Monday, 18 November 2019

Going Home

For the last two weeks we have been in Germany.   We have spent our days trying to get me a little bit stronger to travel home.  I have to say when it's 4 degrees outside all I really want to do is hibernate like a big brown bear.  However, I have a tough task master who although kind and loving to a fault has been tough with me.  Which is just as well because let's face it I totally would have just hibernated!

So, with physio a big fat no at the moment we have just walked.  Some days we have managed to do more than others.  With one day even racking up an impressive 10,000 steps, although the next two days were spent crying in pain and realising that I am not quite up to that yet!  

It's a learning curve, and I am glad that mostly I leave it to Craig to decide what we are doing because he is far more sensible than me.  Between you and me (because we don't want to give him a big head!) on both occasions I have completely overdone it,  he warned me an hour before telling me it was time to go home but I, in my stubbornness pushed on and then bitterly regretted it the next day. 

We didn't really like Dusseldorf if we are honest when we first arrived. Granted the low temperature and biting wind didn't really help! But after a few days of sulking we decided to walk towards Altstadt, meaning the old town.  Suddenly we discovered what all the fuss was about.  

One of our favourite little restaurants

A gorgeous town, full of narrow little streets, with restaurants and cafes as far as the eye can see.  It's a shame we were not here a few days longer as the Christmas markets start the day after we leave.  According to a friend there are many markets, I think seven in all, spread out around Dusseldorf and it is quite a sight to behold.  The preparations are well under way and it looks to be a huge event.

Christmas preparation in Dusseldorf
Knowing Craig had never really left the shores of Australia, let alone ever traveled to Europe I had a small wish list of things I wanted us to do.  Some of it was completely stupid and with the best will in the world was never going to happen.  But there were a few things on there I really wanted to do if we had the chance.  One of them was to visit a stately home or a castle and a Art Gallery.  

Our Fist 'Matisse'
We were lucky enough to do all three, in fact the first wasn't just a stately home it was a palace. Schloss Benrath, is a baroque style palace, a holiday home if you will. It was built for the Elector Palatine Charles Theodor and his wife Elizabeth.  Construction began in 1755 and it took 15 years to complete it. Upon completion the elector and his wife took the two week carriage ride to visit upon which Palatine decided it was entirely too far to travel and never visited again!  

Benrath Palace

As Craig and I stood in the great ball room, it was hard not to be swept up by the romantic feel of the place.  If you closed your eyes you could almost hear the musicians playing and imagine all the fine ladies and gentlemen dancing and talking.  

The Ballroom at Benrath

You could imagine the carriages arriving at the great entrance and the servants rushing in and out of the secret doors with drinks and a feast fit for a King.  

The palace was a lovely hue of pink.  We later found out that only Kings or Queens painted their palaces red, and pink was a colour reserved for those just below royalty.  

We also discovered that during this time pink was considered a boys colour and blue a girls colour.  I wonder what switched this the other way around?

It was so hard not to touch the harpsichord!

Unfortunately, the hotel we were staying in decided we couldn't stay for the last two days of our stay as they had a medical conference on and needed the room unless we wanted to pay quadruple the price, so we had to pack up and leave.  Panicking we scoured Dusseldorf for somewhere to stay, but everything was out of our price range.  With only two days left till we fly out the thought of moving hotels was not ideal but needs must.  I had read about a place outside of Dusseldorf called Solingen that had a medieval castle, which was number two on my wish list of things to show Craig.  

Burg Castle, Solingen
We managed to find a little hotel in the back streets of Solingen, not much to look at from the outside and right next to the railway tracks but it's clean, warm and comfortable.  We had a wonderful driver from Sixt, whom we highly recommend if you need a car to anywhere in Dusselfdorf and surrounding areas.  Marcus our driver even came into the hotel and checked us in, gave us a run down of all the sights and sounds before driving us to a little town near the castle. We couldn't check in until 4pm so I persuaded Craig I was more than up to visiting the castle.  I was having a 'good' day so wanted to make the most of it!

Chair lift up to Burg Castle
We took the chairlift up to the Castle, which was really neat fun.  I thought Craig wouldn't like it much as he is not a fan of heights, but in the end it was me who was a bit wobbly about the experience.  As we disembarked the lift our eyes were met with such beauty, nature at it's absolute finest.  

The view of the Autumnal trees in the valley below us was absolutely stunning, and for a moment we just stood.  I felt Craig's arm's creep around my waist and in that moment everything was perfect for the first time in weeks.  

It was the first time I have felt a sense of peace,  of things improving and a gratitude for getting this far.  Please don't get me wrong I am incredibly grateful that I have been lucky enough to get this surgery and I am so thankful to those who made it possible.  But, it has been mentally, hugely challenging.  The pain I felt before the operation pales into insignificance to the pain afterwards.  And, up until that moment I had regretted the operation completely, wondering if I had made everything worse and that going forwards I would be in more pain than before.  

