Limbo

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Personal entertainment systems on the Condor flight made the 12 hours go a lot smoother.

We flew back to the United States a week ago today and we are still in limbo. For the past week we have been trying to convince our bodies to adjust to the new time zone. However, it has not been easy and we find ourselves eating breakfast at 3am, while the rest of Las Vegas is still sound asleep. Our flight from Germany with Condor airlines went pretty well for a long distance haul with three kids. The staff on the airplane was wonderful, and Condor tries hard to make their youngest passengers happy.

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The staff on the plane gave out special activities and games just for kids.

As soon as we hit the ground we had to think about transportation. The days of trains are long behind us and our first objective back in the states was to buy a car. This was not a very fun process. We have all had enough of dealerships and sales lingo to last a lifetime. However, thanks to Five String and his wonderful negotiating skills we are now the proud owners of a Honda CRV.

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The newest member of our family.

The next objective was deciding where we are going to live next. The Younger Fives are quite fond of the many services that Las Vegas offers, especially the stunning libraries and playgrounds. However, Five Spice was having a really hard time committing to staying in such an urban area. We also had to consider how long to stay and whether we wanted to move away from vacation rentals and look at unfurnished houses. In the end these questions were just too much to tackle with our jet-lagged brains, and we decided to put the issue on hold for now.

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Three kids in a hotel room is getting really old! We can’t wait to let them run free in Wyoming.

In the meantime we found a great rental near Jackson Hole, Wyoming for the month of March. It will be a wonderful change to live in a house again, and eat meals consisting of more then sandwiches and cold cereal. We are bracing ourselves for the colder climate (it is sandal and t-shirt weather in Vegas), and are looking forward to introducing the new car to the gorgeous mountains of Wyoming.

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We took a big gamble and mailed the kid’s Lego collection from Croatia at the beginning of the month. It arrived today just in time for our trip to Wyoming. We were all very relieved!

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Train Odyssey Day 7: Riding the Rails

Day 7 was our longest travel day yet. However, in order to get to Romania in a timely manner we had little option but to spend the entire day riding the rails. The Younger Fives did amazingly well considering they were stuck on a train all day, but I suppose that it was way better then being strapped into a car seat for hours on end. We have all really fallen in love with train compartments and the freedom that they allow for activities like eating, sleeping, and playing games.

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Train Odyssey Day 1: Snow

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The first day of our Train Odyssey was a bit of a misnomer considering that the beginning of our journey was by bus. It turns out that on Tuesdays the 522 train from Split to Zagreb doesn’t actually start until Gospić, Croatia. So, passengers are transported from the Split train station 3 hours north. While this was a bit unexpected we had great fun laughing about our “train bus”, and the oddity of handing Eurail passes to the bus driver.

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The ride became even more unexpected half-way through when the bus climbed a mountain and we found ourselves in a world of snow. The rest of the way to Gospić we marveled at the amount of snow on the ground and falling from the sky. There were a few tense moments when the bus almost became stuck in the snow. When we arrived at the station in Gospić we weren’t sure if any trains would be running in the storm, but eventually our train arrived, and we were ushered aboard by some very helpful attendants.

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While the train wasn’t halted by the snow, it definitely slowed things down. It went very slow during much of the trip and this delayed our journey by over 2 hours.

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Finally we arrived in Zagreb after 10 PM and our stomachs were overjoyed to find a 24 hour bakery still open. After standing around a very chilly station for an hour we were all ready to get on our night train to Belgrade, Serbia and go to sleep. While the train cars were a bit tattered, the warm temperatures inside made for a very comfortable end to our first day on the rails.

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Train Odyssey

Tomorrow we are embarking on an epic journey through Europe via rail. Over the next 15 days we will travel to 12 countries and visit over 15 different cities. This is either going to be the best adventure ever, or one very long trip.

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So, why are we doing this? Well before the New Year we decided as a family that we were ready to return to the United States and resume our exploration of the National Parks. While Europe has been great, we have all missed having a vehicle that can get us away from the crowds and into nature. We found a really great deal on a direct flight leaving Frankfurt, Germany at the end of February. However, we still had a few destinations left in Europe that we really wanted to visit. Specifically we promised Five of Hearts that we would not leave until we visited Athens, Greece. Unfortunately, traveling around Europe with a family of 5 can get quite pricey, and we started to wonder if we would just need to head straight to Germany and forget the rest. That was until we read online that starting in 2015 kids would travel free with a paying adult on most Eurail passes. So, for the price of only 2 adult Global Passes we can take unlimited train rides throughout much of Europe for 15 days.

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It took a good month of planning before we were able to work out where we would go during our 15 days, and what we would see. However, after many drafts we finally came up with an itinerary that has us almost constantly on the move for 15 days, but that fits in almost every place that we wanted to visit before we fly back to Las Vegas.

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In home school the other day the kids each mapped out our route, and then we all sat back and laughed at how insane it looked. It is honestly the most out of the way route that one could design to get from Croatia to Germany, and it reminded the kids a lot of Odysseus’ journey home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. Hopefully our trip won’t be nearly as deadly and we won’t incur the wrath of the Gods along the way 🙂

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To Market, To Market, Again

Before we left the United States we really weren’t that familiar with the concept of a city market. Back in Maine we often shopped at our weekly farmer’s market during the summer, but it wasn’t until we traveled to San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico that we experienced our first “real market”. Markets that sell everything from spoons to live animals all packed tightly into one space. We were amazed and a bit overwhelmed by all the colors, sights, and sounds of so many people coming together to buy their food, clothes, and household goods. The crowds and closely packed space of the market along with the many types of meat displayed out in the open made the San Cris. market a bit of a challenge for our family of claustrophobic, vegans. However, we loved the convenient location and the super friendly vendors.

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When we arrived in Italy we discovered that Lucca is home to a street market as well. Every Wednesday and Saturday just down the road from our rental apartment vendors would park vans and trucks along a closed off street to sell clothing, flowers, household supplies and produce. We were particularly surprised to discover that most of the vendors were selling socks and underwear. If you were in need of undergarments you could buy anything from fancy lingerie to sensible dress socks. Alas, with our SmartWools and Fruit of the Looms holding up well we didn’t do much business at this market.

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Now that we are in Split, Croatia we are once again experiencing a city market. In fact Split has two market areas. The market to the East of Diocletian’s Palace is quite large with vendors selling clothing (lots of underwear vendors here too), produce, meat, and household goods. To the West of Diocletian’s Palace is the fish market, or in Croatian the Ribarnica. This market is super easy to find due to the smell, and it is housed in its own building. While the smell of the fish market is hard to miss the Younger Fives were excited to find that the rest of the meat sold at the Split market is kept behind refrigerated cases. They will probably never get over literally coming face to face with dead chickens in Mexico.