Today was a good day. It started in Germany with a chocolate croissant, and ended toasting with some very nice people at a sailing club in Switzerland while the kids swam in the rain.
Have I mentioned that we are not really planners? We woke up early this morning, Sunday morning, and our first full day off since we started home school. By the time I had stood in the long line at the bakery across the street (well worth the wait) to get my Schokocroissant and made it back to our apartment my husband had hatched a plan. “Do you want to drive to Lichtenstein for lunch?” Well, yes, that sounded like an adventure in the making. It was 8:45 and so we were well ahead of schedule to make the 2.5 hour drive by lunch. “How about we pack a change of clothes just in case we decide to stay overnight somewhere,” that little planner suggested. It took us about forty-five minutes to be completely ready to head out on our adventure.
As we left Oberammergau we reflected on how it had been so easy to pack our stuff up in case we wanted to spend the night somewhere and get out of the house. At home in San Luis Obispo, it would have taken at least half a day of planning and would have been almost more work than it was worth. It is freeing to have less stuff around and yet we have not felt deprived or like we have been living out of our suitcases. We packed light for this eight week adventure and I still feel like we have more stuff than we need. I still find myself sifting through stuff or looking under stuff to find something, granted it is nothing like it is at home. That was the first discovery of the day. The second followed quickly, I still have a lot of work to do on keeping my comments in check, remember, say nothing (more on that later).
We arrived in Lichtenstein ready for lunch to find a nearly deserted town. It was Sunday and of course we had done no research or planning. It looked like the entire population of Vaduz, the capital of Lichtenstein, stayed at home on Sunday. We wandered into a couple of cafes looking for food but they were only serving drinks. Finally, we came across a café with lit pictures of the menu items on the wall behind the counter. It looked like fast food and not that appetizing but I am working on not being so picky (failure later in the day) and also learning (thankfully) that the food will surprise you around here. I had the best Falafel and the first Falafel Sandwich in my life; very good and very expensive. This was a little side street café (pizza and lots of other random things like falafel and chicken nuggets) and our lunch came to over 60 Francs, Swiss Francs that is.
This area is interesting and also a bit confusing for us. The countries are small and close together so languages are more regional, but that can be ambiguous as well. Lichtenstein is located between Austria and Switzerland, it is German speaking but their currency is the Swiss Franc. I did a little research just to try and be less ignorant. Lichtenstein was part of the Holy Roman Empire until 1806 when it became an independent principality. After World War I it became linked with Switzerland in a customs union which explains use of the Swiss Franc. It is the 6th smallest country in the world at 62 square miles and has more companies than people, many of which are the private banks it is known for. They boast a 100 percent literacy rate.
The kids had seen a flea market looking event, the only evidence of people in the town, going on while we looked for lunch. They wanted to go back and have a look. We wandered around. It was interesting; there were toys, books, old video games and antiques. I admired an antique iron that reminded me of the special antique iron my dear friend gave me a few years ago to use as a doorstop. She had collected it from her husband’s family home in Finland and brought all the way back to California. A woman appeared at my side and started telling me about the iron. She spoke very little English but was intent upon communicating and obviously enjoyed a conversation regardless of the means of conversing. I am still not sure how this happened but what started out as explaining how old the iron was and how it was used much longer in the mountains because of the lack of electricity, turned into a history lesson about Ethiopia and Christianity. She had lived in Ethiopia for three years and knew a lot about its history and the problems there now including the immigrants trapped in Calais, France, trying to get to England. Then the conversation veered to Margaret Thatcher, the European Union, the pound and why Lichtenstein uses the Swiss Franc. She was wonderful and such a vibrant person and another reminder that if a person wants to communicate, language really isn’t too much of a barrier.
We looked through all of the stalls. Scott noticed a Mario DS Gameboy case and suggested it would be the coolest case for my phone. It was 4 Euros (Euros are accepted as well as Francs) but he told me I should haggle. The funny thing is, Scott always think I should haggle, but he couldn’t haggle to save his life. So, I indulged him, he was after all doing all of the driving and right out of the gate I had snapped at him for no good reason (don’t tell him that). So I offered 3 Euros and low and behold my offer was accepted. He was delighted and Grant was disturbed that his mother was cool enough to come up with idea of using a Mario DS case for her phone. I didn’t fill him in, not my fault he missed the first part of the conversation. He gave me an incredulous look and mentioned a conversation he had had with one of his friends. To sum up their conversation; when your parents start using the same platforms as you, it’s time to move on. I think he was applying the same sentiment in this situation. When your mother starts realizing that Mario is cool…
Scott was high on my bargaining techniques and so when I pointed out a beautiful, brass, antique cowbell decorated with daisies, he was ready to send me in. The price was steep, 100 Euros, so I offered 50. The proprietors didn’t even have to think about my offer, the husband and wife turned it down flat. Fine with me, how would we get it home anyway and stuff is stuff. So we looked around a little more because the kids were enjoying themselves so much. Scott must have really wanted me to have that cowbell because he stopped Ashley right in front of the cowbell and pointedly asked her if she had any Euros on her and they made a big show of pooling their money and counting it again, 75 Euros total. Scott walked over to the woman and made another offer. The husband and wife gave each other a few husband and wife looks and considered the offer this time. Yes, they would take it. Everyone was happy. I told them in German that my name is Daisy as I pointed to the little flowers adorning my new bell.
Scott is incredibly, annoyingly intelligent which I do appreciate most of the time, but he also has this quirky knack for a few things; picking out paint colors for a room, choosing the right thing off of a menu, and knowing when something is special. I would have walked away from that bell, no regrets, but in the car on the way home the next day when he was talking about all of the reasons it was so neat, I realized what a gift he had given me. The bell is old and made of brass which means it was cast. It has daisies on it of all things and we have heard cow bells on all of our hikes. The first time I heard them here I thought they were warning bells (Rule Number 5) and now I have a beautiful memento of our time here.