Friday, March 11, 2011

Finally, Germany & Boston Blog Completed

Day 6 – Garmisch / Wednesday
After a long emotional night, George and I had no tours planned, so we took a walk around Garmisch. We stopped at a local restaurant, and had some Goulash. It seems the Germans are not only partial to their Schnitzels; they are big on their Goulash. It was pretty good… for being something I had never eaten before. We took a leisurely walk around the area, but quite honestly, it all looks about the same as any downtown area. Lots of stores, little “mom & pop” restaurants and people out and about.

The one thing we did take note of was that the Germans are an active group of people. Between their walking around, and Cross Country Skiing everywhere, they stay out doors and active even in the coldest of temperatures.
It was a quaint little town and very much a relaxing day. That evening we ate at the restaurant down stairs where we had some great steak and Grilled Salmon. It was definitely a grade “A” dinner.

In preparations for the day to come we stayed indoors and relaxed for the upcoming adventure tomorrow, Nueschwanstein Castle. 

Day 7 – Walt Disney Castle/Church/wood maker / Thursday

Today, we were booked on a tour to the Walt Disney Castle. Enroute to the tour (which left about 0900) we stopped at a little Wood Maker shop. This is also a very big business in Germany. We stopped and picked up some souvenirs for my parents and Uncle Ron & Aunt Katie. Then onward to the Walt Disney Castle.

When we arrived, we arrived in this cute little town, that really, you could drive through it in a matter of minutes, but boy it was built “up.” Not only was the Disney castle way up on the hill, down below where we started was a great little Restaraunt, some souvenir shops and just to the right was another big castle, said to be the “Father’s Castle.” It was quite beautiful, although we did not get to tour it. It seemed as if it were just as large (at least looking at it from a distance) as the Nueschwanstein Castle.

Once we got off the bus (there was about 12 of us on this tour.. we headed up this long windy road, uphill the whole way to get to the top of the hill, and see the Castle. It was about a 20 minute hike up.. but once we got to the top, the views were immaculate. The Castle seemed smaller – up close – than it did from afar.. but was beautiful none the less. We took some pics.. and then finished our way to the entrance of the Castle. We visited several of the rooms in the Castle – to include the Galley area down below – but unfortunately, do to copyright laws, there were no photos inside, allowed. We snuck in a few photos here and there (flash off) but nothing compared to what it really looked like inside.

Following the hour tour, or so, we headed back down the hill, to eat at the local restaurant. Again, Schnitzels, Goulash, Lamb – the things I had seen most often at the local establishments.. It was pretty great! After lunch with 12 or so of our closest friends now, we headed back towards Edelweiss. It was definitely one of those places where it was a great tour – but just like anything else, it becomes a “Been there, Done that.” It wasn’t as grand as I thought it would be, but definitely beautiful and some awesome photo opportunities from the outside.
We arrived back at the Resort about 1600.. where the rest of the night was ours.
Now, because we had no other tours planned for a couple days, George and I put together a plan to take the train to Paris for a day. We had one more tour during this trip, but it wasn’t until Sunday morning, and here we were only Thursday.
So, tomorrow, was going to be a down day, until that evening, where we would try to make our way to Paris.. again.. the journey continues

Day 8/9 – laundry/PX/chill out /Paris - Friday/Saturday

Because we knew today would be a down day, we did some laundry, went to the PX to buy some miscellaneous goods and waited for the evening. The plan was to catch a midnight train from Garmisch to Munich, and then a 0300 from Munich to Paris – to arrive about 0930 in Paris. This was definitely going to be a test of our stamina, our communication skills, and patience. Neither of us spoke French.. All I could remember was some miscellaneous stuff Katrina taught me, since she has taken French in High school for the last couple years. I had already been tested on my German skills (which I took for 3 years in high school.. ) but.. coupled with the Spanish I took in college – it got a little confusing now and then, to separate which language I was using, at what time.. you’ll understand that more later.

Evening time came and George and I packed up a small overnight bag, and headed out by taxi to the train station.. excited, nervous and anxious. This was definitely an adventurous journey neither of us had ever experienced.. it would be great!
About 11 pm we arrived at Munich and tried to decipher our way thru the ticket machine, to get a ticket to Munich, and then the follow on ticket to Paris. All these machines are in German, so again, my skills, and memory were being tested to the max.

