Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 20, 2011

Airplanes, Amsterdam, Alps - Ahh!

This spring has been a bit of a test for me. First, some sort of cold held me in its grip for weeks. Then I herniated a disk in my back - something that's taking time to heal. Those two things made me feel I was always running a bit behind.

Added to that, our family celebrated two milestones at the end of the semester. Both our girls had graduations - Mariya from graduate school and Katie from high school.

So with all that was going on, I asked husband Art to give me a bit of a break after school before we headed off on our family vacation.

And he did! Instead of arranging the flights so we left the very next day after our last big event of the spring, he generously threw in one additional day. So after Katie's graduation Sunday afternoon and party that evening, I had a whole 24 hours to prepare before we piled into the car at 7 a.m. Tuesday and headed to the airport in Kansas City.

We arrived without a hitch and checked in, but then we hit a hiccup. I was already a bit anxious about the short 40-minute connection time we had in Atlanta. But with our departure time approaching, we wondered why the plane hadn't yet arrived at our gate. No announcement had been made, but after asking, Art was told a mechanical problem would delay our departure by two hours.

After Art explained our situation, the gate agent found an alternate plan after no small amount of effort. Instead of traveling first to Atlanta and then on to Munich, we would leave for Minneapolis and then fly to Amsterdam, followed by a third leg that would take us to Munich.

Art then sent an e-mail to the car rental company in Munich to let them know we would be arriving five hours later than originally planned.

I was a bit concerned about how my back would stand up to the eight-hour trip from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, but that proved to be little problem. Instead, a different problem appeared. Katie began feeling a bit ill as we neared Amsterdam. She felt dizzy, thirsty and nauseated. Doctor Dad decided her lack of sleep the past few days and not drinking enough during the flight were probably what made her feel sick. After sipping some liquids and taking deep breaths, she bounced back quickly.

Once at the airport in Munich, the car people told Art that his resrvation had been cancelled because we hadn't arrived by the original 10 a.m. time. He mentioned the e-mail, but the gal said that their American counterparts were not good at forwarding such messages to them. But she said she'd check and see if they had something that might work.

The main problem was the car had to be big enough to hold five people and the luggage. Added to our usual gang of four was Mariya's partner Lacey. She had never been to Europe before and her excitement and anticipation over the trip this past spring had been an endless source of amusement for us seasoned travelers.

But this travel bump-in-the-road was was averted when a car was located. Soon we were on our way.

Art's plan included a stay with folks we knew in the small village of Obsteig, Austria in the Tyrolean mountains west of Innsbruck. During our first trip to Europe in 1989, we had stumbled upon this bed and breakfast and quickly came to know the owners Joseph and Albina. They are now retired and have moved to a smaller home nearby. Their son Guntor and wife Lisi now run the place.

Art says it always amazes him that when we travel, it seems as if we oldsters have more stamina than the younger members of our group. Within a half hour of our arrival, the three gals were curled up in bed, trying to recover from their sleep deficits. Art was the only one who was pretty chipper, probably because he fell asleep almost as soon as the airplane cabin doors were closed on each of the three flight legs.

So while the young ones slept, he and I went to the one-and-only store in the area to collect food for supper and the next morning. Art rather enjoys cooking when we are traveling, which I enjoy immensely.

A few minutes after we were back at our place, the chicken breasts were sharing a pan with fresh asparagus and tomatoes. It was nothing fancy, but when served with baked-that-day hard rolls and nearby mountains in every direction as a backdrop, everyone agreed it was good. Lacey commented that she was going to pull her bed out onto the balcony so when she awoke in the morning, the first thing she would see was the Alps.

And I must admit, even though I've seen them many times before, I still find them breathtaking. When Art's Mom came with us in the early1990s, she remarked that it is rare that you see something that looks as magnificent as it appears in the movies or magazine photos, but these mountains do.

But seeing them has also activated a long-time affliction. As long as we are here, I will be unable to suppress the urge to sing the tunes from "The Sound of Music."

And I've already forgiven Art for not giving me more time to get ready for our trip.

Left photo, Lacey, Katie and Mariya aboard the first leg of our flight when anticipation was high; right, we four gals in front of Neuschwanstein just before our visit. Bavarian King Ludwig's unfinished castle was the inspiration for Disney's Fantasyland castle.

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