Standing there with Craig in that moment, the breathtaking views caught in my chest, we were both a little overwhelmed.  Glad that the operation was over, and glad that our return to Australia was just days away. Hand in hand, we wandered off and found the most beautiful village with the Castle at the heart of it all.  With the temperature now a few degrees colder due to the altitude we decided lunch and a sit down was next on the agenda.

I have no idea what it was but it was vegetarian and quite delicious!
After a delicious lunch overlooking the stunning valley views, we ventured to the castle.  One of things I have most enjoyed during this trip is Craig's reactions to things.  It is such good fun to travel with someone who hasn't really traveled.  He started out quite timidly in the beginning, worrying about suitcases and flights, worrying about how we would get here and how we would manage this and that.  

But today, once again the big kid in Craig had returned and as we entered the castle that look of wonderment, that I love returned, as he soaked up the history all around him.  He is one of those people who looks at everything and reads everything, he is a joy to go anywhere with.

The village around the castle
This was definitely a day where both of us ended up overdoing things.  I hadn't taken into account stairs and it turns out castles have a fair amount of stairs!  I ended up waiting for Craig in various places as the stairs completely beat me.  Today I am paying the price with very painful legs once more.  That seems to be how this is though, one day is good and the next day is hard, sometimes I even get a couple of good days in a row but for now the hard days still outweigh the good.

I am so glad we made the effort though.  It put Germany on the map for both of us, although for  Switzerland is still our favourite, just saying.

We checked into our hotel and crashed on the bed.  The hotel is nice and the staff really friendly.  We woke this morning and had breakfast which was the normal mix of salads and cold meats that are so popular in this part of the world.  On a side note - I miss marmite more than I thought was possible! 

Today, we are resting, because the day has almost finally arrived to fly back to Australia!  I would be lying if I said I was looking forward to the flight.  If I am honest it scares the shit out of me. The thought of 30 odd hours of traveling fills me with fear.  I can't even sit at breakfast for longer than 15 minutes without having to get up and walk around.  Even lying down is difficult and I think back to the flight over and I am terrified. I am just so grateful we are in business class, because I literally would not have made it otherwise.  I think we would have had to stay for at least another month or so to make the journey in economy, upright.  In an ideal world where money was no object I wouldn't leave for at least another month and even then I think it would be a tough journey.

I am keeping in my mind the thought of our bed at home, our lovely comfy bed with our own pillows, as the prize at the end of our journey.  We arrive at 9.30pm into Brisbane airport so by the time we get home it will be bed time.  

The real prize though of finally getting home is giving our precious children and my folks a big hug and not letting go.  We have missed them more than we thought possible and the thought of holding them all close is the only prize I need to get on that plane tomorrow however scared I am.  It is only one day and one night and as I know from the last nine weeks time flies by when you are having fun!  It will be over in a mere heartbeat and by Friday we will be moaning about how hot we are! 

I am a little worried about how we will manage the pain not only on the journey home but back in Australia.  I am almost completely off prescription pain killers now and just using natural pain medication which of course won't be available back in Australia. It seems utterly ridiculous that we are unable to use CBD back at home, but that is the law at the moment.  I just hope that I will be able to cope without having to go back onto the horrific concoction of prescription painkillers I was on before just to get through the day.  It would be a huge step backwards and one I don't want to take, but what else can you do??

Thank you everyone for following our journey, for your support, your love and your messages throughout our trip.  Thanks to those who made the journey to visit us and those who have cared for me during our trip.  I will carry on with updates on my progress once I get home, so that others who are thinking about embarking on this crazy journey might find comfort or clarity in my writings. 

I have had lots of emails from people since I started this blog many years ago but none more so than since I have written about Artificial Disc Replacement and our journey to Switzerland to look for answers.  It seems that I am not alone, in fact far from it, I only have to look at Craig to see another poor soul suffering horribly with back pain. So, if you are embarking on this journey or contemplating it and need someone to chat to, then contact me.  I am happy to answer any questions you have honestly and to the best of my ability.

So Cold!

Well that's it folks, it's time to sign off, finish packing and get on that plane!  Thank you again and look forward to seeing you all soon.  Wish me luck...(I can hear a song coming on!) you wave me goodbye!


Kate & Craig x


  1. When all is said and done Kate and Craig, this has been a phase in your lives where you have experienced great pain and every emotion under the sun; you have also been shown so much love and concern, not to mention extraordinary generosity, from family and friends. You have probably got to know each other better than most couples after a lifetime. This last blog is full of hope and encouragement, apart from your description about the really interesting places you have visited.
    Have a great flight home; you may not be able to see each other clearly but you will be more comfortable than most people on the flight.😊 Remember that and enjoy the moment as much as possible. Trust all will go well back home Kate. I'm sure you are on the road to recovery. Reuben and I send you off with all our love. It was wonderful to see you both. I will never look at cream caramel in the same way again 😂🤣 Safe journey home darlings xxxx

    1. Thanks for all your help and love, and maybe see you in Aistralia? Kx


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