Favorite Finds

The holidays are here which means money is flying out of my bank account and into the voracious jaws of the grocery giants.  So much for a food budget, eh?

BUT, I’ve come across some finds and some deals lately which have me pretty stoked.  This is what I get excited about when I’m not traveling.  Sad, I know.

First, Kaufland!  I saw the storefront on one of my many training runs around town, but I thought it was a home improvement store.  A friend recently mentioned it, and I found out it was a big box store like Real.

(If you want to know all the ins and outs of your city streets, train for a marathon.  I know where everything is now!)

A few Saturdays ago, I hopped on my bike and cruised past the hospital, cemetery, and the warehouse district to Kaufland.  Pleasant route, right?

My Kaufland haul. Not pictured - tahini!! And the turkey lunch meat at the bottom, well, you can get that at Aldi or Lidl - oops!

It’s two levels (!) with one of those neat-o grocery cart escalators.  Boy was I shocked at what I found at Kaufland!  I could not believe my eyes at all the products I didn’t think existed in German grocery stores (at least not in my small-ish city).   I’ll definitely be adding a Kaufland trip into my grocery store rotation.

Second, the Lidl warehouse sale!  This is a CRAZY sporting event.  Basically, every once in a while the Lidl warehouse will post a sign on the front of the building announcing the next sale (about every 2-3 months or so).

The sales are Friday and Saturday starting at 8am, and the items are overstocks from all of Lidl’s “special” sales (dry goods and non-food items such as furniture, clothing, office supplies, kitchen supplies, electronics, etc.).  I never know what they will have, but I’m always bound to find something interesting (and cheap).

The best things sell out FAST, so I decided I would go this time at 8am on Friday.  I know these sales are nutty, but I was not expecting gobs of people trying to shove their way in the front door.  I was there at 8am, and by the time I got in the front door, all of the “best” things were gone (area rugs, laundry drying racks, Coca Cola, ha!).

Screech went with me, and trying to maneuver a pram was more than frustrating.  People pushed me with their carts, and I tripped up other shoppers more than I want to remember.  At least Mr. Screech was content to sit and shove cheerios in his face in the midst of the madness.

My Lidl warehouse sale (food) haul!

I ended up with a cart (pram) full of Mexican food!  I am not sure what the fajita and burrito seasoning will taste like, but I purchased the kits for less than the tortillas themselves cost.  I also scored five boxes of taco shells for half price, and ten bags of whole-grain spaghetti for 30 cents each.  I found a few other miscellaneous items like a canvas print for the wall, socks for Doc Sci, a luggage strap, and plastic party forks.

Even though I can’t coupon in Germany, I can take advantage of every-once-in-a-while deals and use that money to pay full price for other (rare) things I enjoy.

What deals have you found lately?  Have you ever been to a Lidl warehouse sale?

 

 

Update: Rosetta Stone Online

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expat Life - Rosetta StoneHeute ist ein sehr guter Tag!

I’m happy to let you know that today marks my halfway point in the Rosetta Stone online program!  I’m doing back flips over here.  Can you see me?  No?  Really?  Well, I’ll leave it up to you to determine whether that has to do with your eyesight (eat your carrots!) or the fact that I’m typing and not actually doing back flips.

In February of this year (that’s 2011 folks), I gave you my first initial impressions of the Rosetta Stone German online language course.  Six months (six!?) have passed, and I’m now halfway through Level 3 of 5.  As promised, here’s an update on my experience with Rosetta Stone.

Do you still like it?  Yes!  Definitely.  Absolutely.  Without a doubt.  In fact, when my first three months of access ended and I was unable to renew (more on that below), I found myself almost in despair.  I tried out several other methods but wound up frustrated.  I had become so accustomed to the teaching method of Rosetta Stone that I realized I was expecting other programs to work the same way.  I couldn’t really get into any of the other products available, so I hunted down another Rosetta Stone online program and got back to work.

I am a visual learner, so the pictoral method really appeals to me (and so does Pinterest but that’s another story for another day).  To be honest, there are limitations to this approach.  For instance, the word for soon is bald.  The first picture for this word showed a doctor telling a pregnant woman her baby would probably be born bald.  I thought this was rather amusing, but then the word came up again in another picture involving neither babies nor old men.  When I’m presented with a word like this that I cannot figure out from the picture, I just type it into Google translate, and I’m on my way.