We successfully purchased our tickets and just waited for the train to arrive. When we finally got on the train to Munich – my language skills screwed me – but became a great joke for Geo and I both.. the Train conductor asked me something, to wit I replied in the best German I could, then he asked me a questions and I answered with “Si” vice Yes.. LOL – Yes.. Spanish invaded on my speech skills that day.. Geo got a great laugh out of it, as did I. BUT the best is yet to come.
Throughout this journey and week, Because George did not know any German (besides a few key phrases Uncle Ron and Aunt Katie wrote down for him, he created his own language.. it became one only him and I would get.. LOL
Everything he wanted to say in German usually began with Guten.. (the real German word for “Good”)

So, it became Guten Tired.. Guten Hungry.. you get the point.
Back to the story.. we made it, in about an hour and a half to Munich, where we had to wait for a few hours for the ICE Train to Paris (it’s just a faster, more comfortable train) since it’s a longer journey.

We went upstairs this HUGE train station (Central Train Station for them) where I ate the Burger King. He went to a little stand (downstairs) and grabbed a Snitzchel or something, then brought it up, where we sat and ate, waiting. As the night grew on, so did our weariness. We were tired.. it had been a long day, and here it was about 1-2am. This was going to be an “all-nighter” for us..

We went into a little waiting room, where there were several people sitting, sleeping and waiting, but it was in a confined space, so it was warmer – but also stinkier.. LOL As we both began to get overly sleepy, everything became funny, and we sat in that room for at least an hour, laughing at everything we said and saw.. (including the 2 young guys that walked in with some type of GOAT HEAD masks on? Yea.. we don’t know either.. but he dared me to walk by and go.. Baaa Baaa… yea.. we were really laughing our butts off at the Baaaa Baaa jokes.. which to no one else would even seem remotely funny.

You could tell we were getting loopy. Finally, the ICE train we would be taking arrived – where we could board, and wait for departure. This train, we would be on – I think for 3 hours, then we transferred to another train.. can’t quite remember if we were on that same train the whole time.. but somehow think we transferred somewhere in between..

BUT, for the best part of this train ride, and as the start of our loopiness started.. as the train departed, the conductor was making rounds, checking people’s tickets. George, in his habitual “Guten everything..” made the funniest remark of all time, without even thinking.. As the conductor checked our tickets, and started to walk away – the appropriate response would have been “Guten Tag” or “Aufweiderzehn” (Sp) for Good day or Goodbye.. What rolls off his tongue was “Guten Tight”

Yes.. we rolled laughing for hours on that one.. OMGosh.. and of course it’s the middle of the night, we are exhausted – and haven’t even began the day in Paris yet- so in our sleepiness, we laughed our butts off.

Once we could finally control ourselves, we decided to try and nap some, so we could enjoy Paris, without being overly tired. After some catnapping here and there, we finally arrived in Paris about 0930. OMGosh.. we were in PARIS FRANCE.. WOW! How awesome was that, we were able to just jump on a train, and end up in Paris.. it was unbelievably exciting.

So there we were… in Paris.. at their Central Station. We made our way to the front and hailed a Taxi.. simply saying – Eifel Tower.. Fortunately, our driver spoke a little English and took us straight to where we needed to be. We go to the Eifel Tower after about a 10 minute taxi ride, and were in awe at the beautiful site before us. We were standing now, at the base of the Tower.

We saw many beautiful buildings and structures enroute, but this took the cake. We got in the line to take the elevator up and go to the top of the Eifel Tower. It was cold, windy and unfortunately overcast that day in Paris. But, we made it to the top, where we took pictures all the way around. It was beautiful.
We were on a limited schedule that day – because our train home left at about 1530 that day.. and it was already 1000.

So, we got to the top and did our sightseeing. It, again, was like going to the Empire State Building, which George and I had done in 2002 – once you been there, seen that, the excitement was anti-climactic. But, beautiful nonetheless. We decided to head down, so we could do some walking around. We got in the elevator down, and about half way down from the top – our elevator slipped and dropped suddenly, before being caught by the emergency break. The bad part was, we were squished in to this elevator with barely any breathing room, literally. If you breathed, and your chest expanded, it would graze up against the person next to you – and unfortunately George and I were not next to each other in this elevator.. NOW, this was not the first time this had happened to us.. just the day before, in the elevator in Edelweiss, on our way to the laundry room, the elevator slipped, then stopped, then made its way to the basement.. it was quite the experience.. BUT being so high up, in the Eifel Tower, squished in like sardines, this was quite scary. As the elevator resumed, once again, it slipped, and abruptly halted, jostling us all, yet again; and now, we were a little terrified.. LOL

Finally, we slowly made our way down to the ground, with no more incidents, but thankful to be on safe ground. After getting off the elevator – we almost wanted to kiss the ground!

