After our first day in Kuala Lumpur, our next destination was Frankfurt, Germany where we stopped over for two days (one night) before our final flight to London. From KL, we had a two and a half hour flight to Hanoi, Vietnam where we stopped for two hours and then changed planes and flew 11 hours to Frankfurt. The first flight was on a fairly small plane and (even though they really should have been sleeping) the kids were disappointed not to have TVs again. They were given jigsaw puzzles and books however, which kept them happy until their meals arrived which, despite 75% of it being too spicy to eat, was an exciting and welcome distraction. As we took off, the sun was setting and the views were amazing. All the kids fell asleep just in time for us to land which made the walk to the next gate a very long and emotional one……..
While we waited to board the next plane, Korey and Elyssa fell asleep stretched out on some seats and Anna and Lucy helped me entertain Ben, while Peter searched for somewhere to buy water. There is something about flying that makes us all ridiculously thirsty. The air-conditioning on the plane maybe?
When we boarded the next flight, not only were the kids super excited to find that each seat came with a TV showing many recently released children’s movies, but I was so unbelievably excited to discover that we had been given the row that has the baby bassinet attachment in front of it. This not only meant that I didn’t have to hold Ben the entire flight and he could have a proper, comfortable sleep, but also that we had a good amount of leg room and room to move around. This, coupled with the fact that all five kids were asleep within minutes of take-off, had me feeling on top of the world. Literally! Suddenly an 11 hour flight with five kids actually felt like a relaxing and fun concept! After I laid Ben in his bed I sat back and enjoyed another meal. With two hands this time! The whole flight went great. The kids slept for a large portion of it, only waking with a few hours to go, during which time they watched movies and ate breakfast. Pete had a pretty good sleep too and I even managed a couple of hours on and off, although I did end up holding Ben for a lot of the time as the seatbelt sign kept coming on meaning I had to take him out of his bassinet.
We arrived in Frankfurt at around 6:00am and waited ages for our luggage to appear on the carousel. Of course, being the stress-head that I am, I started imagining our suitcases were halfway to Dubai or in the back of some criminals car. After a while we saw several other people from the plane waiting for theirs too, so we knew it was just a hold up. When we did finally have our stuff we found a baby change room (these really come in handy) and all got changed and freshened up. We then went to an area of the airport with a big viewing lounge, a McDonalds and a massive children’s play area with huge slides. We got a bit of food and the kids had a blast playing and running around. After a while we caught a bus to our hotel (which was only over the road) where we left our luggage, then caught the bus back to the airport and made our way to the adjacent train station.
After taking ages to find our way and get tickets, we then searched high and low for a lift (something we have since learnt is a rarity in many train stations across Europe and the UK) until we finally asked a non-English speaking worker who escorted us through some dark and dingy passageways to where we needed to be. Finally, after landing in Frankfurt about 5 hours earlier, we were on a train to Frankfurt city centre.
The train station (Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof) was amazing. Huge, bustling and very grand. We took photos and had a very odd encounter with who we think was an old, well dressed homeless man…… He came up to us, reeking of alcohol and babbling something in German and started touching our camera. We tried for a second to understand what he was on about, thinking maybe he was offering to take our photograph, but then quickly walked away holding very tightly to the camera.
It was an extremely hot day and the second we stepped outside we were sweating. It got to 38 degrees that day and several people we chatted with told us the country was experiencing an unusual heat-wave that week. That wasn’t going to stop us though. We only had a very short time here and wanted to make the most of it. We walked along the city streets taking in the amazing architecture of the old buildings. Frankfurt is a city of such contrast. You walk past beautiful old buildings with ornate carvings and stonework and classy cafes bustling with people from all walks of life, then turn a corner and in one direction there are brand new shiny office buildings and in the other dark, dirty alleyways. There were times when the children clung close to us as we passed beggars and some very drunk, loud and intimidating locals.
A combination of fatigue and heat was making us all a bit cranky, so after a bit of wandering we found a big grassy area where we had water and ice creams and played chasey (as you do in an extreme heat wave……)!