Does it work?  I think progress in language learning is very subjective.  Yes, of course, you can take tests to measure competency.  However, tests cannot assess your abilities in every situation.  I have learned a LOT of German from Rosetta Stone.  I think I read much better than I speak, but that is due mainly to my hesitation to try conversing only in German (remember, Germans tell it like it is – there is no Southern way about them).  That doesn’t mean I don’t try – it just means I am rather shy about it and only MAKE myself if I know the other person doesn’t speak English.  On the plus side, I’m now able to make doctors’ appointments solely in German which I consider a major victory.  If people slow down their speech a bit and simplify their vocabulary, I can usually understand the conversation.

One very important thing to note… I cannot figure out the method behind the order of vocabulary.  There are words/concepts that would be very useful for travelers (ordering in a restaurant for instance) that are NOT in Level I.  In fact, if I had only purchased Level I, I would have been very disappointed in what I learned.  It is a great base from which to build other vocabulary, grammar, etc., but it will not teach you everything you want to know for a trip over to Germany.  If this what you’re looking for, I’d strongly recommend getting Levels I & II.

How long does it take?  Since Rosetta Stone is a self-paced program, it can take as little or as long as you’d like.  I’d like it to have gone more quickly, but realistically, this is a good pace for me.  It has taken me six months to complete Level I, II, and half of level III (fyi: I don’t do the lessons when I travel).  I hope it will take less for me to complete the rest of the program (through Level V).  If you don’t have two kids and you have more than an hour or two of free time every day, you could definitely get through the levels faster than I did.  My goal after both boys are in kindergarten/daycare in a few weeks is to do one Lesson (four Lessons in each Level) per week / week and a half… ish.  Yeah, I know, good luck with that.

Where do I get Rosetta Stone online?  The whopping great deal I told you about in my first review no longer exists. When I determined that I HAD to HAVE Rosetta Stone and nothing else, it took me several days of searching (remember, I only have an hour or two of free time each day) to find another affordable program (I did not want to buy the CDs).  I found it through a continuing education center at a university in Florida.  The cost for one year of access was $299 and included the opportunity to change your language of choice one time within that year.  This is obviously much more expensive than the $48 for 3 months I started with, but it is also cheaper than buying levels 2-5 to complete the program (plus, I can change once and learn two languages if I finish German quickly).  And – enrolling in this “university” course qualified me for a childcare discount which means I will easily make back the $299 in no time.  Score!

If you’ve tried Rosetta Stone and would like to add to this review, please leave a comment below.

Is Prague Kid-Friendly?

The answer to this question depends largely on your definition of “kid-friendly.”  I recently read a blog post about kid-friendly activities in Edinburgh, Scotland.  The Edinburgh Dungeon made the list.  Needless to say, I’m not quite sure three year-old T-Rex is ready for torture chamber tourism.

If you’re headed to Prague with a pram, take note.  You better have a good one.  A weenie US stroller (yeah, Graco, I’m talkin’ about you) is not going to cut it.  An umbrella stroller will have you pulling your hair out.  You need a super-sized European stroller or at least one with inflatable tires.  The streets are full of cobblestones.  I don’t remember much of anything in the city center being paved.

You’re also going to need some serious gun of the bicep and tricep variety.  You will be carrying your pram up stairs more than once.  I only saw two of the tram lines with modern cars.  That means at least four steep, narrow steps up into the car.  We didn’t take the stroller on the subway, but I did notice that some stations sported elevators.  Ironically, the elevator at the Florenc station opens right on McD’s doorstep.  I wonder how much Ronald paid for that.

A common problem we encountered. Stairs + pram = very tired parents.

More math.. Stairs + Snow + Pram = danger, danger, latte refill needed.

We did bring our trusty backpack carrier but only used it on our day trip to Karlovy Vary (post on this tomorrow or Thursday).  We walked everywhere, and it would’ve been too much for T-Rex.  Using only a backpack carrier might work for you if you’re going to take public transport all the time.  We’re too cheap, er I mean, adventurous to do that.

