We made it to the Lego Holyland!

For over a year H has been begging to go to Denmark to the original Legoland. He’s only been begging for year because that’s how long he’s known there was a Legoland. We went to the one in Germany last year with Auntie Shaun and now it was time to visit the “original” Legoland.

Legoland is in the city of Billund, Denmark which is in the center of the country. We flew into Copenhagen and then took a train to Vejle (pronounced “val-lay”). Once we reached Vejle we took a bus 30 minutes to Billund.  The bus dropped us literally at the front gates of Legoland. We walked off the bus into theme song from The Lego Movie  blaring from speakers around the plaza.

This might seem like a complicated way to get to the theme park, but it gave us a chance to see what Denmark really looks like outside of any city.

Denmark is very much a country of renewable energy. They even have windmills in the sea!  (And that is the Baltic Sea, by the way…)

IMG_2679We saw a lot of people fishing in boats down in the water. It was just like every lake in Minnesota, except, you know, grander. And in the Baltic Sea.

It’s a lot of farmland with black soil that reminded me of where I grew up in Iowa. It kind of made me nostalgic.

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There was lots of standing corn ready to be harvested. Hay baled and wrapped resting in the field.  Clumps of red Hereford cows chewing their cud in the field.

And then, before the boys could get too mind-numbingly bored, we were at Legoland! H’s holyland!

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We were staying at the Legoland hotel that was actually connected to the park by an enclosed walkway. We had to walk around the edge of the park to get to the hotel, which was about a 1 block walk. When we opened the doors we walked into a wonderland!

Boba Fett and R2-D2 greeted us.

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As did this dragon!

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Check-in could not have been easier. We quickly found our pirate themed room, oo-ed and ah-ed over the Lego monkey hanging outside our window, fawned over the small Lego packages the hotel left on the boys’ beds, and then went back out to see even more awesome Lego things.

The hotel had lots of areas for the kids to play in. There were bins of Legos, a foosball table, a giant Lego firetruck with a movie playing inside (next to the bar area a/k/a the parent play area), and a Nintendo game area.  There was even a play room in the back of the dining room so parents could enjoy their dinners and let the kids go off and have fun!

And the dinners and breakfast were amazing. Totally delicious and a huge variety of different cuisines, from paella to orange chicken to southern BBQ. And spaghetti and chicken nuggets on a buffet right at kid height.

Just a note: I can’t compare this to Disney – it has been so long since I’ve been there and I didn’t go as a parent, so if you want to compare them please comment in the comments section below. I am curious to know how they do compare.

We got a handy brochure about Legoland with some sage advice to parents. The first of which was “Write your phone number on their arm so if they get lost it’s easier to find you.”  That is actually great advice and I might just do that on a daily basis here for the rest of their lives. Another was: “Make arrangements for a time and place to meet and then let the kids go off and explore on their own.”  Terrifying, but we did specify a meeting place in case we got separated. Our decision to stay together was mostly because half the fun for us was to see how much fun the kids were having.

And who wants to miss a face like this?

IMG_2744(My mom asked me what the stuff splattered on the seat was. I responded that it was the blood of his viking enemies.)

As you can see everyone was unharmed and mostly dry from the Viking Flum Ride. Thankfully they full-body drying units right around the corner after they disembarked from “Asgard Station.”

The park was large, but not so large that you can’t possibly see everything. We were there for 2 days and, really, we felt like we could have used part of a 3rd day.

One reason was that we found a couple of rides we just fell in love with. One was the Egyptian Tomb ride, which was really more of a laser light shooting gallery. E and I were unstoppable.  Another was the cute Duplo plane ride. H went on it about 6 times. E went along as moral support – only. Really. I’m sure he didn’t enjoy it at all.

Legoland makes for a very low-stress family vacation. The foods are all things that kids and adults would like. No one is pushing or shoving or yelling at the kids. And since we went in the fall the lines were nonexistent.  Plus the rides were all good fun!

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It wasn’t all rides, though, which was kind of a relief.  Just like in Germany they have a large area of Lego mini-worlds. They have realistic models of cities of Europe and major world-wide landmarks.

IMG_2707IMG_2693Some were very unexpected, like these two things in the Legoradeo Town. I had a pulled pork sandwich that tasted more like it had been marinated in a pot of chili than barbecue sauce.

And they were in the beginning of their fall/Halloween extravaganza decorating. They had some up and a haunted house was a special ride there for the season.

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When we left we saw massive boxes filled with pumpkins all over the park. The park was closing for the two or three days after we left just to continue decorating for Halloween.

And they also have this!

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This is a full-sized Star Wars X-wing fighter made entirely out of Legos. It is amazing. They even have a smoke and light show with audio clips from the movie. H was spellbound.

