airberlin: the transatlantic edition

Flying with a toddler is always a gamble. You can bring as many toys and snacks as you can stuff in your carry-on, but nothing is foolproof and you can never predict how your tiny monster  will react to being force to stay in a cramped, little space (and by two years old, economy seats even kids can find economy seats cramped)  for the duration of the flight. You can’t always predict how an adult will react to being forced to stay put in a cramped, little space either so let’s just get that out of the way.

Lucky for us, headphones proved to be a big hit.

We flew airberlin for this flight and again they proved themselves to be the child-friendliest airline we’ve flown yet. After take-off, the children, and there were a surprisingly high number of under-fives on this flight, were handed tin pencil cases with crayons, a game, and lanyard with airberlin “IDs.” It was the perfect distraction for my least favorite part of the flight when you’re in the air, but still can’t unbuckle your seat belt.

The next 7.5 hours in air passed mostly without event – except for the migraine turning the inside of my head into jelly. I kept it to myself until I just couldn’t. So there you go, sometimes the problem on the flight is the grown-up.

Baby takes Switzerland: Zürich

We took advantage of our inability to get a direct flight to Bern by stopping for a few hours in Zürich. Its just the right size for an afternoon visit – not so big that we felt overwhelmed with choices, but not so small that we had nothing to do. We were still a little dazed by our early wake-up call (and the 7CHF cups of coffee), so spent some time just sitting by the river while we planned our day.

The view wasn’t so bad.

 

I only needed to see two things: the Chagall windows in the Fraumünster and Rodin’s “Gates of Hell” at the Kunsthaus.  You can see the Fraumünster and its famous windows  in the above photo (its in the middle), but unfortunately photos were not allowed inside.  I’ve been so spoiled by my Jahreskarte (a pass for all Berlin’s state museums) that I didn’t want to pay the 14CHF it takes to go into the museum. Luckily, this Rodin piece was right outside.

And, of course, there was also a visit to the original Sprüngli for the first of many, many confiserie consumed on our five day trip. Jon made the first selection, something called a Kirschtraum, a “cherry dream.”

We just called it “yum.”  There is also a branch of Sprüngli in Bern, which I happily visited two more times before going home.

And what was our little Mäuschen during while we wandered Zürich? She happily accepted our bribe  offer of a flower in exchange for getting to push her around in her stroller.

Well, sort of happily.

You can find my other posts about Switzerland here, here, and here.

Baby takes Switzerland: Bern

With only two weeks in Europe to go we hopped on a plane and went off to Switzerland.

Die Schweiz! La Suisse! La Svizzera!

The morning of the trip, we had to wake up at 4:30. I was dreading waking up S, dreading what I was sure would be shrieking and tossing and turning and general toddler unhappiness. Dreading that it would transfer to the plane and that I’d have to face the other passengers. So I walk into her room, sit on the edge of her bed and whisper, “it’s me. Let’s get up” and as I reach out to pat her hair she suddenly sat up, straight as a board and said,

“We go! On a big trip! It DARK outside! S go outside!”

And that was that.

It wasn’t all fun. Jon was presenting at a conference, and S and I just went along for the ride. The conference was in Neuchâtel, but Neuchâtel is très petit, so unlike the other brainiacs we stayed in the nearby Hauptstadt, Bern.

Bern was the perfect choice. It’s large enough to give one plenty to do, but small enough to do it all on foot. Our favorite part was the Bärenpark – I was prepared to be very upset by the pits, but a few years ago the city created a new and much larger habitat on the river.

This bear was taking a dip in one of the original pits while the riverside habitat was getting cleaned up.

and here’s S playing in one of the original pits.

Some highlights from Bern:

Café Fédéral, Bärenplatz 31 – This french restaurant couldn’t have been better. The food was everything you’d expect from a nice place AND they were kinderfreundlich. The restraint even happily promotes the bringing of children right on their website. What!? Are we still in Europe?

Confiserie Tschirren, Kramgasse 73 – Our favorite place to stop for chocolate.