For some reason, I don't think Phil & Ted are going to make it to the top of the Eiffelovka.

You also might want to know that avoiding stairs will take you off the beaten path.  Literally.  Half the trails down Petrin Hill were steep and frozen solid.  My stroller is pretty awesome but a broken tailbone is not.  You will, however, get different (and often better) pictures than every other tourist in Prague.  Bonus!

T-Rex navigates Petrin Hill for us.

When your little legs are tired and in need of a tasty barbecue chicken baguette from Paneria, you’ll search far and wide for a high chair but won’t find one.  In fact, very few food joints had high chairs.  Those that did only had one or two.  Yep, good ol’ McD’s included.

The play place at McDonalds Florenc - the only one we saw in any of the Prague locations.

Fortunately, I did have ONE moment of clarity before we left and decided to order a Sack N Seat. Whoa, baby, I LOVE this thing.  It weighs nearly nothing and is the size of a used balled up nappy.  It worked on every chair Screech used (except one – ironically at the Golden Arches).  If you’re a travelin’ mama, get yourself one of these!!!

After your little ones have dunked their last chicken nugget, they’ll be whining for the potty.  And you’ll be whining that the free ones are few and far between.  Even McDonalds (seriously, you’d think I was obsessed – I’m not – why does this place keep coming up in my post?!?) made me pay 5kc – but then gave out coupons for 5kc off a menu item. While I think that’s completely fair, some other potties were guarded by extortionists masquerading as janitors.

FYI – I was totally unaware of this before moving to Germany – it is perfectly acceptable in Europe for little boys to “water the flowers” anywhere except fancy schmancy gardens.  In Prague, I even saw a mother pull down her little girls pants in the park to make yellow snow.  I think I’m still a little too American for that.

A desperate Doc Sci uses a coin-operated potty. The boys thought it was hilarious but couldn’t figure out why Daddy kept disappearing (the door was not designed for PhD’s).

The monstrous Palladium shopping center had free bathrooms – but a pay to play kids area.  I can’t complain though – the admission price comes with a babysitter.  Rock on!

Fork over 75kc/hr/kid while you enjoy your fries sans begging.

But despite all of these headaches, you CAN do Prague with kids.  Uh, hello, I just did.  But truth be told, I had a little help from this website.  I was addicted to this guy’s details, marking down oodles of park locations and family-friendly restaurants on my map.  We visited parks almost every day to give a boys a break from the boring grown-up sites.  One amazing park right on the Vltava River even made it on the itinerary twice.

Our favorite park on Slovansky Ostrov - completely dark at 430pm!

Kampa Park playground - adjacent to the Charles Bridge.

 

Okay, okay, so I’ve told you mostly the frustrating parts of the kid-friendly argument.  But the bottom line is you can (and I did) do Prague with kids.  Just know beforehand, it’s not suburbia.  Be prepared to give up things you are used to (wide sidewalks come to mind).  Have a latte, take your kids to the park (or the babysitter in the mall!), and enjoy your trip.

Have you been to Prague with kids?  What was your experience?

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

It seems like every time I sit down to write I post, I feel like writing, “well, it’s been totally nutty around here.”  Every day can seem like an adventure, both exhausting and exciting.  I had intentions of starting a series on the seriously cool playgrounds here.  But since I missed posting yesterday and today is Travelzoo Wednesday, we’ll postpone the start.  Just a bit.  Don’t fret.  Lots of playplace photos to come.

The Good

Two thrilling things happened to me yesterday.  My Phil & Teds arrived!  I had glorious grand plans of flying to the UK to go pick this puppy up.  Well, okay, I wouldn’t consider easyJet glorious or grand.  But I do have a travel itch, and a flight would have scratched it.  A few details fell through, so we just had it shipped.  Boy was that more of an ordeal than I thought.

My two bundles of joy.

