Christmas in the family / German road trip

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We celebrated Christmas in the family in western Switzerland as usual, this year at my parents' place in Lausanne. it was a very nice and cosy time, a good occasion to see all the family members in a relaxed atmosphere. The girls were a little overwhelmed by all the emotions (and the presents :-) but everything went great.
Burg Hohenzollern
On the 27th, we packed our things and drove north to Schaffhausen first, and then over the german border to Burg Hohenzollern (castle Hohenzollern). We stopped on the foot of the hill it stands on to eat lunch in the Gasthof Brielhof, where we had a very good meal. The people there were very friendly and helpful with the children.
The weather was very sunny but also extremely cold, so we decided to be lazy and to take the shuttle between the parking area and the castle, which would be a 20 minutes walk otherwise. On top, we went to the main inner yard and waited a few minutes for the start of the 45 minutes visit.
The visit was nice, especially funny because we were asked to wear slippers in order to avoid scratching or dirtying the beautiful wooden floors. Laeticia fell asleep very fast in my arms, so I had a 13 kgs "luggage" to drag along! During the visit, we learned that Hohenzollern actually belongs to Prussia and not to Baden Würtenberg, by which it is totally surrounded. Through the complicated games of thrones, Hohenzollern actually provided quite a number of german kings and even emperors.
The visit took us through only 12 rooms of the 200+ that the castle has. All in all, we found it interesting, though the castle with its modern architecture (the current walls were built in the 1850s only) seemed less attractive to us than, for example, Neuschwanstein.
We finished by a short walk in the underground casemates, which are the remainings of the castle's second building, dating from the 15th century (the very first building dates from the 11th century, however it completely disappeared when the castle was burnt to the ground in 1423).
Medieval city Tübingen
Tübingen lies about 45 km south of Stuttgart. It is a lovely small city, with very well preserved houses in a typical medieval style. We parked in the center and then took a slow stroll through the streets, and up to the castle. A wonderful sunset gave to everything a very romantic color. We hesitated to find a hotel in the city itself, but finally decided to drive a little bit further, and we found a small hotel on the way, in the nearby city of Wurmlingen. The Palm GPS has been a great help during the whole trip, including finding the hotel and then a restaurant (and its phone number) for the dinner.
Europa Park
On the 28th, we drove through the Black Forest to Rust, where Europa Park is located. This is the biggest amusement park in Germany. We had booked (with some difficulties) a room in the Hotel Colosseo, a very nice 4 stars hotel located right next to the park (and managed by the group also managing the park itself). After checking in, we spent the afternoon in the park. It was very nice and sunny though quite cold, but the many attractions as well as warm clothes kept us comfortable (though I was sick with a fever and a bad headache that day...). Around 4PM, we took the room and then Chi Meei and the kids went for a swim while I rested in the room. We had dinner in the hotel's restaurant then, and finally a good night's sleep, during which I actually recovered from my illness.
The next day, after a very nice breakfast (buffet), we went to the park again at 10AM (some sections of the park open earlier than the regular 11AM for the hotels' guests only). The only difficulty we encountered was to explain Laeticia that some of the attractions were OK for Alise but not for her... But we also found lots of things to do all together. Face makeup (a butterfly and a tiger), boat rides, car rides, the Pirates, and even the ghosts castles... And many more that we left aside when we finally decided to go back to the hotel.
A short swim then dinner, and then Alise and I took the monorail again to the big movie theater located near the park's main entrance. There, we saw "Happy Feet", a very nice and well made movie. Interestingly, the "4D" theater also offered additional thrills, for example "snow" flakes or gusts of winds when a corresponding scene was displayed. We then took the monorail back to the hotel and enjoyed our beds.
The next day after breakfast, we left the hotel and drove back to Donaueschingen with small roads first, a very scenic drive, and from there (after a bit of shopping) to Stäfa.
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