Long-windedness is one of my best-known traits, but I'll try to keep the report on our first week of travel as short as possible! (Edited to add: this ended up only being the first two days, but I figured that I may as well post it now.)
Our flight from Larnaka to Frankfurt wasn't until the afternoon, which was nice from the point of view of traveling, but a bit confusing for me with regards to packing! My preferred method is to gather everything on the couch, and then as soon as everyone is asleep, to pack in peace. I really don't like it when I'm standing there thinking about where the nail scissors are and that I need to locate two more pairs of socks for Lukas, and someone walks into the room and says "don't forget the toothpaste" (I've never forgotten the toothpaste) or "I want to take my pink sweatshirt" (yes, I know, that's why it's already on the couch) or "can you pack these 27 stuffed animals for me?" (no, what you can fit into your carry-on is what you may take). Okay, so there wasn't any real reason I couldn't have packed the evening before, but I didn't. So Day 1 started with me packing and simultaneously fielding questions and suggestions from all children and their father.
At 2:00 my husband drove me to the airport, along with three children, four suitcases, and various carry-ons, then drove home and parked the car. A friend then drove Jörn, the remaining three children, one suitcase, one booster seat, and a few more carry-ons to the airport. Helen had fallen asleep in the car on the first run to the airport, but didn't let it bother her.
The night wasn't so great, with Helen awake and crying quite a bit. At one point I asked her if anything hurt, and she said, "Yes, hurt here," and rubbed her hand across MY forehead. She apparently realized that in the dark, I wouldn't be able to see if she touched her own forehead, which I think is rather clever for just two! So I gave in and gave her ibuprofen, which may or may not have helped. She did go back to sleep, but two hours later was awake and crying again.
Happily, we didn't have to get up too early on Thursday, so weren't as exhausted as we could have been. We got to the busstop in plenty of time...and then missed the bus, because when we saw the bus coming, we all turned our backs on the bus to grab luggage, so the bus driver thought we didn't want that bus and drove on. We weren't sure if the next bus, 15 minutes later, would get us to our train on time, but there wasn't really anything else to do but try, so we did--and made it with six whole minutes to spare, because the train was five minutes late.
What we hadn't thought about was the date: November 11th. In Germany, that's the beginning of the "fifth season": Karneval. I have no idea why. But people go crazy, dressing up and partying, and the Karneval capital is Köln, where our train was headed. A group of women in our carriage was obviously on their way to the festivities and Jörn had to scold me once or twice for staring at them. We even took a couple of photos, but I stopped short of asking them to stand up to get a full-length view of the costume, so this isn't great, but gives an idea.
At 11:11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, they all opened miniature bottles of alcohol and shouted "Alaaf!" and drank them down. (In Düsseldorf, which was where I lived my first three years in Germany, everyone says "Helau!" but what either word means, I have no idea!)
The children were great in the train, enjoying it very much.
In Köln we changed trains (one ALWAYS changes in Köln, it seems), and in Düsseldorf changed to a local train, arriving at our final train station just over two hours after leaving Frankfurt--pretty impressive, I thought. And the walk to Phil and Margaret's house took all of five minutes, just because it was pretty slow-going with six children, five suitcases, nine carry-ons, and a booster seat.
My friend Peggy and her son Florian came over for awhile in the afternoon, bringing with them my wedding dress and a silk skirt which I had stored at her house when we moved to Cyprus. Margaret then got out her wedding dress for Marie to try on (it was only a little bit too big), and then Marie tried on mine (it was way too big):
The silk skirt, however, does fit, so I now have something to wear to my sister's wedding next month! And I tried on half a dozen of Margaret's blouses and even have a blouse to wear with it, not having realized that the blouse I do own to go with it is at home in Cyprus...
The boys enjoyed playing with Florian:
The night went well, and Day 3 will come eventually in another post, as this one is already rather too long and we want to go out in the snow here in Minnesota!