In the US, Fed Ex is usually called Fed Ex, they usually speak the same language as you do, and they also typically bring the package to your door.  Three strikes for me – I’m outta luck with all of the above.  Fortunately, I did put my phone number down in the shipment details, and the driver called me from the lobby of my building.  UNfortunately, he did not speak English.  Attempting to appear as anything but the clueless American that has found herself living in a country where she doesn’t speak the language, I offered another suggestion.  Rysski?

To my utter shock (and a bit to my dismay), the driver was Russian.  Bona fide from the Motherland Russian.  Oops.  Guess I should have studied up on that more.  After some crazy exchanges and lots of “sorry”‘s in several languages, I figured out that I had to go downstairs to sign for the behemoth.  And not only did I have to sign for my own package, I had to accept a package for someone else in my building.  The driver put what we would know as a doortag in the person’s mailbox with my name and flat number.  And THEN he proceeded to help me with my packages.  Good thing.  One weighed about 18 kilos.

One ridiculously awkward elevator ride and two dasvidanyas later, I did a happy dance.  And then I went to town putting together the most awesomest stroller everest.  I puffy heart Phil & Teds.

Phil & Teds Sport with doubles kit, rain cover (not pictured), and cocoon which we have no intentions of using anytime soon thankyouverymuch.

And the second thing?  Well, I botched my meal plan for the week and had nothing to make for dinner.  Nothing appealing, that is.  I loaded Screech and T-Rex in the P&T and walked to Lidl.  Doc Sci met me there to help corral kiddos because trying to grocery shop for more than 3 items with 2 boys is a total waste of time.  And brain power.  You’ll need to do some serious damage to a chocolate bar in order to recover. Not that I object to that.  But if you have a helpful husband, use what you’ve got.

As the man was wandering around, boys in tow, he stumbled upon some serious gold.  Okay, they weren’t gold.  They were peelies.  But such things are as rare as gold in Germany.  And not just 50 euro cents off some random gag-me-now, strongly perfumed laundry powder.  No.  Free Kids Meals at Burger King!

A night off from cooking for me - score!

Now, I am not usually a fast food eater outer.  T-Rex has only eaten McDonalds once.  In Ireland.  (Chick-fil-A does not count so keep your gloating about the freely available waffle fries, milkshakes, and spicy chicken sandwiches to yourself.)  In fact, we have only eaten out once since we’ve been here – our Aussie friends took us out for pizza.  Other than that, I have cooked every last measly meal of ours for weeks and weeks.  Hooray for a night off cooking.  Even if it means potato sticks fried in lard.  Walk it off, mama.

The Bad & The Ugly

T-Rex stayed home from kindergarten yesterday.  For good reason, too.  His face looks like he took on a Bengal tiger and lost.  Poor thing.  What started out as an innocent, exhilarating bike ride down a steep slope ended with a skidding stop.  On his face.  Doc Sci was there to catch him, but the bike hit a rough patch, swerved, and the Rex went down.  Lots and lots of blood and tears later, we determined that he just had a bunch of bruising and swelling.  One of his teeth seemed a little loose, but we’re on a wait-and-see course.  And he’s got a free pass out of eating raw carrots and apples for a few weeks.  I think he’s doing a little happy dance of his own about that.

p.s. – I’ll spare him the embarrassment and you the pain by refraining from posting a picture of the busted face.

How was your Recover-From-Halloween Day?  Leave a comment with your own good, bad, and ugly.

Essential German Toys: The Bobby Car

Weeks and heaps of days ago, I showed you T-Rex’s crazy cool PUKY bike.  Today, I’d like to introduce to you… drumroll please… the Bobby Car!

My first friend here owns two of these things: one for inside and one for outside.  And before you scrunch up your nose and scowl and say, why in the junk would you need one of those?  Think about this un momento por favor.  How do you teach a child to steer?

Yes, hmmm that is a problem.  I can personally attest that the classic shout & point method is utterly hopeless.  A two year-old has absolutely no idea what “turn” means, let alone left, right, that way, no this way, stop, be quiet, and go to sleep.  Solution?  Okay, a Bobby Car is not a bona fide prescription for success, but it does help.

Get your 1+ year-old a pair o’ these wheels, and let them figure it out in the comfort of your own hall, kitchen, living room, parlor, and ballroom.  The wheels are non-marking.  Well, provided you keep your inside Bobby Car inside and your outside Bobby Car outside.  In other words, if marks on the floor is an issue for you, don’t use this item to teach independence and responsibility.