Kleine Schanze – A little park near the train station. S and I would pick up a picnic lunch at Globus or Loeb and then go here to argue about whether or not those mountains were “The Sound of Music” mountains. There is no winning with a two year old.

Grüzi aus der Schweiz!

Please excuse the radio blog silence. Like everyone else, wir machen Urlaub. Unlike everyone else we were crazy enough to do it a week before moving back to the States.

The little one is being absolutely ausgezeichnet, but I’m afraid that she confused next week’s move with this week’s trip and now “S wiv in Swizzzerland, eat schoko, pway on da mountain sing da Sound of Music?” is a pretty regular refrain.

Forget trying to tell her “The Sound of Music” was set in Austria. She can see the mountains and she knows what’s what. Also, she’s two.

Pictures of very green Bern and very french Neuchâtel as soon as I’m reunited with the appropriate cords. And, of course, a post about language ’cause Schwyzerdeutsch is….shudder.

bis später!

baby takes…Lübeck

…but Lübeck very nearly almost took baby.

First, here is a picture of one of the best moments of our trip.

The very beginning, waiting on the sidewalk for the chartered busses to come and whisk us away. The busses that would take six hours to take us on what should have been a three hour trip. Little S managed the trip with only that “schoko ‘ssant,” the rice cakes I planned for what should have been a reasonable journey, and water. I believe the word “trooper” would not be misused here.

We didn’t plan the trip. It was planned for us and it was free, so I can’t shouldn’t complain too much. So instead of the details, here are some pictures of the Hansestadt (Lübeck was the capital of the Hanseatic League, a partnership of merchants cities).

Holstentor und S und ich

We’re barely holding it together in that picture.

We decided to blow off the schedule handed to us at check-in and wander around.

It rained off and on for most of the trip, but the sun mercifully came out on the last day. Perfect for one last stroll before heading to the train station where we purchased our own tickets home…

because sometimes you get what you pay for.

Friederisiko

We used the excuse of returning a pile of library books to the library at UniPotsdam to give visiting a palace mit dem Kind  a try. Even though I have yet to make it inside Sanssouci, this trip was devoted to “Friederisiko,” an exhibition celebrating the 300th anniversary of Frederick the Great’s birthday as well as the completion of the renovations on his pet project,  Das Neue Palais.

S LOVED the “Printheth House” and yes, we’re apparently in that stage now. We didn’t have the heart to tell her it was actually for a king. The entrance to the exhibit is by timed tickets, which I was a bit nervous about, but turned out not to be a big deal. There was some miscommunication over the stroller with the women running the info-desk giving us the OK, while the docents at the door turned us back to the Garderobe. There wasn’t room for it anyway. Raised, purple paths have been laid over the original flooring for added protection as well as a way to guide visitors through the exhibit. Step off it and you’ll be the target of some good, ol’ German scolding.

In addition to the path, the palace has been divided into easy to digest pieces – Mode, Spiel, Essen & Trinken, etc – with wonderful results. I kept whispering to Jon how much more I liked it than Versailles, which is something of a cattle-call. There is also a daily violin concert, giving us our first chance to expose S to live music. She was perfectly behaved, except for when she shouted “HI!” to the violinist. It was beyond adorable.

Now that I know how much she loves them, I think trips to Schloß Charlottenburg and Sansoucci are in order ASAP.

PS: I love how Germans celebrate their cultural figures. Because its Frederick the Great’s 300th, we’re having a Friedrich-Jahr, a Year of Frederick. Last year was the 200th anniversary of writer Heinrich von Kleist’s death, so it was a Kleist-Jahr. Probably too nerdy for the states…

Baby takes Edinburgh

Hello blog. Its feels like its been such a long time since I sat down to tap out our day to day adventures. I can partly blame this on a family visit, the baby’s birthday and, of course-something I’ll get to n a minute, our trip to Edinburgh. But really, I blame allergies. Allergies, you say? How bad can allergies be in a big city? Well, Reader, if you have never been to Germany, you have no idea. Berlin is an especially green city with hundreds of naturally-landscape (ie: wild looking) spaces dotted throughout the Hauptstadt. Its lovely, really. At least from what I can tell from my bleary, red eyes.

