I feel very confident in saying that not one of you would want to be doing what we are doing right now! The learning curve as of late has been extreme to say the least. Feeling stressed out, confused, lost and irritated are the emotions that dominate our days. Since Jeff’s last post about Iceland, we have been to Stockholm, Dusseldorf and Amsterdam. I’ll see if I can get you all caught up.
After Iceland we landed in Stockholm to heat, city crowds and some minor language barriers. Fortunately, most people are very accommodating when we say as cute as we can, “Sorry, we don’t speak ______ – only English.” Someday when I have the time I will learn a few more languages! I felt really ashamed when I realized I didn’t even know the word for “thank you” in Dutch.
The crowded city streets of Stockholm were shocking to me having come from the wild wilderness of Iceland and before that, a summer on the farm in Maiden Rock. As I get older I am less of a city person. I enjoy walking and looking at people, but can only handle a few hours of this kind of activity.
Fortunately, Stockholm is all about eye candy: charming streets, palatial old buildings and design fashion. I was blown away by the beautiful people and haute couture clothing. Women were dressed to the nines – very elegant in leggings with long flowing 3/4 tunics, long sweaters or lightweight coats. The look was glamorous yet casual as shoes for the cobblestones need to be practical. I saw lots of fashion sneakers with just a bit of glitz or adornment. White hightop Chuck Taylor’s with skinny jeans and long sweaters were also quite popular. I tried to snap pictures without being too obvious, but failed. The only halfway decent picture I was able to steal doesn’t really express the glam as her coat covers the cool tunic she wore underneath. The design is much more put together than what I saw on the farm in Maiden Rock last summer!
After a few short days in Stockholm, we were off to Düsseldorf to collect our motor home. Flying is always stressful for me, but Air Berlin challenged me at length! Our bags are overweight by a couple of pounds so we had to check and pay for their passage. This was a bummer, but it was finding the ticket desk to pay the $210 that was really aggravating. Once we found the place, I left Jeff and Max to stand in line while I went to the bathroom – something I have to do much more frequently than the boys. As it turns out, Jeff didn’t think it was the right ticket desk, so continued looking while I went to the bathroom. He consequently lost our place in line. Once he realized the ticket office with no signs for our airline, was indeed the one we needed, we waited in line for nearly and hour to pay our fee. What are you gonna do?
Laundry! Once we arrived in Dusseldorf, we had a day to rest and acclimate before picking up the motor home, so laundry sounded like a good idea. We easily found a laundromat near our hotel and were happy to find that the process is mostly the same as in the U.S. except you pay for the washer/dryer at a large central control panel. Fortunately, when looking for the laundromats in Dusseldorf, I also found somebody post the step-by-step directions for those unaccustomed to the panel. Even with the directions, Jeff and I stumbled through the ordeal, but finally figured it out. The only mistake might have been in the detergent as all my whites turned light blue for some reason!
I do love the smell of fresh, clean clothes, but the laundry gave me even a bigger treat. There was an old lady there, who despite the fact that I couldn’t speak German, felt very happy to tell me her life story! I hauled out the Google Translator, explained to her that we most apologetically do not speak German and tried to get her to write back to me, but she just chatted on. She gestured quite a lot understanding that I didn’t understand her and told me about her children and grandchildren and maybe somebody she knew who traveled. She punctuated every story with an airplane motion and “Das ist gut.” Once our clothes were washed she helped me with the dryer explaining by the weight of my clothes that I would need to pay for 30 minutes, but not to leave them in that long or they would get too hot! All of this communication was done by pointing, counting on the dryer timer and fingers, and holding jeans compared to t-shirts. About ten minutes before my dryer would finish I checked the clothes and began to pull out the t-shirts to fold. They were indeed dry, and my new friend was very proud. She nodded enthusiastically and continued the mantra, “Das ist gut!” When I had folded the lighter weight fabric items, I returned to the dryer to check the heavy sweatshirts and jeans – dry. Just like she said, six minutes left on the dry time! Das ist gut.
My take on Germans in our brief time is that they are very kind and quite expressive! Every where we went people greeted each other and when they parted ways, “Tschuss!”
Dusseldorf reminded me of a cross between Latin America and some of the gritty industrial U.S. cities. Many of the buildings were boxy and non-descript, the streets were wider in most areas than those in Stockholm and its people, much more diverse. We were in the area between the Central Station and Rhein River which also seemed to be a downtown business district.
Jeff was in need of a haircut, so we stepped into a barber shop that was amazing! The place is owned by a Turkish man who clearly has a love of men’s fashion and coiffure. Those of you who know Jeff for his natural beauty may be surprised that he does not groom! Really, I have been cutting his hair since I met him in 1993 and before that he had been using a clippers to cut his own hair. For Jeff all that messing around takes too much time. We are all lucky he is a natural beauty! To see him in a barber chair surrounded by beautiful Turkish men helping to make this man even more lovely to look at was a site to see.
Both in Stockholm and in Dusseldorf, beards are very popular. The Turkish barbers all had some form of beard – all chiseled and perfectly placed.
Going to the barbers was certainly one of the joys of a slower life that the Washburne clan has never been able to enjoy until Dusseldorf! That seems crazy to most of you, but we are such extreme DIYers that if we can do it ourselves, it never seems there is any reason to pay someone else to do it. Jeff doesn’t get joy out of pampering or esthetics feeling that these types of activities take too much time out of the day and money out of the wallet. I, on the other hand, love this stuff – especially seeing men groomed, cleaned and designed, so this was a treat for me perhaps more than Jeff!
Our new home for the next 75 days is a white and creamy number all decked out with the latest Italian Fiat styling including white leather seats, “barnwood” flooring and plastic wood paneling. Max and I think it’s beautiful and Jeff is on the opposite spectrum. I am sure we will find our groove with this tiny house monstrosity, but the first couple of days have been rough.
When we went to pick it up, we had a complete tour of the vehicle along with instructions for how to work the water, gas, compartments, etc. It all seemed pretty straight forward until we parked it and couldn’t figure out why the refrigerator kept beeping at us, or how to get the water heater set. There are lots of buttons and gizmos that suddenly seemed very foreign and confusing. Yesterday I spent ten minutes watching a YouTube video to learn how to run the control panel used to heat the water!
Max sleeps in the loft and Jeff and I have the dining table – turns bed. It’s not the best layout for us, but we will make it work. Jeff gets up so early in the morning so he has to either sit up in the cab or outside on the lawn chair. Once coffee is made, I have to free up the dining table by putting all the bedding away. We haven’t been able to have a leisurely morning with coffee and Australian 500 or cribbage yet – it’s all get up and right to work! Even on vacation.
And for the final glam shot, Max duplicates in a panoramic shot over the canals and streets of Amsterdam – photography trick!
A few photos from Amsterdam – Click away – they get bigger if you do!