I like this thingamabob because both boys play with it, and it doubles as a walker.  I’m all about things being multi-purpose especially when you don’t have a lot of storage space.  Screech is doing great at walking now but his chub needs a bit of help sometimes.  So he pushes Bobby around the ballroom, er I mean the hallway.

This is what a Bobby Car is supposed to look like:

 

This is what ours looks like:

That’s because a new one costs 50 euro, and I paid less than 3 euro.  Less than 3 you say?  That’s a bit vague for someone who’s rather exact about her money especially when it comes to saving it.  Ahhh, well, that’s the beauty of the flohmarkt.  I offered the hawker all the coins I had in my wallet.  He wanted 5, I paid about 2.83.  Rock on, thriftytravelmama.

So although it is old and faded and the stickers have half jumped ship, neither boy knows this.  And, by the time they do, they’ll be too old for it anyway.  But if you’re a little bit crazy or a little bit snotty (or both – I won’t tell), you can purchase the Bobby Car Benz.  Bling sold separately.

Would you buy a Bobby Car for your Bobby?  Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Marvel: real,- SWEET

Last Friday, I went to the Walmart of Germany called real,-.  I had to take a tram to the suburbs, but it was worth it.  You may have noticed in my post about paying cash for groceries that I found cheddar cheese and unpopped popcorn.  I found them – and a lot more – at real,-.  Since we’re all about travel here, I’ll give you a quick (free!!) tour.

This place sold everything from bedding to tires, toys, bikes, appliances, sports gear, and food.  Doc Sci sent me there with only an hour to spend.  Uh, that was not enough to cover it, and I was most definitely late getting home.

The vacuums are super tiny and more expensive than I thought they’d be.  I didn’t see any uprights – they all were the drag behind you type.  I’m pretty sure you get a rinky dink floor attachment with it but you could double the price by buying a real spiffy, as-big-as-the-canister attachment.

Itty bitty vacuums - with souped up attachments sold separately.

And then there are the bags.  Miles and miles of vacuum bag options.  Who knew there were that many kinds of vacuums in Germany?

Vacuum bags

And because vacuums cost so much, people here use brooms/dustpans/mops.  As such, real,- had an entire aisle devoted to these mainstays.

Broom/Dustpan aisle

The irons (also pricey) came with these things called steam stations.  I could not figure out what in the world they were for.  Does anyone know?

Irons with steam stations

In case you are fond of all the mystery meat sold here and you would like to slice it just so, you can purchase your very own deli meat slicer.  No home is complete without one, dontchaknow.

Your own personal deli meat slicer

While there are many options for hot pots (that’s electric tea kettle for you Americans), I only saw one with variable temperature.  But who cares?  One exists!  I am married to a tea snob who has to make his green, white, and red tea at a certain temperature.  It’s kind of ridiculous, but now that I am used to it, I can’t drink anything but black or herbal tea when it’s made with boiling water.  It really does burn the tea.  In America, we had one of these.  Doc Sci will be glad to know there is a euro-substitute.

Variable-temp hot pot

A washing machine!  A CHEAP washing machine!  We have hookups in our new flat for a washer (we have a new flat!).  With all the bum cover washing I do, I think it is worth it.

Cheapo washer

My friend in Estonia alerted me to the fact that ziplocs are not a European kitchen staple.  She was right.  Everyone has reusable containers.  I even saw a banana-shaped banana container.  Well, because what else would you put in a banana-shaped container but a banana?

Containers galore

Yesterday, I enlightened you all to the world of PUKY bikes.  Here are the cheap knock-offs, some with pedals and some without.

Knock-off PUKY bikes

And now to the food.  Ahhhh I am hungry already.  The first aisle I came to was the chocolate aisle.  Yes, there is a whole aisle (with a display running down the middle so it’s really more than just one) devoted to just chocolate.  The picture below is of half of it.  I stood in the very middle to take the picture.


HALF of the chocolate aisle

The baby aisle wasn’t so impressive.  They carry the same as other stores, nothing too exciting.  What I did find hilarious, however, was that it was right next to the wine aisle.


