Sunday, June 11, 2006

Birthday Trip Around the World in Two Hours

Today is my birthday, and originally, Lance and I planned to be in Luxembourg for their annual Army March, which is a pretty big deal, from what I understand.

But our walking club decided to do a different walk instead (in the local area), so we were left without plans for today.

I decided yesterday that I wanted to check out Mondo Verde, a theme park in Landgraaf, Netherlands, about half an hour from where we live.

Mondo Verde is a large park full of gardens that are supposed to represent every part of the world (except, it didn't, but it had a lot of different gardens).

We were there for a couple of hours, and we managed to see everything. We even ate there, although I wouldn't recommend it. The food isn't very good and it's expensive.

Click here for pictures.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Karyn Goes Medieval

Yesterday, Tina from the Family Support Center headed a group to go first to Kommern (a little over an hour away) to see the Freilichtmuseum, a Rhenish open-air museum that covers German history from medieval times to present, followed by a medieval festival and jousting tournament at Satzvey Castle, only 10 minutes from Kommern. Lance was supposed to go, but he bailed out on me at the last minute, but gave me a large amount of spending money to get myself something nice for my birthday. I met up with the group and rode with Tina in her car to the museum.

I don't think the museum attracts a lot of people besides Germans, because they had no visitor's guides in English or anything that explained to us what the buildings were for and when they were built. Some were obvious and we were able to figure them out on our own. Mostly, we just enjoyed the feeling of walking through all the old villages, which looked like something out of Shakespeare.

We arrived at the museum around lunchtime, and Tina and I were starting to feel hungry. There was a long line outside of a building marked "Handlung," so we stopped to see what the fuss was about. As we were getting there, we saw a man carting a big basket of bread to the building…we realized then that it was a bake shop (the breads are baked down the street and carted here for sale). So we got in line and got ourselves some hot, fresh butter streusel. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

We spent a few hours there poking around. I don't have much to write about it, since the pictures do a better job of describing what it's like than I could. We went to this really modern looking part of the museum (it's rather large and spread out) and went inside this building that looked like an IMAX theater or something…only it was an enclosed village, with each street representing a different time in German history. So we started in what looked like 18th century and worked our way through the building, ending at post WWII. Inside the windows were various scenes - domestic scenes with families of very realistic looking mannequins sitting around the dinner table, or scenes of people conducting business or civic duties, and even a scene in a bar with a prostitute sitting in some guy's lap. Then came the WWI scenes and after that WWII, with the Jews standing behind barbed wire fence, with a Nazi flag hanging over them and a poster of Hitler.

Anyway, around 3 pm, Tina and I met up with the rest of the group at our designated meeting point, and we got in our cars and moved on to Burg Satzvey, which is located in the town of Satzvey just a short drive away. It's an area with several castles, but Burg Satzvey is one of the best preserved moated castles in North Rhine-Westphalia (the German state in which Lance and I live). Burg Satzvey itself is not a tourist attraction, since it's a residence. A count and countess live there, and the rest of the castle is divided into apartments. But the countess loves medieval history, and since 1981, she has hosted various events on the castle grounds, the highlight of which is a medieval festival and jousting tournament held for one weekend every June. There are also other events such as Irish night (with Irish dancing and music), Halloween night, Christmas, etc. All of these events generally have a medieval theme attached to them, and there are some permanent fixtures on the castle grounds, like medieval-themed shops and restaurants, that people can visit year-round.

Anyway, we showed up at the castle with a little time to spare before the jousting tournament, so we all split up. Tina and I went to search for some actual food, since at that point, I only had cereal at breakfast and then the piece of streusel. I ordered what I thought was a meat kabob (that's what Tina told me it was) with a side of kraut and fries. What I actually got was a pork chop smothered in caramelized onions. That's okay. It was soooooooooo good. Everything was good. Tina had the same thing and we were just so happy. We got a picnic table by the stage, where a medieval music group was performing. They were fantastic. The music had a great beat.

Once we were done eating, it was nearly time for the joust. So we made our way to the jousting grounds and stopped at the drink counter to order drinks (since the place where we got our food didn't serve drinks for some reason). They took a two euro deposit from each of us and served us our drinks in souvenir Burg Satzvey glass mugs, but we let them keep our 2 euros each and kept the mugs. :)

Anyway, we found our seats in the covered pavilion and we were in the SECOND ROW! And I had little kids sitting in front of me, so I had a virtually unobstructed view of the show (except for when the one little girl in front of me put on a knight's helmet with a huge blue feather sticking out of it).

The joust was narrated in Old German, but we got the gist. It was a pretty cliché story. A woman comes out and talks about how her beloved brother was killed by an evil knight. The village gathers together to avenge his death, but the black knight's minions sweep into town, nearly killing everyone. They take the sister hostage…she is claimed as a bride by the black knight. One of the surviving villagers, a good knight (go figure), gathers up some men and challenges the bad guys to a joust. A mysterious man in a black mask joins them…together they all vanquish evil, and the mysterious masked knight turns out to be the king. The sister is saved from having to marry Sir Evil, and everyone, except the bad guys, lives happily ever after.

Or something like that.

It was great fun anyway. And except for an accident at the end where the actor playing the evil knight fell from his horse and the horse fell on top of him (from the way it looked, it was NOT planned…it was after the show when they were coming out to take their final bows), it seemed to go pretty well. There was no stage blood shed, but it looked like some of these actors really got hurt, that's how well everything was acted. And the horses had to jump through flames, which I thought was amazing, especially since Tina told me that it's against their nature to do something like that (she used to have horses and knows a bit about horse training).

Anyway, the show was good. And Tina checked with everyone else in the group and they decided to go home on their own time…we wouldn't caravan back. So Tina and I could stay as long as we liked. We did some shopping (I spent the money Lance gave me on two blouses and a decorative ceramic thing to hang up somewhere in the house). We had some Belgian cherry beer (which was delicious, but didn't taste a thing like beer). We had mead (and I bought a bottle to take home). We also visited the tent village where the actors live during the weekend that they're at the castle. It's really cool. No modern conveniences for them (except canned food). They sleep on sheep's wool rugs (which actually look very comfortable). Several tents are set up around a communal table, where they all eat together (whilst still in costume, I might add). Even the family pets are there. They even play medieval games. It actually all looked quite bohemian and cozy. I wouldn't want to live that way indefinitely, but it would be fun for a few nights.


Freilichtmuseum Homepage (in English)

Burg Satzvey Homepage (in English)