For the first two weeks of my winter break, I was graced with the presence of my amazing mother. We went on a whirlwind of adventures around Europe, beginning with a few days in my hometown, Tübingen, where we attended several Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas Markets) in neighboring towns and visited an impressive castle, Schloss Hohenzollern, in nearby Hechingen.
After several days in Baden-Württemberg, we headed southeast to Innsbruck, Austria, where we spent Christmas. There, we took a cable car up into the alps and slid at high speeds down the Olympic bobsled track, as well as made a memorable visit to the Swarovski crystal world. We had breakfast on Christmas morning in an interesting but tasty Spanish restaurant, and enjoyed Christmas dinner in the oldest restaurant in Innsbruck, the Goldener Adler.
The Airbnb at which we stayed was phenomenal, our hosts gracious and very friendly. We felt very comfortable in their home, coming and going as we pleased, and we enjoyed a delightful Christmas morning exchanging a few presents. For Christmas Eve, at the recommendation of one of our hosts, we attended a midnight mass at the Cathedral of St. James, which was completed and consecrated in 1724. Neither my mom nor I are Catholic, so it was a new and intriguing experience for us both. The 15-minute walk home in -3°C was a memorable experience as well.
Because her flight back to California was out of Heathrow Airport in London, mom and I decided to head up that way to wrap up 2015, making a stop in Brussels, Belgium, along the way. There, we checked out the infamous Mannekin Pis statue, indulged in some sugar with a side of Belgian waffle, and browsed yet another Christmas market. The biggest impression that Brussels made on us was the massive amounts of dog poop that littered the streets. It seems that in Brussels, when you gotta go, you really gotta go.
Due to our time crunch, we were in Brussels for less than 24 hours, and at 05:00 the next morning we caught a bus that took us under the English Channel (on board a train!) and directly to London. While in London, we saw as many touristy sights (and ate as many foods, and drank as many beers) as we could take in during our three day visit. We went on a bike tour (I cannot recommend bike tours enough; they are a superb way to quickly get to know a city’s history, culture, and basic geography), caught a showing of Kinky Boots (a hilarious and mostly true story of a shoemaker who meets a drag queen, I believe it is available on Netflix in the US) at the Adelphi theater, paid a visit to King’s Cross Station, found both a Tardis and a Dalek, and got to know the infamous London Underground all too well.
Our last night together was New Year’s Eve, and for most ideal firework viewing places in London, a ticket is actually required in order to be able to stand for hours in the cold and wait for the show. Mom and I were not at all in the mood for that after all we had done for the past 13 days, especially after spending much of the evening squeezing through huge throngs of people, so instead we capped off the night with a colorful trip to Piccadilly Circus and a delicious meal in nearby Chinatown. We were back in our room in our Airbnb by 22:00, and were able to see many firework shows in the neighborhood surrounding our little cottage.
New Year’s Day was bittersweet; both of us were eager to get back to our own familiar homes and decompress, but we were both very sad to have to say goodbye. Luckily, we had almost two hours of quality time together on the subway to the airport (which is clear on the opposite side of London from our room). Mom checked her bag, waited in the security line, and with one final backwards glance, was waved through the door and out of my sight.
Sharing my home here in Germany with my mom was very special for me, as was traveling around Europe. I cherished my time with her, and will have to make do with Skype until we are reunited once more.
Below the slideshow, I have included a few links to some recommendations I have from our trip.