Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 1 - Flying off to Frankfurt and staying at Gelnhausen, Germany (2011)

The day has come. We've packed our bags, checked all our documents and we were ready to go. We took the very early morning flight from Singapore to Dubai (via Colombo) which meant we had to be at the airport by 10pm. The kids were excited to see their cousins (we planned to meet up in Dubai). 

Going thru the immigration we handed over our passports and our REPs (re-entry permits for Permanent Residents). Lo and behold, we printed the old, expired one! The immigration officer asked if we have already renewed our REP. I confidently answered yes (because we renewed it in time for our travel to New Zealand in 2009). She had a puzzled look on her face - checking our printed REP and her computer screen. Then she discussed with the other immigration officer. I asked if there was any problem to which she replied, "I was just wondering how come your REP print out has a different expiry date than the one I have on my computer". The senior officer (I assume) from the other counter gestured to her that it was ok and she let us thru. Phew! Good thing was that their database was up-to-date. While we were waiting for our flight, I scanned through my emails to check our current REP (and was wondering endlessly why in the world I printed out the wrong document when I checked and double checked everything days before our departure) just in case they look for it again on our return flight. Found it, saved it on ifile, and felt relieved. 

It was going to be a long flight plus short stop at Colombo before we finally get to Frankfurt. I had to sleep on board. Don't want to feel giddy again like what happened on our flight to NZ when I watched 3 movies in a row. Thank goodness for these in-flight entertainment systems the kids were kept busy so they don't usually make a fuzz even on long-haul trips.

For this trip, I made mini-scrapbooks for the kids. I just pasted some cut-outs of tourist attractions on some pages. I figured this would keep the kids interested and not bored during our long walks. They could also stick some memorabilia on the notebooks. But Ira was so keen on writing his comments (even though he has not seen the places yet!). He kept himself busy while waiting to board the plane.

Ira scanning and writing in his mini-scrapbook

Few hours later, we arrived in Dubai. We still had to wait for our connecting flight. We walked close to our gate and found a McDonalds. Had something to eat and proceeded to our gate where we saw our travel companions (sis-in-law, SIL's hubby and kids). At first the kids were still a bit shy to interact with each other. But when we got into the plane and took off the kids made the plane a playground!

It was a long but comfortable flight to Frankfurt. The kids played computer games while adults watched movies (if not sleeping). I reminded Ira that he needed to sleep after playing to avoid the "NZ trip incident" from happening again. He agreed and told me that he would just eat his food then sleep cause he knew if he sleeps he would have enough rest and won't vomit.

Few more hours and we've landed at Frankfurt International Airport. We were excited to explore the city but of course, we had to go thru immigration first. We prepared our documents (invitation letter and supporting papers) and breezed through the immigration. Next was the long wait for our baggage. We only had 2 checked in luggage but our companions had a whole lot of them! We looked for luggage carts and found them but we had to pay Euro2 deposit for each (to be refunded when the carts are returned). Unfortunately, we didn't have small bills. We waited for an airport official to ask for change. Luckily, one person was able to give us a change. 

When we got all our luggage we headed out to the arrival area to meet our hosts - my sis-in-law and her in-laws (our Germany hosts). We exchanged greetings, let the kids run around and amuse the in-laws while Mark and my other sis-in-law get our cars from Hertz. Then we were on our way to Gelnhausen, around 30mins drive from the airport, our home for the next 6 days.

welcome to Gelnhausen! The lovely home of our hosts.

We were greeted by a "welcome" banner made by Tita Ingrid and Tito Peter, our hosts upon arriving at their home. They have a very lovely home, with all the trinkets they have collected from their travel over the years. The house was really full of memories. Makes me wonder how I was going to have this kind of home back in Singapore (uh, that's quite a big challenge). They have a basement, second floor and attic. It doesn't look big from the outside because the house was designed in a way wherein the levels were only like half a floor up (something like that). They also have small pond in the garden. And currently constructing a zen garden in the front yard. The kids loved the big space and enjoyed walking up and down the stairs.

We brought our luggage to our respective rooms (yes, we had one room per family and the kids had one room for themselves, if they wanted to!). Then sat down for a chat. We thought we would just be resting for the rest of the day but we were surprised to know we were going on a strawberry-picking adventure. There was a strawberry field just a short drive away from the house and we were just in time for the last few days/weeks of strawberry harvesting.

Kelvin and Shane making their way to pick some strawberries

Mother and son tandem strawberry pickers

having a taste of them strawberries - fresh and sweet!

jumping from plot to plot to get the reddest strawberries

counting the strawberries

small, medium and large strawberries, we love them all!

seriously picking his fruits

come and have a bite... It's sweet!

looking around for a better plot

handling them strawberries with care

yum, yum, yum

it's time to get our baskets weighed and pay for the strawberries we've picked. 
Our kind host, Tita Ingrid (in white jacket) paid for all of them!

the kids enjoyed our trip to the strawberry fields

We drove back to the house, rested for a while and had our dinner, of course, with strawberries as dessert! It was only the first day and we were already having so much fun. There were still 20 days to look forward to and we couldn't wait for what's in store in the coming days.

Germany, we are very much ready to explore you!

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