With pollen season in full swing and not a single Claritin-D in sight (seriously, what do I have to do to get my doctor to prescribe a decongestant?), I was overjoyed to head to Scotland and, more importantly, Boots. Have you ever been to a Boots? Its a lot like an american-style drugstore, but with nicer cosmetics. To someone who’s been living in Germany for eight months, it was the promised land. We bought Sudafed! Wonderful, wonderful Sudafed.

But I’m getting away from myself and my very happy topic. This was my first trip to the UK, something I’ve been looking forward to for as long as I can remember. I’m only sorry we couldn’t do more. Even though it rained and snowed (snowed!), S and I went out everyday (Jon was speaking at a conference). We walked up and down the Royal Mile, went shopping in New Town and made pilgrimage to Harvey Nicks, and ran around town taking pictures of as many literary stars as we could. The Sir Walter Scott memorial was particularly impressive.

I was particularly impressed with our hotel, StayCity Edinburgh. The rooms are apartment-style and absolutely perfect for traveling with kids. I don’t really like renting short-term apartments, because I don’t like the feeling of living in a stranger’s home and sleeping in a stranger’s bed. This hotel was a happy compromise. Everything was new and we somehow lucked out and got a room with a huge terrace.

Some other highlights:

Edinburgh Castle – The jewel in the crown of Edinburgh sights and the home of the Scottish crown jewels. See what I did there? Yeah, it was bad, I know. There has been a settlement on Castle Hill since before the Romans. A great stop if you love history.

The Red Door Gallery – 42 Victoria Street, Old Town – A sweet gallery and design shop. I wanted to buy everything.

Armstrongs – 81-83 Grassmarket, Old Town – I usually don’t have the patience for second-hand/vintage stores, but this one is organized nicely. It something of an Edinburgh institution.

Mum’s Comfort Food – 4a Forest Road – British comfort food at its artery clogging best.

air berlin

One of the wonderful things about living in Europe is how easily we can travel from one amazing city to another. So far, we’ve done most of our traveling with the Deutsche Bahn or major, national airlines. I’ve heard a lot of bad things about the budget carriers (who hasn’t) and was worried that the usual difficulties and annoyances would be expounded tenfold with a baby. Then I found a really good deal on tickets to Barcelona…on airberlin.

And when the choice is between doing something amazing and staying home its hard to say “nein.”

I was a little worried leading up to the flight. Jon assured me that airberlin, being German, would be ordentlich. He was right. In some ways airberlin was no worse than any other airline and in some ways it was a little better.

Case in point: the baby kit

baby kit

The flight attendant handed us this along with the seat belt adapter for lap babies (Since S is two months shy of 2 years, we were able to take her along without buying her a seat) with a very pleasant, “Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.” Inside there was a diaper,  six pack of wipes, and a little rattle. Why an airline would willfully give anyone a noise-making device is beyond me, but it bought us some time after the novelty of the plane wore off. There was another toy for S on the way out: a beach ball.

Two weeks later and she still loves that beach ball.

According to the website, each destination has its own themed toy. We didn’t get one on the way home – maybe because they knew we were homebound? I was a little  bummed, because I was really curious about what it might be. In general, the way home wasn’t as pleasant. We were tired.  We got snapped at a little by the crew, but I try not to take it personally. We were going back to Germany after all – pleasant service is not really their forte – and it was still nicer than many other flights mit kind. 

Traveling without the eye-rolling and the tight-lipped smiles, the looks that say, “if she so much as lets one hair out of place” is really a dream. And you know what? The flights we were able to board without the looks and sneers, when the other passengers lefts us alone and the flight attendants greeted us like everyone else? Those were the easy flights. Flying with airberlin was easy.

and maybe the beach ball didn’t hurt.

**It should go without saying (this is just a little, tiny blog), but this post was absolutely NOT sponsored in any way. We were just relieved to have a pleasant flight on a budget. **