This summer we took a big vacation to Europe. It was Bob's first trip but I have been several times, even as recently as 2 years ago, to visit family in Germany.

I don't want to make this too long and drawn out or no one will read it so I'm just going to throw out a few highlights. We started the trip in Hamburg, Germany with my Tante Irmgard. We did all the basic Hamburg events, St. Michaelis church, Harbor tour, Reeperbahn/St. Pauli which my little guide tells me is the "entertainment" district, it's a little seedier than that but also the site where the Beatles started out. We also went to the Fischmarkt which is Hamburg's oldest market, licensed since 1703. Totally fun. You can get everything from the run-of-the-mill swap meet junk (sunglasses, hats, t-shirts) to fresh fish, a live chicken or duck, flowers -- anything you can think of. It was wild.

St. Michels View

Irmgard took us on a day trip to the north through Schleswig-Holstein up to the island of SYLT (prounouced sort-of like 'zoolt') in the North Sea. To get there you take this train (Autozug) which is like a ferry. The bus drove up on the train. It costs roughly $81 to take your car to Sylt this way -- a way to control traffic I suppose. Sylt is the vacation spot of the rich and famous. The tour guide said it costs about 1000 DM per square meter to build a house on the island. From there the tour took a regular boat ferry to Denmark and drove to the east to the Baltic sea and the town of Sonderberg. From there another ferry and then back on the road to Hamburg.

We did our first train experience and went to Berlin. We bought Europasses good for 7 days of train travel. In Berlin, we met up with Irmgard's friends Lotte and Manfred who took us around for the day. There has never been a better time to be a crane owner or operator in Germany. Everywhere you looked there were fields of cranes. Berlin is one giant construction site. We loved Berlin, next time we'd like to spend more time there. On the way home we decided to check out the food car on the train. Our train went from Hamburg to Budapest -- Bob had an excellent Hungarian meal -- who would have thought a train would serve such yummy food.

Let met stop here for a moment to make a comment on our hosts. Nothing makes my Tante Irmgard happier than to see you eat and eat and eat. She would always prepare about three times what I would ever eat in one sitting and give me these looks of disappointment when I was done eating. You have never been fed so thoroughly or ruthlessly in your entire life. It sounds whiny and ungrateful, but you can't appreciate it until you've experienced it. Even if we said we weren't hungry or thirsty there was always something to eat or drink put in front of us. Lotte and Manfred were just as attentive. After awhile, it can drive you insane.

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Posted: 4.24.99