The baby aisle.. right next to the wine aisle.

I posted earlier about how I could not find frozen chicken breast.  Not that our freezer is big enough to hold it, but still.  I found it!

Frozen chicken breast - pretty cheap too!

I have been a big fan of Stephanie O’Dea’s crockpot recipes.  I am going through withdrawls without my crock here.  I have seen some on ebay and might break down and buy one.  What does this have to do with the picture below?  Stephanie does gluten-free recipes.  I could not believe the huge selection of gluten-free products.

Huge selection of gluten-free products

Because real,- is SWEET, they had an American section.  I find it seriously silly what they carry.  What I want to know is, are these products here because the expats actually buy these things?  Or are these products here because that’s what Germans THINK Americans want to buy?  I’m totally okay without my Crisco, Pop-Tarts,  Hellmann’s, and Jolly Time.  Hershey’s Syrup?  Well, it would take a lot for this thrifty mama to pay €6 for it.

The American section

I found BEANS!!! The bags are tiny but I will have to live with that.  Beans are, as you know, the magical fruit.  Fruit I can live without, magic I cannot.

Beans!

And last, but not least, we have a TEARPAD sighting folks!  Well, I’m pretty sure it’s a tearpad.  I didn’t take one because I don’t eat mayo.  Not even one slimy slather.  I am picky, I know.  Thanks, real,-!  You have given me more hope that Germany will one day resort to couponing.

Tearpads!

Did you like the tour?  Would you like more (free!!) tours?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Flohmarkt

Saturday’s trip was a little one, a short walk and picnic in the Black Forest.  After all, we had FLOHMARKTs to go to!  And what, pray tell, is a Flohmarkt?

Google Translate tells me it is a flea market.  I don’t remember the last time I was at a flea market so I can’t attest to whether or not it really is like one.  But I’m pretty sure “flea market” isn’t entirely accurate.

Flohmarkt!

I happened to see a sign for the Saturday morning one while getting lost.  How is it that you find things when you get lost?  One of the mysteries of life, I suppose.  This one reminded me more of a yard sale.  We didn’t get anything.

Scouring for deals

While T-Rex and Screech were peacefully napping (ha if only that were true), I went out with my new friend to another money pit, er, I mean sale across town.  This flohmarkt reminded me more of a crazy kids consignment sale.  You had to pay to have a table inside, but people lined up all along the path outside hawking wares for free (fellow thrifty mamas!).  Gobs and gobs of moms were packed inside the gym.

Thank God for my new friend.  She gave me the scoop on what all I needed for boys in winter.  I haven’t the foggiest, snowiest, rainiest idea.  However, I am most excited about the fact that I got… drum roll please… a PUKY bike for T-Rex!

I love me a PUKY bike!

These things seriously rock.  They are little bikes with no pedals.  The kid just scoots along, using his feet, while learning balance and steering.  I love it because it means I don’t have to push 36lbs of boy on an already heavy stroller.

I also picked up a pair of what my friend calls rubber pants.  Yeah, yeah, snicker away.  But I’m a clean freak which makes me a BIG fan of such contraptions.  The playgrounds here are mostly sand.  I already cringe at the thought of having to clean up sandy toddlers and babies (with no vacuum..) but once you get the stuff wet, it’s even worse.  Of course, Germans would have a solution to such problem.  The kids put these jumper thingies on and they can dig, bury, and roll around to their heart’s content.

Dirt is no match for T-Rex in the rubber pants

In addition to the PUKY bike and pants, I got a winter stroller cover for the Screech man, two tubs of good ol’ wooden blocks, a humongo sleep bag (I have only seen these for newborns – all kids here wear them), and three German word books.  All that for about €38!  I KNEW there were deals to be had here!

Do you have a favorite consignment sale, garage sale, etc find?  Leave a comment, link, or shameless plug!

Bump Rider

“Let’s go – we’re leaving!”

“In the car, mama?”

“No, we don’t have a car anymore.”

This speech happens almost every time we leave our flat.  T-Rex can’t really understand where our car went, but at least he doesn’t complain about walking everywhere.  Why?  Because we have a Bump Rider!

