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December 30, 2001
Gemünd: Winter wonderland (Russell)

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The road to Gemünd

Jayne's friend is out of town through the holidays, so we could have stayed in her borrowed apartment in Bad Gödesburg for the entire week if we had wanted.  Unfortunately, we hadn't known this when we were making our plans months ago.  In order to be sure that we wouldn't have to sleep in our car for the New Year, we also went ahead and booked a timeshare near Bonn through Russell's sister.  It turned out to be just as well, because the boys became quite housebound during our three nights in Bad Gödesburg; and Russell and Gail became increasingly afraid that something was going to get broken in the apartment.

So on December 29th, we packed our things (yet again) and set out from Bad Gödesburg to Gemünd-Schleiden, about 50 km west.  Using a combination of Jayne's map, our Europe gazetteer, and the timeshare instructions, we drove a zigzagged route, switching autobahns several times in order to reach Gemünd.  Once we arrived in the town itself, the timeshare directions no longer matched reality (as usual), and we ended up driving back and forth several times looking for the place.  This was especially difficult because the roads had become very snowy and icy, and without tire chains it was very difficult to turn the car around.  Luckily, Gail the seasoned Midwesterner was behind the wheel; and even more luckily, we finally found a small sign that pointed us directly to the timeshare.

With the help of the very friendly English-speaking German hostess, we were soon settled into our one-bedroom unit.  We were especially fortunate that we had done extensive grocery shopping the day before; it was now Saturday afternoon, and the closed stores would not be open again until Monday.  The Russian family who checked in before us discovered this the hard way when they showed up with no food.  (We actually tried to offer them some of ours, but they never took us up on it.)

Gemünd was every bit the image of a perfect Christmas winter wonderland that Paris was not.  The trees in the forest were right out of an Ansel Adams photograph, their leafless branches dusted with beautiful white snow.  The buildings had a very Alpine feel, with A-frame roofs and wooden siding.  Everything -- buildings, roads, walkways, bushes, trees, and cars --  was blanketed in white.  The first thing that the boys did was have a snowball fight in the fading daylight, despite having sneakers instead of boots and knitted gloves instead of snow gloves.

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A snowball fight by moonlight

Inside, it was warm and cozy.  The abundant radiators provided a perfect place to dry shoes, gloves, and coats quickly.  The adults were once again in the one bedroom, while the boys were once again in the sofa bed (this particular sofa bed was the strangest one we have yet encountered, with a non-spring mechanism that had to be heaved and shoved awkwardly into place).

On December 30th, Cameron and Joss spent the morning watching American cartoons dubbed into German (they didn't understand a word, but listening to perfect German imitations of Pinky and the Brain is hilarious).  Gail did some long overdue laundry, though it took both her and Russell together to figure out the coin-operated German machines and instructions.  In the afternoon, the entire family had a gigantic snowball fight (adults against kids, but Gail kept switching sides) on the snow-covered playground.  We finished off the day in the Finnish sauna.  (In Europe, one does not wear one's clothes in the sauna.  As prudish Americans, we compromised by wearing towels, and we were fortunate enough to be the only ones in there at the time.)

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Three guys in a sauna

After spending months wondering where we were going to be able to spend the holidays, we now have two separate accommodations near Bonn that we can alternate between according to our whims.  Tomorrow we will take overnight bags back to Bad Gödesburg and celebrate New Year's Eve with Jayne.  Then we will return to our second home (or is it our third home? or fourth?) for a few more chances to play in the snow.

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One night's worth of snowfall


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