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In which SWBO channels her inner Mrs. Brady.

View of castle and Rhine River from hike (Bonn, Germany)

View of castle and Rhine River from hike (Bonn, Germany)

Teams Hanoi and Saigon get ready for one of the trickiest challenges yet.  One impartial seventeen year old Finn will join the raggle taggle band for many, many days.  She has only ever met one person in the group and that three years ago.  As such, she should be called Braveheart but, by choice, her name is Ninjaturtle.  She will eat, sleep and sightsee with them.  She will squish into the extra seat in the van now that the schlepping-stroller has been ditched and will travel for hours, days, maybe even weeks on end.  Members of both teams will try their best to keep it together and at the end of the journey, Ninjaturtle will declare a winning team based on which is most normal.  Let the A to Z edition of the Hunger Games begin!!!

Ninjaturtle

Ninjaturtle

But first where to put the damn bikes?  Who authorized this purchase?  Bike racks for a van with no hitch are much too expensive so the only option is the roof.  Too bad the van is so tall.  Luckily, we have a lot of helpers willing to stand on the roof while we pile on the bikes.  We had originally hoped to breed the two bikes together so we could eventually have baby bikes for each of the children but I think we will have to revisit that plan.  To say our van is FULLY loaded would be a gross understatement.

And talking about gross – this whole “pay for a pee” thing is ridiculous.  We stopped at a gas station on the highway and they had this elaborate turnstile system to ensure that each person paid 50 euro cents to urinate.  Couldn’t they just have saved the money on the turnstile and offered free toilets?  I wasn’t going to pay 4 euros (8 x 50 cents) so we all marched out of there.  Yes, I did this with the full knowledge that I would lose points in the normalcy challenge just two hours in.  We drove 15 minutes to a Burger King.  Fahbio and I enjoyed free medium lattés with the money we saved.  I’m hoping that Superninjagirl noticed what I did there.  Note to self – next time bribe her with a FPC* as well.

*FPC = free pee coffee

The reason we are on this mad dash from Amsterdam to Zagreb is that Amsterdam is in the Schengen and Zagreb is out.  What is this Schengen?  Don’t get me started.  Schengen countries are all European countries EXCEPT UK, Ireland, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro.  Romania and Bulgaria are also currently out but set to join any time.  As a Canadian (i.e. non-Schengen citizen) we can only stay is the Schengen area for a total of 90 out of any 180 days.  That is 90 combined days in all those countries.  When you leave the Schengen (e.g. you go to Wales), you don’t get another 90 days.  You simply keep counting from where you left off.  If you used up 89 days before you left, you still only have 1 day left when you re-enter.  Penalties for overstaying can be severe: hefty fines and bans on coming back to the Schengen.  If you think you can just get a visa, think again.  The rules for visas are very strict and visas cost over 100 euros per person.  The internet is rife with horror stories about over-staying as well as tips on which countries have stricter or more favourable penalties for over-staying.  Personally, I don’t want to risk it.  Unfortunately, with seven people travelling in and out for eight months, the calculations are horrendous so I am keeping a detailed chart on graph paper.  On the plus side, if we do screw up and overstay, the officials will have a really hard time figuring it out.

Old school Schengen calculator

Old school Schengen calculator

We stopped for gas, a few groceries and another free pee.  One of our favourite things of all is to hit the grocery aisles and find weird (to us) stuff.  Recently we’ve hit paydirt because FIFA fever is bringing out bizarre “treats” that the masterminds of snacking have spent the last four years inventing, tasting, testing, and refining.  We left Holland where EVERYTHING was covered in thick orange icing and entered Germany where the first thing we saw were limited edition jumbo packs of red-and-yellow-only peanut M&Ms.

In the running for weirdest chip flavour...

In the running for weirdest chip flavour…

We arrive at a wonderful CS (I am forced to use the acronym since I promised not to mention this form of accommodation again) in Bonn.  We know nothing about Bonn despite having been in Germany many times over many years.  But one of the great things about CS is coming to places you would never otherwise visit.  And guess what?  Bonn is the home of Haribo!  The enthusiasm for Bonn in the apartment reaches FIFA goal level.  In case you are not a kid or sugar-obsessed, Haribo is the maker of gummy bears among fifty million other candies.  We learn that all the seconds get sold at a depot around the corner.  We also learn that the depot around the corner is the original factory and the factory only moved from that location last year!  We can stand on hallowed ground and buy gummies from the spot where, until recently, they were actually created.  Thursday is a holiday so candyland will have to wait until Friday morning.  Just what the adults want before we set off on our 7 hour car ride to Austria on Friday!

CS Breakfast, Bonn

CS Breakfast, Bonn

German "bretzels" baking for breakfast, CS Bonn

German “bretzels” baking for breakfast, CS Bonn

Fronleichnam is the holiday here in Germany today and since it falls on a Thursday it means a four-day weekend for most people.  It is Corpus Christi day and falls 60 days after Easter Sunday.

Good-bye and good Fronleichnam!