He wasn’t the only one who was pleased.

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Legoland also has an Atlantis exhibit which is actually a moderately sized aquarium.  They have a large tank with Lego deep sea divers hanging out with sharks, manta rays, groupers, and other tropical fish.

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They also have this great starfish tidal pool exhibit. There is a person there who can help you handle them if you want and answer all your questions.IMG_2722You have to watch your step when you leave… sharks are everywhere!

If you escape from the sharks you run smack into a group of pirates!

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But thankfully we were rescued by knights.

IMG_2716The boys (all three of them) gave Legoland 1000 thumbs up.  The two youngest pleaded with us to extend our stay just one more day.  I also, as not quite as large a fan of Legos, had a wonderful time. It was as low stress as a vacation can be, especially one to a theme park.

And I would go back in a hot minute.

After we left we went back to Copenhagen and stayed there for three days. It was a blast and there is so much to write up. Expect a good 2 or maybe even 3 posts about that, with lots of pictures!

Thelma and Louise take on Germany … with kids!

The kids had last week and part of this week off of school. So, what does one do when one has Shaun and the kids?? Go on vacation!!

We left on Wednesday and then got home on Saturday evening. I rented a car and actually drove in two foreign countries – up and down some very, very narrow and winding mountain roads and through crazy German Autobahn traffic. And we all survived and are still speaking to each other.

Let me lay out the itinerary.

  • Day 1 – Drive to Triberg.
The restaurant we ate at on our way to Triberg. It turns out it was Michelin rated!
The restaurant we ate at on our way to Triberg. It turns out it was Michelin rated!

Specifically we drove to Triberg im Schwarzwald. It’s about 3 hours from Basel in the middle of The Black Forest – home of Black Forest Cake, lederhosen and dirndls, and cuckoo clocks.  There is an amazing logging and wood craft industry there. I bought a really cool carved Advent Calendar tree with little tiny ornaments to put on for each day of Advent.  E wanted a sword.  There were many to choose from, but since I hadn’t taken complete leave of my senses he did not get one.  He did, however, get a huge bowl of ice cream.  We all got ice creams.  Shaun and I had intended to get Black Forest Cake. I say “intended” because there are some very important German words I do not know.  One of which translated to “sundae cake” and it meant an ice cream sundae that tasted like Black Forest cake.  It tasted exactly like Black Forest cake. Exactly. However, it was NOT a Black Forest cake.  Not even close.

There are lots of waterfalls and pretty streams in the Black Forest. This one goes right through Triberg.
There are lots of waterfalls and pretty streams in the Black Forest. This one goes right through Triberg.

I did not try on a dirndl.  So there are no pictures of me in a dirndl.  None.

I almost bought a cuckoo clock. We went to The House of 1000 Clocks! And there were at least 1000 clocks.  Available at all prices.  Some cute with quaint carvings and little Bavarian men drinking beer to the chime of the hour. Some with life-like carvings of birds and deer topping the roof line.  There were so many choices!  I had to stop and think about what I wanted. I think Mark and I will make a trip back and find one we really like in a few months.

The House! Of 1000! Clocks!
The House! Of 1000! Clocks!

The hotel that Shaun found for us was a little hidden gem.  Owned by a tiny old woman who was about 90 and her son.  Set away from the main town and up on the side of one of the higher foothills. The main building had a small restaurant in it and was a classic chalet style. There was a low building in the back with guest rooms. We got one that had a smaller room inside with two twin beds for the boys.   Dinner at the hotel was classic German fair and pizza. I had kassespatzel (fresh cheese spatzel) and the boys had pizza.

As an aside – salads in Germany are very much like the salads I grew up with in Iowa. Lettuce, shredded carrots, cucumbers and/or radishes lightly pickled in vinegar, and a warm potato salad.  I’m waiting for Jell-O with carrots or fruit cocktail to show up.

  • Day 2 – Drive to Fussen.

Fussen was about a hour and a half away in the car. Smack in the middle of Bavaria and just north of the Austrian border.  It is famous mostly for Castle Neuschwanstein built by “Mad” King Ludwig II.  Hohenschwangau Castle is there as well.  It was built by Ludwig’s father, Maximilian II. The two are practically spitting distance across the valley from each other.  Hohenschwangau is an actual home of a castle.  They lived there. They (or the nanny) raised their children there.  It is … well….  for a castle it’s cozy. King Luitpold lived there, to0.  He actually had a wheelchair elevator installed in his dotage.

Daddy's Castle
Hohenschwangau Castle

As for Neuschwasanstein, well, it is something else.

