It was Molly’s birthday on Monday 11 August, two days after we arrived in Germany. We had had big plans to take her to Legoland Denmark for her birthday but then the car yadda yadda. Here’s the timeline on how we got a little girl to Legoland anyway:
Wednesday 6 August – Stockholm
We got the news the car was terminal, started working on Plan B to get out of Sweden.
Thursday 7 August, 11pm – Stockholm
After a day sight-seeing in Stockholm, Joe books our train ticket to Germany. We were looking for something over the weekend, preferably with sleeping cars. But it’s August, there’s not much availability for last minute bookings for four people. Eventually after swearing at his iPad for half an hour Joe tells me, “Right, I’ve got us booked all the way, 300 Euro.”
“Well done, love.”
“We leave tomorrow morning, about 9.”
Friday 8 August – Stockholm to Hamburg-ish
The daughter of our hosts in Stockholm, who is Molly’s age, had been away on a summer camp, and had been expecting to see us when she got back on Sunday. Then we were going to go out and do something nice for Molly’s birthday on Monday. Instead we booked the only train we could get on and had to bolt without seeing her. I did feel like a bit of an asshole, so now that we are settled I am looking to book our next trip back to Stockholm to see them again, and with a proper, planned departure date too!
- 9am – a local train into Stockholm central
- 10am – an Inter City train to Copenhagen, arriving around 3pm.
- 4pm – an Inter City train to Hamburg, arriving around 10pm via a ferry. The kids quite liked the idea of the train de-coupling and the individual carriages getting on the ferry. Plus it was a chance to stretch our legs and admire the hundreds of wind turbines in the sea between Denmark and Germany.
- 10:30pm – a train to Cologne, arriving around 3am.
Saturday 9 August – Hamburg-ish to Kraichgau
- 4am – a train to Frankfurt. Jack and I were hungry at Cologne so we went to McDonalds which was, like most McDonalds around the world at 3am, (a) still open and (b) heaving with people coming out of clubs. Jack asked me if the girls in striped blue tops, white pillbox hats and mini skirts were really sailors. Maybe, if we’d still been in Hamburg.
- 6am – a train to Karlsruhe
- 7am – picked up by our host, J, at Karlsruhe station.
- 8am – the most enormous breakfast you’ve ever seen.
Later on that day we had a giant family football match and a BBQ dinner.
You’re wondering how the kids got on with such a gruelling train ride? Six trains over 21 hours, with around 10 bags between us and no sleeper cars? Well I developed a new strategy for such ventures. See, with the flight to Europe I told the kids in advance just how long everything would be, and how yes, it would be a bit tough but yadda yadda. I thought I would manage their expectations, because that’s what I do at work with adults.
With kids, this just means they complain about the present AND the future, so you get DOUBLE-complaining and for longer! “Aaaawwww we aren’t even there yet, and then we STILL have to…” etc.
So with this train ride, I just told them back in Stockholm: “We’re going to Germany tomorrow on the train. There will be a couple of times we have to change trains.”
Oh my gosh, that totally worked. So sure, when we got to 3am at Cologne and we had to wake them up to change trains, they complained. But they weren’t complaining about that change 12 hours beforehand in Copenhagen. So there you go: Ignorance is my new travel policy for children.
Sunday 10 August – Kraichgau
Getting the lay of the land, I worked out we were less than 2 hours’ drive from Legoland in Germany. I didn’t even know there was a Legoland in Germany until a couple of months ago. There’s one in Malaysia too. Jusayin’. Our hosts were happy to come along with us too, so Sunday night we had a nice dinner and cake for Molly, and we told her we were off to Legoland the following day, her actual birthday.
Monday 11 August – Legoland Germany, Günzburg
The park is pretty good, actually. It’s open till about 8pm in summer, they have the bits grown-ups like (the model Lego cities, eg Venice, Lucerne), the bits kids like (roller coasters) and a well-stocked gift shop. It was very wet when we first arrived, but the rain didn’t last and if anything it meant there weren’t big crowds, nor big queues for the rides.
Probably my favourite models there were:
- In the Star Wars area, a model of the Cantina back on Tatooine, complete with the band playing their nifty little jazz number;
- A giant model of the Allianz Arena (Legoland is in Bavaria, after all) with literally thousands of lego people inside it;
- Venice (because it’s so pretty); and
- In the Berlin model, in front of the Brandenburg gate, a welcome home party for the German national football team parading the World Cup which they had won literally only 4 weeks before we were in Legoland. That’s up-to-date!
We stayed till nearly closing and stopped for burgers on the way home. Molly also got a lego set from the gift shop and all in all, her birthday was very much rescued.
Birthday girl on the ride that gives you a view all around the park and beyond:
Berlin, Brandenberg gate. If you look closely, you will see the Nationalmannschaft on a little stage:
How clever is this? The Allianz Arena (home of Bayern Munich), outside and in:
In the model cities there is everything from Lucerne in Switzerland:
To the ice planet Hoth:
To Venice – so convincing you would almost think it was a photo of the real thing: