I’m excited to introduce an extra special guest blogger, my daughter, Rylie. We hope you enjoy the first of her posts about her ten-day excursion to northern Italy. (Our lucky winner of Jeannie Moon’s debut novel, The Temporary Wife, is announced below!)
Our student group traveled via Air Berlin out of JFK in New York to Germany on a seven-and-a-half hour flight with a five hour layover, and then on a one-and-a-half hour flight in a hopper plane to Venice, Italy. Our ultimate destination of Brunnenburg was a bumpy three hour ride into the Italian Alps, making the trip a total of approximately seventeen hours.
The allure of a trip overseas makes the discomfort of sitting upright between a rambunctious ten-year-old and a stranger bearable. Too wired to sleep, I managed thirty minutes or so of dozing around midnight New York time before the flight attendant offered us a breakfast of salami, tomatoes, fruit, and crackers. I ignored the cramping in my knees upon departure into Düsseldorf airport, and literally skipped through customs with joy. I was in Germany! I was officially abroad!
My second wind kicked in about an hour after getting our passports stamped. Off I went to explore while my classmates charged their iPods and iPads. Even the airport was a feast to my eyes, between the young German businessmen by baggage claim with their trimmed scruff and designer suits and an entire section of the building devoted to selling every type of chocolate you can imagine. I noted some differences between there and American airports. Some cool things: the bathrooms aren’t stalls, they’re little rooms. If you accidentally lock yourself in, you can’t crawl under the door to freedom. That may sound silly, but it happened several times to members of our group. Dusseldorf bathrooms are so clean that a person like me with OCD tendencies would feel comfortable making a sandwich on the bare floor. Speaking of food, instead of fast food restaurants like we see in many American airports, there were several cafés. They all sold these basic items: croissants, salads, fruit, a few types of sandwiches, and a lot of coffee and alcohol. I highly recommend the croissants. They were flaky, buttery, and filled with warm, gooey chocolate. (Do you notice a theme here? Yeah, I’m a fan of the sweet stuff.)
On our quick flight to Venice, I was unconscious from the time I buckled my seat belt until we shakily landed on the tarmac. We then boarded the coach bus that would take us north to Dorf Tirol, Italy, a small tourist town about ten miles southeast of the Austrian/Italian border. The drive up was awesome. Street signs on the highways are massive enough for the most near-sighted of drivers to easily read them, and there are emergency sections every few hundred meters (yes, meters) where the little hybrid cars can pull over. The highway walls are transparent with little bird decals on them, and there were very few housing developments. As our vehicle climbed further north, we spotted castles along the mountainsides. Vineyards and farms, with horses, sheep, cows and goats, dotted the lush landscape.
When I was in Bermuda last summer, I took a cab back to the shipyard with my cousins. The ride was terrifying – the driver easily surpassed New York speed limits, the streets were barely wide enough for two cars to fit, and pedestrians appeared unfazed by the stream of vehicles speeding by them. Multiply that fear by ten and that’s what I felt during the last bit of our drive to Dorf Tirol. The town is set into the side of a mountain, and the 1.5 lane roads run along cliff drop-offs when they’re not at impossibly steep up and downhill angles. Stop signs seemed to be a suggestion to the drivers, as did the speed limit.
The fear effectively eliminated any leftover grogginess from the second flight, though, and soon enough we had reached the winding downhill drive of Brunnenburg Castle. From aerial views, the castle appears to emerge gracefully from the Küchelberg cliff side, nestled in a cluster of evergreens and ivy. Up close, the estate is quaint and quiet despite the many goats and chickens that call the grounds home, and as I lugged my suitcase under a stone archway toward the converted dorms, it suddenly hit me that I would actually be spending the next week in a castle, in Italy.
I couldn’t wait for the real adventure to begin.
Next week: The first days at Brunnenburg…sightseeing, the valley’s history, and lots and lots of shopping. Many more pictures to come!
Do you have any funny or harrowing travel experiences to share? Have you ever been to Italy?
And the winner is…
Rhonda Hopkins. Congratulations, Rhonda! Contact me with your email address and kind of device you’ll use to read your free ebook, The Temporary Wife, courtesy of Jeannie Moon. Thanks, Jeannie! Until next week, I hope you spend your days doing what you love. Remember to live your life out loud, right?