We then made our way back to the train station, at one point diverting the kids eyes away from some very ‘adults only’ window displays. Once again, at the bustling train station, Peter protected us from a homeless man, brown paper bag in hand, who decided to follow us into the tiny lift, eyeing off our camera bag. He stood so close to me and the pram so Peter stepped between us and “guided” him away.
We took a short train ride and walked a little way to Palmengarten. This a beautiful and huge 18 acre botanical garden that boasts a large Palm House and various other garden areas as well as the Great Pond covered in lily-pads and row-boats. We paid 16 Euro for all of us to get in and the woman at the desk said something we hadn’t been expecting but were so extremely happy to hear – “The water-park is straight down toward the back of the gardens”! We headed straight there, sweat pouring down our foreheads. It was just a small area, with water fountains and some buckets to play with, but it was packed with kids and ours couldn’t wait to join in. They all had so much fun getting soaked and letting off some steam after a huge, hot couple of days. Anna and Elyssa had a water fight and Lucy and Korey just ran around randomly splashing water.
They played happily for about half an hour, then as I was getting things ready for us to move on, Peter came to me carrying Lucy who was screaming and had blood dripping down her chin. She had slipped and cut it on a rock. We settled her and assessed the wound. It was a fair gash and I thought it looked like it needed a stitch… Pete (probably desperate to avoid extreme international medical bills) said that he thought he could “fix” it using butterfly clips and a dressing. Luckily I had some band aids on me so we covered it up and decided to head back into town to find a chemist.
There is a cute little train that runs through the park so we bought tickets and caught it back down to the entrance. This was partly for the children’s enjoyment, and partly so we didn’t have to walk all the way back! The kids thought the train ride was wonderful, especially Korey, and by the time we got off Lucy had forgotten all about her cut, which had stopped bleeding, and just wanted to run around and explore some more. There was a lake nearby (The Great Pond, as they call it) which had canoes and paddle boats and the kids begged us to go out on it. We paid 6 Euro for one canoe for half an hour and Pete and I took turns with the kids. At first Peter went out with all five kids while I took photos but after realising just how much muscle it took to row single-handedly, he gave Ben to me and attempted to do a lap of the lake. I was in hysterics as I watched him rowing into branches and nearly into a fountain. Elyssa decided it was a bit too scary and wanted out so he (eventually) made his way back to me and we swapped. Well, I was bloody hopeless! I couldn’t figure out which way to row and spent most of the time either going round in circles or rowing into every possible branch that I could. I blame the heavy oar! It was fun though, and definitely entertaining for everyone watching. I think the funniest part was when these massive fish started jumping out of the water near the boat and the kids started freaking out! Rowing back to where we started, I used muscles I didn’t even know I had, and as fun as it was I told Pete and the kids next time they want to go out on a lake, we get the paddle boats!
After that bit of excitement we caught the train back to the main station and got some supplies for Lucy’s chin from a pharmacy. We then caught the train back to the airport. We found a little supermarket in the airport and bought some cheese and salami and salad for dinner then caught the shuttle to our hotel. By the time we got our bags and made it up to our rooms (we had two adjacent rooms at the Hotel Meininger), Korey and Lucy were fast asleep in the pram and Elyssa fell straight to sleep on top of a bed. Anna had a bit of food with us followed by a shower and then immediately fell asleep on a bed next to Elyssa. Peter then showered the 3 middle kids, who remained partially asleep the entire time and all of whom had no recollection of having had a shower the following day.
In the early hours of the morning I woke up with extreme fevers and chills and went and woke Peter begging for help. Well, he was in the same condition as me! Awesome!!!! We had paracetamol and water and went back to bed. Later in the morning Peter (looking and feeling terrible) brought me berocca and more paracetamol and we all went back to sleep for another hour. When we woke we did feel slightly better.
