Hello friends. We are writing to you from the German Alps. We are half-way home from Tuscany, Italy in the town of Oberammergau, Germany. This is one of Jamie's favorite places in Europe--and by coincidence, it turns out to be exactly half way back to Berlin from Tuscany...to the minute. So we are here to rest overnight, before the final push back to Berlin.
It's been an amazing 14 days. Gorgeous scenery, new church friends, and a burnt foot. Jamie's in a little more pain as her foot goes through the healing process. She's limping quite a bit, and her foot looks awful--but I guess it's part of the healing process.
Our final days in Tuscany were uneventful. We tried to take it easy on our vacation and spent the afternoons usually visiting the various mountaintop castle towns. But mostly, we just felt wiped out--and in Jamie's case, gimpy. Tuscany was gorgeous and we were deep into the nature. Marco said he's really digging this nature thing after nearly 10 years of concrete jungle in Hong Kong. As we drove through the German Alps, Marco said, "I'd like to live in a place like this one day with all this nature everywhere." We also drove through the Italian Alps and Austrian Alps today.
For those that are interested: Driving in Europe
Driving in Europe is not the same as driving in the United States. Driving in the USA is so easy. Especially across the USA. When I was in college it was 2,300 miles home on vacation and 2,300 miles back to college. I would drive from Indiana to Portland, Oregon doing 12 hour days. It was no big deal. It was relaxing and mostly boring. Of course when we are on home-assignment, the same thing applies. Long drives--uneventful--easy, relaxing and sometimes boring.
Here in Europe, however, it's a different story. We find that 6 to 7 hours is the maximum limit that we like to drive because driving is a lot more exhausting in Europe than in the USA. Here are a few reasons why I think that's the case:
1) Speeds: You are traveling at high speeds (especially on the autobahn). It's a lot different driving 6 hours at 65 mph. than it is at 135 mph. Especially when you are constantly having to get out of the way of someone going 180 mph and slowing down for someone just doing 100 mph. You have no room for error. You can't space out at the wheel like you can driving across Nebraska. You have to pay attention because a few seconds of daydreaming can cost you your life at these speeds. So it is much more taxing on you mentally and physically. Make sure you slow down for that exit ramp from 140mph down to 40 mph or you'll be a splatter on the wall.
2) Smaller freeways: For the most part, the freeways are a lot less spacious than in the USA so once again, the room for error is small, especially when you factor in the higher speeds.
3) Windy highways and roads: Most of this trip, we were on very, windy roads--often at high altitudes. I'd say only about 8 hours of our driving time in Italy was on straight roads over the course of 2 weeks. Most all of the time, we were driving on curvy, two lane roads or windy small freeways.
4) Signs in different languages: Unlike driving across the USA, here you have to deal with the language factors and figuring out exits, toll booths, and other things in different languages. The GPS helps, but you still have to pay close attention.
5) In case of car problems---you are probably in a remote area where people don't speak your language. In the USA, it seems like there's a gas station, AAA service, a McDonalds, and probably a Target every 2 miles just about everywhere. Not so in Europe. The towns are small, quaint, and charming...and often far apart with few stores and many closed much of the day. So if car problems arise, it's going to probably be a long, complicated ordeal. For that reason, we don't like to drive at night.
So we got into Oberammergau at 5pm after leaving around 9AM and I'm totally beat from driving. But we got here with enough time to look around the town. An interesting thing:
The Uniqueness of Oberammergau
Oberammergau is the sight of a Passion Play that is put on every 10 years. This has been going on for nearly 500 years in this town. The whole town is involved in this multi-hour play of the final week of Christ's life. People from all over the world come to watch this re-enactment of the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of Christ. Jamie saw it ten years ago. This past year 2010, our missionaries to Bulgaria, Dave and Kathy Simpson, saw it as well. Perhaps in 2020 you can see it. But get your tickets early. It's a big, big deal.
The whole thing started back in the 1600's when Bubonic plague hit the town. The town made a commitment to God (we saw the signed paper in the town's church today) that they would put this play on every 10 years. It's an amazing story. Walking through the town, the houses are painted with scenes from the life of Jesus and the church inside is gorgeous. On the large mountain hanging over the town is a cross.
We will post some pictures in the coming days. We've all really appreciated having this time as a family. I know it has been really good for Marco to have focused time with his parents. He and I played a lot of ball on this trip. We worked on learning how to throw a perfect spiral with an American football and he learned to play catch with a real baseball on this trip too. That was very fun.
Back to Berlin tomorrow and Canada on Thursday or something like that.