The front of Neuschawnstein.  It means New Swan Place.
The front of Neuschawnstein. It means New Swan Place.  For the record, the absolutely gorgeous clouds have not been retouched.

Neuschwanstein is the castle every prince and princess dreams about. No wonder that it was used by Walt Disney as inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland.  (The Nazi’s also used it to store a whole bunch of art they stole in WWII – watch Monument Men for that story.)  King Ludwig was a HUGE fan of Richard Wagner and his operas.  Wagner stayed in Hohenschwangau several times and actually had his own room there.   Ludwig was a lover of art and poetry as well as opera. He was a romantic and being such he designed the castle in the Romantic style. The interior is full of murals depicting the operas Tristan and Isolde, Lohengrin, Parsifal, Das Rheingold, and part of the Ring Cycle operas.  Wagner died before the castle was completed so he never got to see his biggest fan’s homage to his operas. Ludwig himself only stayed their 172 days before his mysterious death.  The castle was open for tours 6 weeks later.

The boys outside H
The boys messing around outside Hohenschwangau Castle

 

Shaun by one of many fountains outside Ho
Shaun by one of many fountains outside Hohenschwangau

Let me digress for a moment to talk about King Ludwig II.  It was reported he was insane.  He was examined by a certain Doctor Bernhard von Gudden who was a leading psychiatrist of the day and declare incompetent and too volatile to rule.  Ludwig, unmarried and childless, was dethroned and just three days later both he and Doctor Gudden were found drowned in Lake Starnberg which is just south of Munich.  However!  Historical documents and letters from Ludwig or from others talking about Ludwig indicate that instead of being insane, he was gay. He was as out as a gay man could be at that point.  He wasn’t about to be married to a queen who could help bring his country out of the debt he had created by building his beautiful castles and he was surely not going to supply an heir to the throne.  He just wanted to rule his country and bring art and beauty into the world. That is an inconvenient goal for a monarch in the 1880s.

Neuschawnstein is a thing of beauty and Ludwig should be proud.

We took a horse-drawn carriage up to the castles.
We took a horse-drawn carriage up to the castles.

Our hotel that night was NOT a thing of beauty.  We thought we were staying in a Gasthaus – a little, independent hotel. It was actually a youth hostel.  We had to call the owner and ask him to come to the house to check us in. By the time he got to the house there were 6 other people waiting to check in.  We told him these accommodations were represented differently to us online and given that we had 2 little kids we could not stay there. “No, no!” he says, “I have another place!”  15 minutes later we were introduced to Gunther the 20 year old pothead in charge of this 3 floor guest house in a part of Fussen I can only describe as “gritty” and “real.”  The room was surprisingly clean and comfortable. Once we had assured ourselves we would not catch anything from the beds we paid our little friend waaaay too much money (i.e. *any* money) and settled in.  After a little dinner at an Italian place called “Chili’s” where Shaun ordered a pasta dish that contained no less than 3 habanero peppers, had a passable night’s sleep; taking turns listening for potential thieves and murderers.

  • Day 3 – Drive to Ulm and LEGOLAND!!!

For weeks I’ve been fielding my children’s questions about Legoland.

“When are we going to Legoland?”

“Is Auntie Shaun here yet for Legoland?”

“Why isn’t Auntie Shaun here yet?”

“Is she coming to visit soon?”

“How soon after she gets here are we going to Legoland?”

“Is today Legoland day?”

And so on…

For weeks.

And so on this day, at the crack of dawn, the children’s eyes popped open and their first words were, “Legoland!”

Our first words were “Coffee.”

After a wild goose chase through Neuschawnstein we managed to find coffee, croissants, and other child-approved pastries on our way to Legoland. The car ride conversation when something like this….

“LEGOLAND! LEGOLAND! LEGOLAND! LEGOLAND! LEGOLAND!

LEGOLAND! LEGOLAND! LEGOLAND! LEGOLAND! LEGOLAND!

LEGOLAND! LEGOLAND! LEGOLAND! LEGOLAND! LEGOLAND!”

And, lo, we arrived at Legoland.

The Land of Legos.
The Land of Legos.

And much fun was had.

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A scale model of Venice built entirely out of Legos.
A scale model of Neuschawnstein!
A scale model of Neuschawnstein!

Mark arrived on Day 2 of Legoland, because one cannot possibly see all of Legoland in just one day. Especially when there are huge play grounds all over the park along with rides and Lego worlds.

The Millennium Falcon as Mos Eisley.
The Millennium Falcon as Mos Eisley.

But it was gloriously fun and Mark was like a little kid again.

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Fine, we were all little kids again.

Don't judge. Lightsabers will always be cool.
Don’t judge. Lightsabers will always be cool.

Another great Adventure with Shaun. And my family!