After our nerves got back in check, we made our way out and started walking back towards the train station, doing some sightseeing along the way. We didn’t quite realize how far the walk was, but, it was a great journey. We probably walked 5 miles back toward the downtown area, where there were plenty of shops to find some souvenirs and stop in the local Starbucks (for a pit stop). We ended up hailing a taxi, for the remainder of the way to Central Station after a whirlwind tour of the town back from the Eifel Tower.

When we arrived back at the station, by that time, my feet (being in my Paris Chique boots all day) were throbbing! So we stopped in a store in the central station (which was set up more like a mall..) and we found a couple pairs of shoes for me.. some cute little comfy boots and slippers (flats).. they were a GOD Send.. and of course, George found them, on the sale rack.. and now, not only could I let my feet heal from all the walking.. I would forever have two pairs of shoes from Paris France!!

Once back at the station, we had some lunch, and prepared to board our train back to Munich.

We boarded our train, exhausted, and ready for some sleep.. the train ride back to Munich was uneventful, and I think we slept on and off most the way. All in all, we didn’t arrive back to Edelweiss until about 1130/12 at night.
Tomorrow, a tour planned to the Dachau Concentration Camp was going to be the highlight of our tours in Germany. So, as exhausted as we were, we slept hard that night, in preps for another early morning tour.

Night 10 – Concentration Camp (Sunday)

Today, we made our way out early to the lobby, in preps for the tour to the concentration camp. There were only 8 of us on this tour today, which meant some great time with the Guide, to give us really good historical lessons.
We took the bus out to the camp, and when we arrived at the gate of the camp, it was definitely a little humbling.

I took German in high school, and got very interested in history while studying the Ann Frank Diary and the WWII history. This trip to Germany was one that I had longed for – for 20 years, and this, this concentration camp, the history behind it, is what sparked my interest in history.

We toured this camp, and discovered there were more than 500 camps like it (a bit smaller) all over Germany. We saw pictures, rooms, cells and monuments which both brought extreme sadness and empathy – for what those millions of people suffered through. It was definitely a slap in the face with reality.

We spent about 6 hours touring the camp, looking at the cells, looking at the Crematorium that was still there, the one they used all those years ago.. and the Gas Chamber- that was always denied – in its existence.

It was a surreal tour. We all left with a definite new knowledge of what really occurred there in Dachau many years ago. The tour was definitely worth it.
After we arrived back home, we had our dinner, and again chilled out. Uploaded our pictures, discussed what we saw and just relaxed.

That evening was the Super Bowl, so we got our junk food (pizza, hot wings, fries, etc.) from Zuggys Bar and Grill downstairs, took it to our room, and watched the beginning of the Super bowl.

Neither of us made it thru the super bowl, due to the time change, it was well after midnight before it kicked in to full force and probably about 230 before it ended.. I did, however, wake up in the middle of the night, clicked on the news – just in time to see the celebration of the Super bowl Champs!!

Night 11 – Chill out day

Today, was kind of a grim day. We both knew that tomorrow George would be departing. So we spent the day just chilling out, and packing up his stuff, to head out early in the morning to the train station. I decided to go out to Munich, to drop him off, rather than sending him out by himself. So, today was just going to be a day of spending some quality time together, and enjoying the last day of his vacation.

Night 12 – Geo departs – trip to Munich

We got up early (I think about 530) to head towards the train station and make it to Munich in time to get to the Airport for his flight. We arrived in Munich and took the train to the Airport, where we got him checked in, and then sat and chatted for a bit, before he had to go thru security. It was definitely bitter sweet, but George was starting a new job the next day, and so we had no choice but to get him back today. He was in for a long flight, (which those of you that know him.. he hates to fly) but I think he will agree, the trip was worth the flight!

After he went through security, I made my way back to the train station area to get to Munich Central Station and then back to Edelweiss. It was a very long journey home for me, by myself, with some great reflection time on the last week or so.
George and I have had many adventures in the last 10 years, but this by far, was the best. The best quality time, intimate time, and fun we had ever had. I think we both can agree to that. Barring details, we were able to reconnect, and renew our friendship, as well as the love we had for each other for so many years.

It was a great experience, and new beginning for second chances. One day at a time, we will see where this leads us. Hopefully, with the lessons learned, the history we have, and the past mistakes, we have learned from those mistakes and maybe make this second chance, far better than the first. So far, it’s off to a great beginning.

After a couple of days of really doing nothing, after George left – beyond trips to the exchange, and the post office to mail off most of my civilian clothes, I was heading to Boston, MA for a training exercise in Ft Devens.

