And then there was Hamburg

Getting to explore so many new cities was great. But one city stood out from the others as we made our vacation plans.

Hamburg.
Not because of any certain landmarks or sightseeing or anything like that. No, it was because of some very special friends. Some of our friends from Atlanta are now living there, friends we hadn’t seen in close to two years.
I have to say it was like Christmas morning for me. Watching the hours and then minutes tick off the GPS. Pulling up to their street and seeing three of them standing on the corner, waving us in. Getting out of the car and looking up on the balcony to see one of my best friends standing there (and then running down to greet us). And the hugs. It had been too long. And yet once we were back together, it was as if no time had passed.
The kids immediately fell into playing like normal. And we fell into conversations with people who know us, understand us… and still like us!
For an entire week we lived together, cooked together, ate together, explored together, laughed together, and chilled together. It was a week I will never forget, and just what we needed. I’m incredibly grateful that God has allowed our friendship to continue to grow despite the distance between us. And we look forward to them coming to visit us in Norway at some point!

Exploring Köln/Cologne

As I mentioned in our last post (here), our first stop on our trip to Germany was Dusseldorf. We went there to visit some of our colleagues. They invited us to make the short drive with them to Cologne.And we are so glad we did! We were only there for a few hours, but we had the chance to tour the cathedral. A giant amongst its neighboring architecture, it was hit numerous times but managed to survive the bombings of WWII. Many war experts and reports suggest that it was not specifically attacked because it served as a very visible landmarks for finding other locations that were to be hit.

We didn’t see a lot more than that. We managed to get our obligatory Starbucks city mug, and had lunch at Hard Rock Cafe (wow, we sound like typical American tourists!). But it was a fun afternoon getting to see yet another beautiful part of one of our favorite countries.

 

 

 

Road Trip: getting there


While travel throughout Europe is generally quite easy, Norway isn’t exactly the easiest country to navigate from. Most trips require either a plane ride (so thankful for inexpensive local airlines!), or at the least a ferry to get you going.Our recent road trip to Germany began with a ferry ride. We drove just south to Larvik, and took the ferry to Hirtschals in Denmark. It was an early morning for us, leaving the house just after 6:00. The ferry journey was almost 4 hours, but a sweet friend gave us free tickets that included reserved seats.

What’s even better is the seats were like business class seats on an airplane, comfy and with lots of space. Complete with personal screens for television and movies, free headphones, and complimentary self-serve snacks and drinks: it was a treat! Add to that some cool duty-free shops to explore, and those four hours went by rather quickly.

Made it to Germany!

The idea of getting to drive through a new country (first time in Denmark!) was exciting. The reality? Not so much. While the speed limit was a bit higher than Norway’s very conservative 100 or 110 kph, there was very little to see along the way.

Once into Germany, we still had quite a few hours ahead of us. Of course as I mentioned before (see post here), Zack enjoyed finally getting to drive on the autobahn. But still, a lot of driving will wear you out!

Our first stop was Dusseldorf, and we arrived at the hostel around 9:00 at night. We were exhausted and glad to have finally made it.

Back to School

My primary goal for my sons is not that they live a comfortable, safe, easy life. No, I want them to be challenged and stretched, I want them to experience things and grow from those experience.But at the same time, I do want them to be happy. With all of the changes and adjustments they’ve dealt with in their short lives, a certain sense of comfort isn’t a bad thing.

And when I see them comfortable and happy, it is an encouragement for this momma’s heart!

That is what I saw last Thursday morning, as they returned to their school for a third year (this will be their second full year). They are in a familiar environment, where they are known and cared for. They enjoy school, and they have teachers who challenge them and help them reach their potential. They aren’t seen as a number, and they are encouraged to develop at a pace that suits each of them, without going too easy on them.

As I’ve said before, I’ve learned that when my kids are thriving in this expat life, it makes everything easier.

First day of school after arriving in Norway
Daniel: Grade 1, William: Grade 4

 

First day of school 2013
Daniel: Grade 2, William: Grade 5

 

First day of school 2014
Daniel: Grade 3, William: Grade 6

 

Autobahn

Leaving Denmark and entering Germany

That’s one more check off of Zack’s bucket list!

Our recent trip to Germany was by car and by boat. We drove to a neighboring city, took a ferry from Norway to Denmark, then made our way south and into Germany.
And driving in Germany means taking the autobahn (German highway). While many sections have speed limits, you do come across quite a few stretches where there is not an official limit, only a suggested speed of 130 kmh (@81 mph).
It is surprising how quickly a car can sneak up on you from behind – you’d best be using your rear view mirror! Zack found a couple of more open areas without much traffic, and proceeded to see what our little car could do. We saw 160 once, and then resumed our position among the ‘lesser automobiles’ in the center or right lane. Often we could feel our car shake a bit as a Maserati, Porsche, Ferrari or other high-end vehicle would speed past.Have you ever driven on the autobahn?

What is something on your bucket list that you hope to accomplish soon?