
This was a side gate.
We spent a good deal of time in a big room that had lots of hands-on activities. They had a huge game board for "muhle" (pretend there's an umlaut over the u), which is called in English, "Nine Men's Morris".  Caleb is taking a computer game design class this semester, and so he had actually studied several Roman games, including this one and also "tabula rasa", so he had an idea of how to set up the pieces and play the game.
They had a bunch of other old games set up for kids to play as well, including checkers.
Verity industriously colored away on a picture of Roman ladies all dressed up in their stollas and pallas.
This was a model of the fort, with the outbuildings shown as it was in its heyday.
There were all these dress-up Roman clothes.  Some people were more enthusiastic about dressing up than others, lol.  We had a hard time figuring out exactly how to make all the outer shawl-type things work.  I remember having this problem during all the TNT ancient history units where I attempted to dress up.  At least I wasn't using a sheet this time!
Caleb took this formal portrait of a family from Roman times.  So authentic, lol.
We ended up in the "taberna", where we bought one cup of hot chocolate (Anna says that in German really well) to split among us all.  But the guy was so nice, and he ended up bringing out that mug, plus styrofoam cups half-filled for all the kids AND, as we were preparing to leave, he offered us all fresh, home-made butter cookies that were so yummy!  Everyone has just been so nice here!  It has been so wonderful!

Then we headed out to the gift shop where we bought our souvenirs.  There were so many fun and pretty things, but we restrained ourselves.  We did buy this beautiful little glass "flakon" (flask or bottle) that looks like it could have perfume or something in it.  As we were buying it, along with our magnet, tiny model of the fort, pewter Roman soldier, and a book, the lady rattled off something about it in German, but it was way past Anna's level of understanding.  We should have had her write it down!
Then we headed home again to another delicious dinner from Siri, as well as a delicious chocolate cake for my birthday!  What a wonderful way to celebrate!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


We slept in Monday morning, and so we decided not to venture too terribly far, since everyone was still pretty tired, and it was cold with snow flurries.  Siri recommended the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz.  Since we had studied Johannes Gutenberg in history, listened to a book on CD about him a few years ago on our first trip to visit Nathan, and mention him every time we recite our timeline in memory work ("Gutenberg prints the Bible, 1456"), we were definitely interested in this!

It didn't take that long to get there (thank God for GPA, although it turns out I am really bad at reading the GPS in cities, and I missed several turns, so we took the long way to get there), but it did take a while to find parking, especially for 2 cars.  Bob ended up taking one for the team and parking both cars in a parking garage, while we went in the museum and waited for him on a lovely heated bench.
The museum had an entire half-floor devoted to early manuscripts--not just Bibles, but books about astronomy, nature, anatomy, and all sorts of subjects (the nature books were my favorite--loved those hand-painted plant illustrations!).  There were printed playing cards, miniature books, and also woodcuts that were printed.  We couldn't take any pictures of any of them, unfortunately.

Up another floor was what they call their "treasure vault"--the original manuscripts from Gutenberg himself, including the Bible.  Now we've seen 2 of them, since we saw the one at the National Archives 2 years ago!  There was also a very nice model of the town of Mainz during Gutenberg's time, and it really helped me get oriented.  We could also see that these cool tower things we kept passing as we were missing turns on the way in were actually towers from the old city wall.

There was also a special exhibit about ancient printing in Asian countries--China, Japan, and Korea.  They had several tables and a huge round cabinet of Chinese characters to put into rows to print off of.  Very interesting!

In the middle of our tour, we headed back down to the main floor because one of the workers there had told us they would start their movie in English for us at 1:25.  We had a private showing, and it was very well-done.  We definitely learned more seeing it in English than we would have in German!
At 2:00 we went down to the basement, where they had a working model of Gutenberg's printing press in an area set up like his workshop.  The same man who told us he would start the movie in English for us gave a presentation (in German) on the printing process, demonstrating the steps.  I was glad we already knew what was going on from other field trips and books.  One goal of the tip for me was to have Anna listen to more spoken German, so this definitely qualified!  She did understand some words.  He did answer some questions at the end for us in English.  Everyone there was very friendly and helpful, so it was a really nice experience!
Afterwards, we walked towards the beautiful Mainz cathedral.  It turns out it was built 1000 years ago, and it is a Catholic church named after St. Martin.  We walked around it, trying to find the door.  We saw several doors, but none seemed to be the right one, so we kept on circling.  Eventually we found a sign basically saying that the door was the one on the other plaza side, where we had been before.  Oops!  We headed back around, found the right door, and went inside.  It was so beautiful and stunning inside!  All sorts of intricate carvings and details, and it was just massively huge.  It went on forever in all directions!
These are buildings around the plaza with the church.  I love German buildings!
They have so many neat architectural and artistic details on them.
Afterward, we made our way back to our cars in the parking garage, where we had a picnic lunch.  I had brought some of the (illegal) lunch meat and cheese in our cooler lunch box, along with tortillas, so I rolled up a tortilla for everyone.  We got many curious stares as we ate, lol.  It was definitely too cold to eat anywhere outside!
We drove back to the C's house (after yet another time where I ended up in the wrong lane and so missed the bridge out of the city, over the Rhein River, and had to turn around later . . .), and I was very relieved when we arrived back there with no further incidents!  Whew!  One day of sight-seeing down!