A former bump riding

A Bump Rider is a handy dandy, half skateboard-ish contraption that attaches to the back of any stroller.  A toddler or preschooler can stand up on it, hold on to the stroller and ride for free.  In other words, it’s an insta-double stroller!

Though I wouldn’t consider it cheap, it is a BARGAIN compared to the price of strollers here.  Doubles are hard to come by and not easy to maneuver over cobble stones, through narrow aisles, on and off trams, etc.  Of course, there is one double model that is, Phil & Teds.  (I’m secretly in love with you Phil & Ted – shhhh!  Don’t tell Eddie Bauer!  I’m figuring out the detail$$ of how we can be together.)

As for what you do if you have 3, I guess you just get your car shipped over here.  Or you get a Chariot to pull two, a bike seat for one, and ask Santa pretty pretty please for some killer leg muscles to pull all that kiddo weight!  Okay beg, grovel, plead.  You (I) will need them!

Do you have a stroller you love?  Have you used it on public transportation?  On dirt paths?  I want to hear about favorite strollers – extra points for bargains!

Trip Report: Schauinsland

On your second weekend in a new country where you’ve just moved do you..

(a) sleep in

(b) clean and organize

(c) study language books

(d) explore

If you answered anything but (d), you’re reading the wrong blog!  We headed out to ride the Schauinslandbahn, the longest circulating cable car in Germany.  We took a bus to the bottom of the mountain and you’ll never guess who we met!!!

View from the top

Santa Claus was on our bus!  And even better than that, we now know he speaks German!  He was sporting his holiday haircut and beard, short, very short.  He was, as I mentioned, on holiday with a bunch of his buddies.  But that did not stop him from having T-Rex sit on his lap the whole bus ride.  T-Rex still doesn’t quite understand that not everyone in the world speaks or understands English!  We did not get a picture with him – we were a little star struck and didn’t want to draw attention to his fame.

T-Rex in the cable car

Trip report tips:

1. Keep it cheap! Though we did buy two, full-priced, return tickets (up and back down the mountain), there are other ways to reduce costs.  First, bring your kids with you!  Both boys were free.  Look for any other discounts you can (student, senior, bahn card holder, etc).  You can also pay to go up and walk or bike down if your kiddies are bigger than mine and not begging to be carried the first five minutes on the mountain.

Screech riding for free

2. Get a map! You don’t want to be lost AND tired/hungry/frustrated/cold/wet/etc.  And best of all, these maps are almost always free.

Doc Sci uses his fancy schmancy brain cells to figure out which way to go

3. Bring your own lunch! Of course there was a restaurant at the top station but why pay when you can bring your own?  We had about 5 euro worth of food for all four of us (Screech can eat bits of turkey, bread, banana etc so it’s like he is eating a sandwich too).  I don’t even think you could buy a drink at that restaurant for 5 euro.


Cheap picnic lunch

4. Bring the right equipment! We have a Snugli cross-terrain backpack carrier.  I’m not endorsing this product, simply stating that we have one.  There are lots of other models out there.  An internal frame backpack carrier is definitely the way to go when bringing an early walker (or not walking at all in the case of my super laid-back Screech) on an outdoor excursion.  When we took T-Rex to Ireland last summer (Screech was still baking in the oven), everyone marveled at this contraption.  We could’ve found our pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow selling those puppies.  This thingy also lets the babies take a nap on the go if needed.

Screech napping on the go

4. Be realistic about your athletic ability! Don’t stress if you can’t spend all day hiking all the trails just to get your money’s worth.  The view and time spent together is worth the price.  We only spent 3 hours or so on the mountain because we have ittie bitties that still take (and need) naps.  Just get out there, get some fresh air, and make some memories.


T-Rex trying to keep up with Screech who got a free ride

In Germany, everyone enjoys the outdoors - even the nuns!

One other thing.. can I just say that I LOVE how the Germans are super kid-friendly?  We stepped off the cable car at the top of the mountain and, voila!  A kinderspielplatz (aka playground)!!  More to come on German playgrounds…

Schauinslandbahn playground