international travel: my first time as a mom
Our week in Germany was everything I hoped it would be. We had no jet lag, M slept great all night. In fact, she slept in until 10 or 11am every day except the last! We stayed with family, my cousin and her husband and three kids, ages 7, 9, and 11. The kids were all great helpers, and I never needed to push M in her stroller or get her in or out of the van. They would chase after her and pick her up and keep an eye on her for me… it was great!
We had the guest room, and my cousin had a van, so we didn’t have to worry about transportation or accommodation the entire time. We could eat cereal for breakfast, make a pot of coffee, and relax in our pajamas until we felt like going somewhere. My cousin’s husband is in the navy, so she is not working while in Germany, and they are coming home for good in a month. This meant that they all wanted to go out and do things, too, so we all went together!
We arrived in Stuttgart, stopped at the base for groceries, took the kids to a neat playground where M scored a cupcake off of a local family’s birthday celebration, and then headed “home” to my cousin’s apartment in the town of Holzgerlingen.
We took the train into Stuttgart’s Killesberg Park and rode the world’s oldest electric carousel. The kids enjoyed the playground, there were animals including flamingos, and we finished out the evening at a beer garden, complete with enclosed play ground for the kids! Thanks to this beer garden, M insisted on doing “cheers” with every drink thereafter.
We went up into the Black Forest to the small town of Triberg, which boasts the so-called original cafe that served “Black Forest Cake”. We ‘hiked’ up to a waterfall, but the path was paved so not exactly a hike, although it was very steep. We didn’t go up to the top, but maybe about halfway. M enjoyed exploring the rocks and dirt. After that, M and I went to an open air museum (Schwarzwalder Freilichtmuseum Vogtsbauernhof), while my cousin and her kids went on a nearby alpine coaster. M liked the animals and play area, and I loved the history.
We went to Affenburg Salem, Germany near Lake Constance, to Monkey Mountain. It’s a large open air enclosure dedicated to preservation of the Barbery Macaques (they are native to Algeria and Morocco and are an endangered species). You can feed them popcorn (only if they are sitting on a fence) and guides are posted all along the trail to enforce the rules and to answer any questions. Along the way you also see fish, ducks, deer, and of course, the huge pelicans or whatever they were that built huge nests on the buildings.
The big kids were all very excited to go to Sensapolis, a huge indoor play area for kids of all ages that featured four story structures representing a space ship, a castle, a jungle, and a pirate ship, all of which were immaculate with plenty of tunnels and lots of attention to detail (way more than you’d find in the States). Humongous slides (with age limits) that went down at 80 degree angles could be found in the space area and a Swiss Family Robinson style network of tunnels and bridges crossed the interior near the ceiling, so kids were guaranteed a getaway from their parents. Older kids can also zip line across the interior from the “Jungle” to the “Castle”, and there are rock climbing walls for younger and older.
Parents, as usual, can enjoy beer, wine, or coffee in the dining area. Because my daughter is two, and the place is huge, (and she sometimes is aggressive toward other kids), I had to chase after her everywhere. I was very tired from running around the place.
On our last full day, we took a walk in Holzgerlingen, and it was probably my favorite morning. The town was lovely, we hit up a bakery and a grocery store, and I got to use my (terrible) German. M behaved so well, walking beside me holding my hand instead of needing to be restrained in the stroller.
In the afternoon, we took all the kids to the local pool. In typical German fashion, it had everything: splash pad, pool with water slide, and separate lap pool. And a play area, of course.
That night we stayed over in a hotel near the airport, as we had to get up at 3am. When it came time to sleep, I realized that I didn’t have M’s bottles. My cousin saved my life by driving them back to us!
It was a relaxing, fun vacation with the exception of the airport days. I wish we could’ve stayed longer!