Getting four adults and four kids, with all our gear, out the door and onto an 8:30 a.m. train at the main station in Berlin was no easy task! But, we managed to make the train on time, and even had a few minutes leftover to find some tea and Mohnkuchen before embarking.
Traveling with a one-year-old and a precocious 4-year-old makes me realise how “easy” life with nearly-9-year-olds is… (And thank goodness for iPads!)
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the opportunity to spend some uninterrupted time with my "cousin" and her kids, getting to know them a little better.
So, Trevor, my cousin, the boys and I were supposed to throw our bags into her mother's car, and run off to catch a bus departing in 9 minutes, to the foot of the hill on which the Wartburg is built. From there it was to be a bit of a long walk uphill in snow (without snow boots, we having prepared for European spring!)
Usually, one can go up to the castle by donkey, but no donkeys were traveling through 40 cm of snow!!!
But a wonderful and unexpected thing happened: Another aunt, from a nearby village, was also there to meet us at the train station -- with flowers, no less! -- and insisted she drive us up to the Wartburg, and join us for our tour there.
What a delightful surprise!
The castle houses historical treasures from across the middle ages, and is now a UNESCO historical site, undergoing considerable renovations at any given time to preserve the heritage on display there.
After our walk through the old, unheated site, we were frozen stiff, and still had over an hour to kill before meeting the others for dinner, so off we went to enjoy some tea and cake at a nearby cafe to warm up.
Then we bought Alex some shoes, as his feet were completely soaked, and his shoes, too, were at the end of their useful life. (I must say the prices in Eisenach are considerably more reasonable than those in Berlin, where we bought Simon's shoes earlier in the week, and I would very much have liked to stay on a bit to do some shopping of my own!)
That's when things REALLY got fun!!!
Among those in attendance were my cousin's mom, as well as her aunt and uncle, and the uncle's daughter, too, who is suddenly a hip 24-year-old! Even her dad showed up.
I hadn't seen most of these people in over ten years, before I became a mother! And they had never met Alex and Simon, of course.
Sometime during the evening, we took a group photo, which did not turn out super well, due to crappy camera, lighting and not everyone smiling at the same time. Nevertheless, it was neat to watch throughout the evening, as the boys got a sense of themselves within their larger German connection.
What a delightful gathering it was!