We arrived in Stuttgart, Germany on Sunday afternoon, and that evening drove around the city to help me feel a more oriented when I would have to navigate on my own the following week. Despite some some doubts, I woke up the next morning with my courage renewed and a plan for action.
The kids and I headed to the tram station for a ride to the train station, and then on to the zoo downtwon. There was one hiccup along the way, which did require me to purchase a map (money well spent!), but overall I was quite proud of myself. We bought our tickets and in we went to look at flamingos, kangaroos, penguins, and Elena’s favorite: deer–strange, I know. We had bratwurst and fries for lunch at a zoo cafe, then spent the rest of the afternoon looking at polar bears, giraffes, elephants, camels, and all kinds of monkeys. The kids especially enjoyed the small play areas scattered all over the zoo, which gave me a chance to sit down occasionally. The zoo also has some beautiful botanical gardens with lily ponds. Roman, the water lover, walked right into one of them. One shoe and pant leg up to his waist were soaked, but he just had to air dry because I didn’t bring spare clothes! He didn’t seem to mind. When it was time to head home, we were at the opposite side of the zoo from the entrance. The kids were exhausted and I knew it was going to take forever to get them to the gate and onto the tram, to get to the train, to get home. I took a chance on a tucked-away side exit in the hope that we would decrease our walking distance. It seemed lucky at first; there was a tram station very close, but then we got on the wrong tram more than once and ended up walking a mile back to the hotel. The kids were so tired, but they were troopers! I felt victorious in our first day’s adventures!
The next day we returned back to the center of Stuttgart to explore a large park that advertised rides on a miniature train and a petting zoo. It was not the bustling center of activity we had envisioned. After walking, and walking, and walking some more we finally found a play area. Nearby there was a large penned-in area with goats grazing and horses. You could reach through the fence and touch the animals, so maybe that was the petting zoo? The kids played on the playground for a couple hours and we had a picnic lunch. When we were starting to head back, we saw that the ride along train was in operation, so we hurried back and had a fun ride on the train before leaving the park.
On Wednesday we tried to find a place to do a load of laundry, but were unsuccessful. Instead I did some by hand. We met Mark for lunch and then headed to the museum and factory of Ritter Sport, a a favorite German chocolate brand. This time there was no train, so I drove and was proud to find our way without difficulty. I thought there would be more to do than shop for discounted chocolate in their factory store, but that was really the main attraction. We made the most of the opportunity and stocked up for our long car ride back to England.
On Thursday, I decided to take the kids to Sensapolis, an elaborate playhouse on the outskirts of the city. I should have driven, but I wanted to get my money’s worth from the three day “Travel Stuttgart” pass I bought on Tuesday. It took us about an hour to get there, including a train trip, bus ride, and long walk. We were already tired when we walked in the door! Things went from bad to worse when they wouldn’t take my credit card and there was no ATM nearby, but in the end they gave us a “distressed tourist discount”. The place really was amazing! It had a huge spaceship, a three story castle, giant slides, a science center area, and even a high ropes course with a zip line and a climbing wall. The kids had a blast! They wouldn’t hardly touch the lunch I brought because they were too busy playing. Eventually it was time to go, so we started back towards the hotel, but the trip home was anything but routine: confusion led to bad decisions, and it took us two and a half hours to arrive at the rendezvous point we had arranged with Mark. It would have taken 30 minutes if we had driven! We were exhausted, but headed straight to a dinner with the group Mark had been teaching that week, which turned out to be quite pleasant.
It was good that we were leaving on Friday because the kids and I were ready for a rest! I let them watch German cartoons while I packed the car, then we picked up Mark, ate lunch and said good-bye to Stuttgart! We had a great time!