I arrived in Boston, where I was met by Dirk. (ET1 Smith) from the Davis.. IT was nice to see a familiar face in the states, and very nice to be back in the US – if only for a few days. Dirk and Lidia both were supposed to meet me, but she was at home preparing for a wedding trip they were making, so it was just him and I. He met me not far from the gate, where we headed to baggage claim and then he went with me to get my rental car. That was a weird thing for me, as well. It had been 9 months since I had driven.. so it was a little nerve racking.. but exciting! Once we got my rental car – we went back to the airport (since he was parked there) grabbed some lunch, caught up on the last couple years– and then we headed our separate ways so I could make my way to Ft Devens.

As I made my way to Ft Devens, having no idea where it was, I had to call George to help guide me a bit, even though I had a GPS.. LOL But, it was nice to have his company while I was making this drive – to a place I had never been.

It took about an hour, but I arrived at Ft Devens, and fortunately, my hotel was literally 2 minutes from the base I would be going to – to teach at for Silver Scimitar (A Casualty Exercise for Army Personnel). After settling in to my room, I turned on the TV and was so happy to see that most all channels were in ENGLISH.. LOL Wi-Fi was fast, and my cell phone worked – and was not roaming!! LOL
It really is the little things in life.. A bedroom to myself, a TV with all the programs I am used to seeing, and the comforts of home.. in the states.
I spent 3 days at Silver Scimitar – about 10 hours or so day, teaching an average of 7 to 71/2 hours a day. I taught the active and reserve soldiers about Casualty Reporting in Theater – the reality of it. There are always by the book policies, but being in theater, and where I work, we are headquarters for Afghanistan reporting, so we set the standard and the policy. I taught them what we expect, what we see and the horrors of what you could be subjected to, if you worked at one of the major hospitals (Kandahar Role III or Bagram Role III Hospital). These are the locations were the most urgent, critically injured are sent, whether to get treated there, or to eventually move further out of the theater to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Germany. This is the hub for US military members that are injured or deceased. They all move to LRMC enroute home (to the states).

Anyhow, I taught 3 lessons a day to different folks, and gave the realistic view, to include some emotional moments I have experienced, since being in theater. Fortunately, the leadership appreciated and enjoyed the lessons enough to invite me to Silver Scimitar lite in August.

On day 4 of my trip to Ft Devens, I was able to spend the day with two of my counterparts from Kuwait (my headquarters for Casualty Reporting) and walk the Boston Trail. This historical trail throughout town took us to many different sites – to include the USS Constitution. Our first venture in Boston that day, was the CHEERs though, y'know, the one from the sitcom.

It was a great tour and a great way to wind down my trip to Boston, before heading back to Theater.

The following morning, I headed back to Boston, to start my trip back to Afghanistan. I had to travel in uniform, because I would be traveling enroute Atlanta – where I would be picking up a rotator back to Kuwait, then onward to Afghanistan.

As I got to Boston airport, and sat in the waiting area, I was approached by a man, who asked me what seat I was in.. I told him my seat number and he explained that he wanted to swap seats with me. He then told me he was in First Class. WOW. I was amazed at the hospitality and the graciousness. He told me the only stipulation was that I had to drink (since drinking was free – for First Class).. of course, I agreed.

After my flight from Boston to DC– I caught a connecting flight to Atlanta. Once in Atlanta, I waited with several other military members for the rotator flight back to Kuwait.

Once in Kuwait, we processed our papers, grabbed our gear, and were booked on a follow on flight to Bagram the next day. Fortunately my travels back were pretty smooth. Bagram the next day.. then the following day back to NKC. Home sweet temporary home, again. What a great trip, overall, and nice to have time away from NKC!

After arriving back at NKC, it really took about 8 days to get my sleep schedule back on track. I had major issues with not being able to sleep or sleeping only until about 3 am.. this made for long days, and even longer nights. I was given some Melatonin pills by Trisha – which for those 4 days I took them, I slept so well, and woke up in such a great mood! It was amazing!! After I stopped taking them, though, my body went back to its horrible cycle, and although I was sleeping, I have been tossing and turning.

This last week has been the worst! It has been really busy in my casualty world with soldiers dying, due to suicides, accidental/negligent discharges, etc. The accidental discharge was done just 6 hours prior to both SM (the one who died, and his best friend that accidentally shot him) were due to be a on a plane home. They were done with their deployment. It is very sad and has haunted me.
This week, I have also found out that the owners of my house are moving back in, and therefore I need to move by July. This was our desire anyhow, but, now it’s a requirement. So, we have been house hunting (actually, my parents have been doing the research for me..)

I am on the downward slope.. less than 2 months.. and truly ready to be done. It has been a trying week, I am tired and all the casualties are starting to haunt me.. I’m just tired and ready to get home to my family! Can’t wait!

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