It was Koreys 4th birthday that day and when he woke up he was so excited and he unwrapped (actually uncovered from a towel – I had wrapping paper but no sticky tape…..) his presents, so happy and excited with the modest amount of travel friendly presents he got (2 sticker books, a colouring book, a Lego kit, some Thomas the Tank Engine undies and a barrel of monkeys). He is such a great kid, always happy and always grateful!
We got packed up pretty quickly and checked out, leaving our bags to pick up later in the day. We then walked back to the airport and headed once again to the big play area outside McDonalds where we bought some birthday donuts and made use of the free wi-fi to Face-Time Nanna for Korey’s birthday. After the kids had a little play, we headed to the train station and caught a train back into the city centre where we changed to another train that took us to the Old Town (Altstadt).
Almost immediately after walking out of the train station we were in ‘postcard Germany’. It was amazing. Beautiful timber framed buildings (the kind you see in pictures and immediately think ‘Germany’) atop restaurants and cafes, music playing and tourists everywhere. We walked around, trying not to be too perturbed by the blistering sun (and the fact that we were suffering from fevers).
We looked in a beautiful old church, and were very impressed with how quiet and respectful our crazy kids stayed. One thing we had discovered the day before and was proven again on this day, was that barely anywhere in this part of Germany (including our hotel) has air conditioning. I guess it’s just not hot enough most of the year to justify it. So, after a little wandering, we ended up back in the beautiful old square we had started in and sat at a shaded table outside a very authentic looking German restaurant.
Fortunately the menu was in both German and English. I learnt German for a few years in high school, but I only remember very basic words and unless I need to count something or give directions to the theatre, I’m in trouble. We ordered a selection of the most German sounding meals and shared them all between us. Korey’s favourite was the frankfurts and unfortunately he liked little else. The girls and I ate heaps. Elyssa’s favourite was the potato salad. Peter, who would normally eat everything until the plates were clean, didn’t eat too much as he was still feeling pretty lousy. Between us all though, we ate nearly everything, only leaving the mounds of sauerkraut that we couldn’t quite convince our taste buds to enjoy.
Straight after our lunch we caught the trains back to the airport where Peter left the kids and I, and went to collect our luggage. Frankfurt airport is pretty massive and of course I managed to get lost. After a lot of backtracking, probably walking several kilometres, I found our way to the McDonalds play area where there was enough time for the kids to play for about thirty seconds before Peter met us and we made our way to the bus terminal just in time to catch our bus to Frankfurt Hahn, another airport about 100km away. The reason for this was that after we purchased our tickets to Frankfurt from Kuala Lumpur we needed to book another flight from Frankfurt to London. Peter found some cheap tickets on a budget airline and booked them straight away. It wasn’t until we received our booking confirmation that we discovered there are two airports in Frankfurt and we were arriving in one and departing from another. Another lesson learnt, check your airports when booking, not just the city!
The bus ride was fun. The scenery was awesome and Korey was amazed by the hundreds of huge windmills we passed along the way. We arrived at the little airport with hours to spare (we weren’t taking any chances whatsoever). We all got a happy meal from McDonalds, much to the amusement of the staff who I’m guessing either don’t see a lot of big rowdy families or don’t get many adults ordering happy meals…….either way they knew we didn’t speak German and had no qualms laughing and saying whatever it was they were saying to each other about us. We actually found them laughing at us just as entertaining!
After what felt like 4 days, we finally boarded our plane at around 10:30pm, about 4 hours after we arrived, and within minutes all 5 kids were asleep. The flight took just under an hour and with the time difference we landed at about 11pm, the same time we took off. We were all absolutely exhausted so when we entered ‘the customs queue from hell’ to enter the UK, we were all about ready to cry………(note to self: leaving at night is good, arriving at night with tired and emotional kids is bad!). Despite our fatigue though, we were super excited to be there. The three youngest were sound asleep in the pram and carrier and the big kids were literally falling asleep standing up as we shuffled excruciatingly slowly forward in the queue for over an hour waiting to enter the UK.