“Life in the Seven Kingdoms is never dull . . .” 

–Jen McConnel, School Library Journal


Train Them Up the Way They Should Go

After a long, rainy winter, families in Germany are ready to get out of the house and have a little fun. Why don’t you come along?

The joy of sustainability is becoming a theme around here.

We accidentally discovered this festival while trying to repair the handle on a wicker basket. The basketmakers were attending this fair as vendors and said we could bring the basket along. It pays to fix things. 😉 So we hopped on the train . . .

What I like about public transportation is the freedom to explore.

You don’t have to go back the same way you came. Or figure out where you parked the car. For people who are chronically lost *cough* public transportation is a simplified version of geography. 😉

This spotlessly clean train station was set up underneath the Kennedy Bridge in Bonn, Germany

kid-size train at the station
Platform 1 for a children's train ride

All aboard the Miniature Express!

Years ago, I read a leaflet at a local elementary school in Germany that made the case for teaching your children to get around independently. The leaflet recommended starting with a balance bike–no pedals–then a real bike, and finally commuting with public transportation. 

Everyone would be happier if the kids got wherever they needed to go, on their own. This is not an especially American concept.

This train probably isn’t part of the public transportation agenda, but it would have sold me (and my kids!) on the idea of taking a train to get somewhere.

What are your goals for the kids in your life? If you are a teacher or librarian or parent or grandparent, what matters to you that you want to pass on to the next generation?

Don't You Love the Official Clock?

The attention to detail is amazing (and unsurprising in the country that produced the first “mass market train sets” in 1861). Note the official train-crossing signs, and the mini-landscape of trees, wood chips and a park bench. 

You can’t confuse this with Platform 9 3/4 because it is clearly labeled Gleis 1.

When our family first arrived in Germany, I used to wait at the bus stop with one of my kids. 

During Advent–the season before Christmas when the Christmas markets are outside–our local plumbing store ran a model train in their display window that changed almost every day. Free entertainment 🙂 

What a community-minded thing to do for frozen kids!

"Dream now. Enjoy tomorrow" is the perfect slogan for me!

Oh, wait–I’m already sold on trains!

You can read more about our epic train adventures as I get them up onto the blog. I planned to report on the journey–Live!–but there was too much adventure for me to process.

I think of these adventures as

Bumpity Boulevard Press

On The Rails.


In case you thought all the entertainment was for the kids . . .

The roof of this carousel rotates over the customers, who order their drinks at the counter below. I’d give it a blue ribbon for “Most Elaborate Stand”, wouldn’t you?

carousel for serving beer at a market in Germany

The illusion of warm weather with flower bouquets, seedlings, and lemon trees

The shivering daffodils, bare trees, and heavy clothes declare the actual season, but the imagination is a wonderful survival mechanism and even more fun when we use it together. On the other side of the junior train station, there were racks of seedlings and houseplants. Also snacks from Ghana, a musical group whose team vehicle was a vintage VW van with a convertible top. Something to encourage everyone!

flowers at the Rhine market under the Kennedy Bridge in Bonn, Germany
Daffodils on the Rhine River
lemon trees at the Rhine market under the Kennedy Bridge in Bonn, Germany

Isn’t it interesting that fixing something can take you on an adventure?

There’s something special about getting a handmade item repaired by someone who really knows how. It’s like opening a window into a different world. When I visit a new place, I like to look in the markets to see what foods and crafts are sold in that town.

Everyone has some special knowledge that seems mysterious to others. I know a lot of authors, and can still be wowed by their skill. But I don’t know many craftspeople, so when I meet someone who knows how to fix a piano caster, or a basket handle, it’s magic.

Here’s the new handle on the basket:


Ferris Wheel in the Distance

Ferris Wheel on the Rhine

And when they are old, they will not depart from it . . .

Our world feels bigger than ever these days, and the news often feels like one unsurmountable problem after another, for us and for the children who come after us.

But there is hope in the small things–small repairs that make old things whole again, small celebrations that give families and friends time to heal and to grow.

A lemon tree might prompt a lemonade stand (or one with delicious lemon cake).

A ride on a small train might be the beginning of a lifetime of train adventures or a more sustainable future.

Small discoveries about how things are put together and repaired–and which things turn into trash–can influence future purchases. I read somewhere that we tend to love the things that we have repaired, that caring for them adds value. What do you think? Is it true for you?

We don’t know what small things will have big effects. But we can see that each of us has special skills, special knowledge, and a powerful imagination.