Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up (Christmas 4-Day) - (Germany) Day 361 - 364

At the Stuttgart Christmas Market

Saturday: We took it easy in the morning as we got ready for the day. We headed to the main train station along with SPC Mac and his wife. We wanted to do something a little different this weekend, so we decided to check out the Christmas Market in Stuttgart via a train. We always hear how easy it is to use a train and we thought it would also be nice not having to drive and search for parking. It would also be nice to just sit back and relax.

We arrived at the train station and headed to one of the self service kiosks. We switched the language to English and proceeded to check out our options. We chose a group ticket that allows us to travel all the public forms of transportation in the state of Baden-W├╝rttemberg (the state we live in and includes Stuttgart). The cost was only 34 Euro for all of us and was good for the entire day. We boarded the next train and did exactly as planned…sat back and relaxed as we made our way from stop to stop until we arrived in Stuttgart.

The main train station in Stuttgart is located basically across the street from downtown, so we only had to take the correct exit out of the station and we were there…this did however take two tries as we left the first time out of the wrong exit and didn't quite know where we were. The Christmas market was amazing. This market seemed to go on forever and had everything from ice skating to rides for the kids. Of course it also had every type of vendor you can imagine. It seemed every corner we turned, the market just kept going and going. This would be one we may have wanted to start a little earlier in order to see the entire thing. We did our best and enjoyed some tasty food while shopping and people watching. There were also a number of street performers all over which added to the atmosphere of the whole market. Everyone really enjoyed themselves.

We headed back to the train station and saw it was about an hour before the next train to Heidelberg, so we sat in one of the cafes and had a drink. When our train finally arrived we boarded and took off shortly after. In Germany a lot of the public transit is based on the honor system. You purchase a ticket and then get on, but rarely does a person come by to check it. This train happened to have a ticket checker, and we found out why shortly after he came to us. The train we chose was an express non-stop train straight to Heidelberg…and the ticket we purchased was good for everything except the express trains. The guy gave us a break and only charged the four of us for 2 tickets since we had purchased the group ticket earlier. We had to pay another 52 euro, but on the bright side the train only took about 40 minutes instead of the hour and a half…or more that the slower train takes. We paid, we relaxed, and learned a lesson in the German train system.

Sunday: Sunday as usual was a day of rest…and cleaning. We hung out in the house and either watched TV shows, or cleaned up. We decided to go see "The Hobbit" which was playing on post. The show was long …almost 3 hours. If you like The Lord of the Rings series, you'll like The Hobbit. Not much else went on…a pretty laid back day.

Monday: Today…Christmas Eve, I had the privilege to do staff duty. This meant that I had to get up and get ready for a 24 hour shift starting at 0800. Staff duty has to be one of the stupidest things we have to do here. Other units issue a cell phone to someone for emergency calls which serves as their staff duty, but not us. Instead of using common sense, we need two people to sit at desks the entire time. Luckily I was working with SGT Mex. After chatting for almost the entire morning, he released me for my lunch break. I left at 1130 and he told me to come back at 1500. My dinner break was from 1700 to 2200, so I'm not going to complain too much. I was able to spend quite a bit of time with my wife on Christmas Eve. He's single, so he didn't mind hanging out while I was away.

We both stayed up for most of the night, although micro naps were a common event for both of us. I read a lot, listened to music and played Plants vs Zombies to pass the time…no movies this time because a lot of the time was spent either at home or chatting with SGT Mex.

Tuesday: I spent Christmas morning of course at staff duty, but our replacements came on time. I headed home right at 0800 and after kissing my wife, promptly headed to bed for a nap. I feel bad for the guys that had to pull the Christmas day shift…it just sucks that this is one of those things the command will not budge on.

I woke up about 1400 and hung out with my wife. We opened our presents that were sent from our family and the presents we got each other. This was a strange Christmas, and I can't say that I enjoyed it too much. I love that my wife was here, but it was tough not being with both of our families for the holidays. We have a lot of family traditions that I missed out on. I'm very thankful for Skype, as we were able to video chat with both of our families while everyone opened presents…but that is just not the same. I miss my family…I miss home.

Downtown as we were getting ready to checkout the Stuttgart Christmas Market

More of the Christmas market

...and more of the Christmas market

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