I had German lessons and a lot of stress in the beginning of the week. I had so many things to get done at home and realized the enormity of some of our upcoming projects at work. My brother and sister-in-law were visiting at the end of the week. I wasn't sure how I would get everything done until I had the liberating thought: instead of trying to work a couple hours before I picked them up in the afternoon, I would just take the whole day off. Duh. I stress myself out so much by trying to do all the things. As it was, I was up until midnight the night before working on things and then spent two hours the next day preparing. I was so glad that I didn't try to go into work!
-I picked up my family at Frankfurt Hahn, which is not really anywhere near the actual Frankfurt. However, the drive is pleasant; I take the 63 to the 61 to the 50. My GPS was bound and determined that I should take the 6 to the 62 and I told it absolutely not. The construction that way is just awful right now!
We headed to Bingen, where we sat under a tree near the ferry and enjoyed the delicious, vegan picnic I had packed for us (based on this meal that I made for friends) since SIL is vegan. Following lunch, we took the ferry across the Rhein River to Rüdesheim am Rhein and basically repeated the trip I took there in December, minus the Christmas market part. This gave my family the chance to see a twee German town with fachwerk buildings.
-We continued to Cologne, where we walked around, had dinner at Cafe Especial (which is some of the better Mexican food I've had in Germany), and viewed the Cathedral.
The next day, we wandered around Cologne some more, stopping to eat lunch at a vegan restaurant (which had delicious quiche and a "milk" shake with cookie dough that we shared). We also browsed a record store and Saturn, then had to get on our way back home.
Originally, I had planned to meet with my friend R in Kaiserslautern, but we got stuck in a nasty Stau on the 61 and would've been too late. Instead, we met in Mainz and ate at Im Herzen Afrikas, which is a delicious Ethiopian restaurant. I've been meaning to try the Frankfurt version for quite some time. Even though we didn't have a reservation, they were able to tuck us into a corner.
-On Saturday, we got a late start and headed to Heidelberg. Just after arriving, we were stuck in a fierce thunderstorm so we hung out at Red, a vegetarian restaurant where we had purchased lunch.
When the storm had abated, we continued to the Heidelberg castle, taking the Bergbahn (mountain rail) to get to the top. It's possible to hike up there, too, but it's steep, we didn't have time, and we had no interest in coating ourselves in any additional sweat. Unfortunately, we were too late for the English tour, but my family was content with wandering the castle grounds.
Afterward, we walked around Heidelberg and stopped by the Kulturbrauerei, a beer brewery and restaurant. My brother had wanted to visit a beer hall but this region (and points west) is known for wine and beer halls aren't so common. C, who used to live in Heidelberg, came to the rescue with the name of the brewery. There wasn't any dancing on tables or any lederhosen, but they enjoyed the beer, nonetheless.
We grabbed a train home and ended up back in Kaiserslautern around 11 p.m. My family was hungry but it can be difficult to find a restaurant whose kitchen is still open that late, even on the weekends. We lucked out and convinced the staff at Spinnrädl to cook us something, even though most of the staff had gone.
Everyone was happy with the place; they were able to put together a beautiful vegan salad to my SIL's specifications; I ate some Kaesespaetzle, and my brother ordered some incredibly regional food, liver dumpling soup and Saumagen (a Pfalz specialty that former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl loved to foist upon visiting dignitaries).
I'm not a huge fan of German food normally (it's too heavy and not always so vegetarian/vegan friendly) but I do like visiting Spinnrädl with guests upon occasion because of its ambiance (it's the oldest surviving fachwerk building in town); it serves traditional, regional dishes that are tasty (well, to the meat eaters); and while it's tourist-friendly, it's somewhere that the locals eat too and prices are in line with other restaurants.
-The next morning, we got up early so I could drop off my family at the airport again. I'm so glad that they visited and I was able to share my life here with them. I hadn't seen them for 2.5 years and won't see them again until next year when I visit the US.
-Following that, I had some work to do, went strawberry and cherry picking, ran to the store to pickup some household things, and even made strawberry jam using hot water bath canning. Phew!