Saturday, we decided to take a drive into the Rhineland and explore the city Zoo in "Wuppertal." The city of Wuppertal (translation: ‘River Valley’) was about an hour drive on the Autobahn to the west. The weather forecast was for on and off rain showers with temperatures hovering around 4˚C (40˚F). We made sure that Maggie was well bundled up.
Because of the cool(er) temperatures, we virtually had the zoo to ourselves. We saw maybe a dozen other people the entire time we were there. It was a fairly nice zoo too! They had a large tiger and lion display. Unfortunately, the lions were inside their warm dens avoiding the cold outside. I wish we would have known this before walking up the large hill to the lion den. The “Wupper” in Wuppertal is a very steep valley, meaning lots of hills to walk up and down. Hubby and I were pretty worn out by the time we reached the end of the zoo trail.
After the zoo, we took the Schwebebahn to the city center (Zentrum). The Schwebebahn is the local mass transit system (train) that has been in use for the past 80 – 90 years. The Schwebebahn is a suspended train that hangs directly over the center of the river. I guess real estate was at such a premium 90 years ago that the only place they had left for a public transit train was directly over the river. It made for a unique and exciting ride.
We eventually found a nice local tavern in the large and busy city center of Wuppertal to enjoy a late lunch (~4PM). Maggie was on her best behavior the entire time. All of the waitresses had to stop by so they could “ooh and ahh” over our well behaved baby. We felt a little strange taking Maggie into an otherwise non-family style restaurant, but there were a couple other parties with strollers (Kinderwagon) so we weren’t the only ones with such a small child there.
After dinner, we hurried back to Lippstadt so we could get some groceries before the stores closed at 8PM. If we didn’t get any groceries by Saturday night, we would have to wait until Monday since none of the markets are open on Sunday. Silly German laws. Anyway, the shopping carts aren’t setup the same way as they are in America. The baby seats don’t fit in the front child seat area and they have to be placed in the main basket. Maggie didn’t mind, but I could only imagine what people were thinking as we walked by… “I didn’t know they sold BABIES in this store!!!”
On Sunday, we tried our luck with the German train system. We started the day off by walking the ~1 mile to the Lippstadt train station and purchased two round trip tickets to the neighboring city of Soest. Since the city of Soest was having a large festival (supposedly the largest inner city festival in all of Germany) we decided to leave the baby stroller at home and I Moby-ed Maggie to me for the day. Once Maggie was wrapped up, I put my coat on over the baby leaving only Maggie’s head exposed to the outside world. This commanded all sorts of strange looks from ever single passer-by.
The Soest festival was indeed huge. We suppressed our initial appetite with a HUGE salted pretzel that was big enough for us to share. The city was set up with lots and lots of carnival rides. However, German carnival rides are a lot larger and more extreme that those back home in America. Apparently personal liability suits aren’t a big problem in Europe. Some of the rides we saw over here would NEVER fly in America. There was a large swing ride that not only spun passengers around in their swings, but also shot them up at least 100 feet in the air while doing so. We both decided that Maggie should probably wait at least another year before trying this ride out.
Instead, we paid the €8 for all three of us to ride the giant Ferris Wheel in the center of town. The view from the top was pretty awesome… but also very brisk. This entire weekend has been very windy and the wind chill was rather bitter once the wheel reached the upper half of its circle.
After chilling ourselves on the wheel, we walked into the main beer tent. There was enough room for us to get our own table upstairs. We ordered two large beers and the local special plate for lunch. The special plate was essentially two giant pieces of (mystery) meat, a healthy portion of sauerkraut, a slice of rye bread and little serving of mustard. After walking around the festival all day, neither one of us had any difficulty finishing our turkey / beef / pork / horse or whatever meat.
It drizzled on us a little bit while walking back to the train station (bahnhof), but Maggie was well covered up inside my ski jacket. Once we made it back to the apartment, hubby and I about fell to the ground from exhaustion. Maggie, however, had (still has) different plans. Since she was sleeping during most of the excursion into Soest, therefore she is now well rested and wants to play with Mom or Dad.
We can’t wait until Grandma Sue comes next weekend!