"One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Germany on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878." Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad



This week was full of things to celebrate. First, the birth of my niece and Penelope's newest cousin, sweet Evelyn Grace, on Monday.

my lil' sis and her lil' baby Evie

Thanks to the miracle of Skype, we were able to be at the hospital and celebrate this momentous occasion together.

Second, it was our 9th wedding anniversary on Tuesday. That's nine whole years of marriage--not only does that feel like a record in these parts, but it also makes me feel quite old!

I suppose most people would celebrate their anniversary by going out alone to a nice dinner. But we like to live on the edge. Instead, the Father took the day off, and we hauled up to the top of the mountain to take Penelope to this funny little fairytale-themed mini-amusement park followed by a picnic dinner on the Neckar river.

I mean, who wouldn't pass up a quiet evening alone when instead you could spend it with this cute little girl?

The amusement park is called Märchen Paradis, which translates roughly to "Fairy Paradise," and it's tucked away in the forest at Königstuhl, which is at the top of the mountain that the Heidelberg castle is on. This time, instead of paying the steep price to ride the funicular or scaling the stone steps to the top of the mountain, we figured out how to catch the bus that takes you right to the top.

Märchen Paradis is only open a few months of the year and there were only a handful of workers to keep the place running. It reminded us of a classic amusement park from another era, but with a fairytale theme (afterall, this is the Grimm Brothers' home country). If it existed in the U.S. it would certainly have been renovated long-ago into some high-tech, cartoon-themed, music-blasting attraction. Call me old-fashioned, but I preferred the simplicity of Märchen Paradis. And the price! I'm talking a couple Euros per adult to get in. How can you pass that up? Plus, a 14-month-old doesn't know the difference between this and Disney World.

In keeping with the fairytale theme, sprinkled throughout the park were little buildings with miniature people and creatures that recreated scenes from well-known fairytales (well-known to the German audience, but some very unfamiliar to me--like the donkey that poops golden coins which we encountered when we were in Marburg). When you pushed a button the characters moved a bit (like a basic nodding of the head or moving of the arm--nothing extravagant here) and a voice told the fairytale (in German, of course). It took a little while for Penelope to figure out what was going on.

Penelope watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (which have completely different names in German)

The Seven Dwarfs working in the mine

The Dwarfs really freaked her out (I was freaked out by the mouse that ran by us when we walked up to the cave)

Soon Penelope was a pro at walking up and pushing the buttons

She did it again, again, and again

And, of course, there were also things to play on...

small jumpy house that Penelope wouldn't stand up in

big one that she loved

even when she fell down

lots of rocks to dig in

Soon the little girl was all tuckered out and ready for a nap. A stroll through the nearby woods put her right to sleep and gave mom and dad some time together.

Is that a yawn I see?

But before we knew it, lil' P was awake and ready for more. We stumbled upon this little treehouse in the woods on our way back to the park.

navigating a very dangerous ramp

why, hello up there

looking for birds through the telescope

The park also had these funny rides you could go on. Most of them required a 50 cent token (guess that's why the entrance fee is so cheap), but a few were free. Penelope was in heaven.
merry-go-round swings

choo choo train

pedal-yourself dragon

hanging on like a big girl

looks like it's more fun when mommy pedals

"more, daddy, more!"

next up: a ride on a broomstick with a witch

just put your token in the machine and away you go. weeeeee!

one more, pleeeease

(yes, we gave in)

double-fisting after a long, hot day of fun

Then, for a perfect ending to a perfect day, we lounged on the Neckarwiese and enjoyed a cold bottle of Prosecco, a baguette, cheese and strawberries--our idea of a perfect picnic.

I thought the fairy princess cups added a nice touch

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