Mom and Dad arrived in Stockholm last night and joined our adventures. Thankfully, the restaurant under our hotel has milkshakes.
Errol had a philosophy commitment in Uppsala today. It’s a university town outside of Stockholm. We went back and forth on whether the kids and I should go. We landed on yes, and it was the right decision.
We had a low-key day in a beautiful place. We started at Pelle Svanslöparken. It’s an amazing playground based off some Swedish stories. Errol is on the hunt for English translations.
Next, we got lunch at a grocery. Thom found some Swedish meatballs in the prepared foods section, and they were pretty delicious.
We picnicked in the public library courtyard and later went inside and enjoyed their chessboard and large selection of English books.
We reunited with Errol, and all of us visited the impressive cathedral. Sehr schön.
On the walk back to the train station, I bought some strawberries from a street stand. They were sold in unwrapped containers without lids. I told Errol that I wasn’t sure how I’d get them safely transported back to our hotel. He said he was pretty sure that wouldn’t be an issue. He was right.
The flights to Stockholm were a lot cheaper out of Geneva. When we bought the tickets, we thought the journey to the Geneva airport would be part of the trip.
Back in 2012, Errol applied for a long-term post-doc in Fribourg, Switzerland. That was a road untaken, but we wanted to see the city we might have called home for several years. Our plan was to take a stopover in Fribourg enroute to Geneva.
We made these plans in January. Since then, our crew has spent a lot of time away from our home in Freiburg. Errol and the bigs won’t be back until June 2. Now, the idea of adding to this already ambitious trip seemed absurd.
But, plane tickets had already bought. We needed to be in the Geneva airport this morning. We cut out Fribourg and went straight to Geneva yesterday. Well, as straight as Deutsche Bahn let us. We had to change trains in Basel and Bern.
We arrived at our airport hotel around 5. The thunderstorm had rolled on through, and the sun was shining. I was excited to drop off the bags and experience the beauty we’d caught a glimpse of on the train. Unsurprisingly, the kids wanted to stay at the hotel and watch television.
You can probably see where this is heading.
Errol and I forced them out of the hotel and on a bus to Geneva. We saw the lake and eventually found a place to eat that didn’t cost $100, but it wasn’t pretty. Tanks were empty and moods corresponded. I left the table at the pizzeria to escape the awful.
I hadn’t walked far before I found a Starbucks. I sat down on a bench outside of it and immediately felt better--reading the posters and seeing the familiar green straws. It’s funny what comforts us.
I didn’t need to go inside or buy a drink. I needed a reminder of something outside the present, beyond the brats I deserted at the dinner table.
Starbucks is Kath’s 2 chai a day habit and Ab’s affinity for their seasonal lattes. It is memories of toddler twins munching on cake pops in the double stroller to stay awake on the walk home.
Though it’s not popular to say in my bubble of northeast elites, sometimes international chains are really quite fantastic.
We spent a few hours in Geneva before we fly north for our big spring trip. The lake and city were beautiful. Prices here, however, are not as satisfying.
The bigs and I slept well on the ferry. I was surprised how strong the vibrations were on such a big boat. I felt a bit like a baby being lulled to sleep in one of those vibrating chairs.
Although we were supposed to dock at 6 a.m., we were allowed to stay in our cabins until 8:30 a.m. We didn’t stay quite that long, but we didn’t get as early of a start as I thought we would.
It also took me awhile to find the Piraeus metro stop. Thom and Vinnie were decently patient with my incompetence and enjoyed ginormous chocolate croissants from a Greek bakery.
All the Greeks we encountered were incredibly friendly. On the metro, a random woman gave Thom a wet wipe to clean the chocolate off his face. These kind of interactions are especially hilarious when there isn’t a common language. Lots of miming, smiles, and nods.
We arrived at the Acropolis and were greeted by a fairly short but slow-moving line at the ticket office. Promises of “E-tickets coming soon!” hung nearby.
We saw a little boy about the twins’ age, and his parents were taking turns standing in line and wandering around with him. It felt good to imagine what my sweet five-year-olds were doing at that moment--probably playing foosball in the garage of the Crete house. It was definitely the right choice to let them skip this Athenian adventure.
Vinnie, Thom, and I started up the Acropolis in bright mid-morning sunshine. Vinnie tired quickly, and we took breaks in random shady spots. I really liked sitting in Dionysus’s Theater. One of my favorite classes in college was Drama in Antiquity, and it was a fun challenge to try to jog those memories.
There were lots of people at the Parthenon, but it wasn’t sickenly crowded like the prime tourist sights of Paris and Rome.
Thom and Vinnie have turned into quite the Anti-Colonialists and had many questions about why they had seen the art off the Parthenon in the British Museum last fall. Yet, they were also very happy to see almost every sign written in English as well as the Greek.
Vinnie and Thom were re-energized at the Areopagus. There are two sets of stairs up the rock. One is built into the rock, and it’s steep and slippery in some spots. The other is an independent full staircase with a railing and a sense of security. The kids bypassed both and climbed up the rock on their own.
Everywhere you go on the Acropolis, there’s a spectacular view of Athens. It literally sparkles in the sun.
The climbing and heat brought on an early lunch. We went down an alley with numerous restaurants, and one used stairs as tables and chairs.
After lunch we took a walk through the national garden and popped in and out of a few shops.
The day before, Melanie had slipped the kids a 10 to take me out for a Mother’s Day ice cream. It was a great way to end our time in the city.
When I’m in a city for a short time, I prefer to take a bus instead of riding a train underground. It’s nice to have a seat and look out the window. It seemed like an especially good idea in Athens because I had read that there’s a big pick-pocketing problem on crowded Metro trains.
Sadly, the bus I had planned to take to the airport was cancelled. Annoying, but I happily accepted that if it would be the biggest snag in our trip.
I paid the higher fare for the Metro ride to the airport, and we arrived just minutes before Errol and the twins’ plane landed from Crete.
Errol wasn’t thrilled with my idea to split up, take a boat, and have this time in Athens with the bigs. I was nervous that something would go wrong, and I would be blamed for my travel schemes. I felt such relief and happiness when I saw those bright, mosquito-bitten twin faces in the Athens airport.
The travel day was far from over, but at least we were all together again.
Thom and the other older kids at Oberlin have been taking a bike safety course on Thursday mornings this spring. On those Thursdays, he takes the 1 tram going toward the bike class, and Vinnie and I take the 1 tram going the other way toward Oberlin.
This morning there was an announcement on Vinnie and my tram. I hate the announcements. I catch pieces of them, but I never know what is happening.
My interpretation of today’s was that our tram was stopping at Rathaus im Stühlinger. We’d need to walk to the next stop to continue our commute. I was happy to hear one of my favorite German phrases, “zu Fuß.” It means, by foot.
We followed the masses off the tram, but the crowd quickly dispersed. There didn’t seem to be a group to follow. I asked Vinnie what we should do.
“Easy. Follow the tram tracks.”
We walked next to the tram tracks, but then we ended up at the next stop for the 5 tram instead of the 1.
It was now for certain Vinnie wasn’t going to make it to school on time.
Google maps sorted it, and we found the 1’s next stop, Runzmattenweg. Apparently, it’s only 650 meters between Rathaus im Stühlinger and Runzmattenweg, but it still seems kind of nuts for the tram to stop and expect everyone to walk.
Vinnie made it to school around 8:10, and we agreed it was really lucky Thom wasn’t with us. He loves being early to everything, somewhat satisfied with being on time, and absolutely detests being late.
This morning the twins’ kindergarten was scheduled for a field trip to see a puppet show. It was pouring rain when Errol dropped the boys off.
“Those teachers are so brave,” he said tonight.
All the kids were waterproofed head to toe, and they trotted off toward the tram stop unbothered by the bad weather.
“No one complained,” Errol marveled, “and they make all the kids put on their rain gear themselves.”
It’s hard to imagine a scenario like this in New Jersey.
My brother, his wife, and their friends stayed in our house when we were in Greece. The kids had a few hours with them before they left for their next stop on their Europe trip.
Sunday was a huge day, but before I delve in, it should be noted that it was also Vinnie’s half birthday. Since we were far from a kitchen and baking supplies, we celebrated a day late.
I left Crete tonight with a heavy heart. We’ve had such a nice trip.
Yesterday we went hiking down the Mila Gorge. The kids handled the physical challenges well but were a little too adventurous--Neddy especially. He has the tendency to run ahead without looking back, and we lost him for a bit.
Vinnie likes to go off the path and scale whatever possible.
At the end of the hike we lunched at a taverna in the gorge. When we arrived at the start of the trail, we saw the restaurant’s supplies sent down on a zipline.
After the hike, we visited the city Rethymno. Melanie and I watched the kids enjoy one of the beaches while Errol and Andrew checked out the old Venetian fortress. Then we got ice cream, and I bought a straw hat.
Our house on Crete had a pool, and Thom and Vinnie would swim multiple times a day. The beach was also only about 100 meters behind the house. It was fantastic. We ate outside and could hear the waves from the balconies.
It was incredibly beautiful, but my favorite parts were the evenings after the kids fell asleep. Between Melanie’s work calls, the four of us would play the game Cards of Humanity. It was so fun, and we all had bouts of uncontrollable laughter. It was the best.
The only downside of the trip was the mosquitoes. Errol and the twins were hit hard.
On our last day, Errol drove us close to Heraklion to explore Knossos, including ruins of King Minos’s palace. It is mind-blowing to think how old it is. Some was built in 1900 BCE!
We ate delicious gyros in Heraklion and then parted ways. Thom, Vinnie, and I boarded an overnight ferry at the Heraklion port. I couldn’t come all the way to Greece and not see Athens.
The boat left Heraklion at 9 p.m. and is supposed to arrive at Piraeus(Athens’ port) at 6 a.m. Errol and the twins will fly from Crete, and we’ll all reunite at the Athens airport Sunday afternoon.