Monday, June 20, 2011

Its been a while.

We are truly enjoying living in Europe.  We are taking full advantage of all the places within a 3 hour radius of us.  It is amazing that in 3 hours we can be in France, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria.

In April we went to Amsterdam.  We saw the bulbs and we went to the famous Kukenhof Gardens. 
A M A Z I N G !!!!!!!!!!!

Amsterdam was lovely.  It was such a warm and inviting place to visit.  I would highly recommend traveling when the bulbs are in season if you have the opportunity.

In May we went to the Alsace region of France.  We have met a wonderful couple here that lived there for a few years.  So they were our personal guides to the countryside.  We saw many things and places while we were there.  We saw many of the beautiful towns, a castle, and we went to a wine tasting.  Dave and I are convinced that they do not ship any of the best wines to the states.  My answer to all of the 18 wines except for 2 were, "that is really good,  that is really good, oh man that is so good."
We went with several families on this trip.  We had a lot of fun and would love to go again.  So if you come over for a visit....we will take you there.

In June we went to Austria to hike the Alps.  We stayed at lovely hotel that was an all inclusive package.  We have a trip planned in July to go to Greece on a cruise.  While at the hotel the kids loved the food and the all you can eat part of it.  We told them that this place would like the period on the end of the sentence compared to the cruise.   Their eyes got really big and said they could not wait to go on the too.

And then just for fun, I started an intense German class on May 15 that goes until June 30.  It is from 9am-1pm Monday thru Friday.  Its killin' me.....  I had very high expectations of this class that I would be able to speak a little German when I was not going to happen.  I think I could take a course similiar to this every day for 6 months and I would still not be fluent.

My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to learn English in 30 hours, French in 30 days, and German in 30 years. It seems manifest then, that the latter tongue ought to be trimmed down and repaired. If it is to remain as it is, it ought to be gently and reverently set aside among the dead languages, for only the dead have time to learn it.

-Mark Twain  1888

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Observations from Germany: Christmas and Christmas Markets (Wiehnachtsmarkt)

Sorry for the delay in getting this out, but until recently we did not have a fast Internet connection.

In Germany from late November until just before Christmas they have Christmas Markets in a lot of the cities. In Germany they are called Wiehnnachtsmarkt. I believe this translates into Holy Night Market. On a side note:  In Germany Christmas is really celebrated on the evening of the 24th. The Weinnachtsman (Santa) comes and delivers gifts, and tells the children what they should do better on the following year (clean room, no fighting with siblings, etc) on the 24th. Everyone opens their gifts on the evening of the 24th.

We visited four of them before Christmas: Stuttgart, Mainz,Frankfurt, and Esslingen, The one in Esslingen was partially shutdown as we went on the 23rd, but we will count it anyway. 

This is a picture of a department store window in Stuttgart that had a very impressive display of Legos in a Christmas theme.

At the Markets they serve a beverage called Gluwein. This picture is from Stuttgart. It is usually red wine that has had spices and sometimes rum added to it. It is then heated to the temperature of molten lava and served in a coffee cup. When you order one you pay for the the Gluwein (about 2 to 3 Euros) and the mug(a deposit/pfand of 2 to 3 euros). If you decide not to keep the mug/glass, then you turn it back in and get your money back. This is a deceptively powerful drink, about two of these is all you need. Anymore than that and you might sleep through Christmas.

At the markets they have lots of booths set up where you can buy all kinds of stuff. Usually Christmas related, toys, candy, cookies.
 At Stuttgart they have set up a large area where they have toy trains, and running through it is a steam train that the kids could ride. It was really cool!

In Stuttgart Cindy got a treat called a Kartoffel Puffer mit Apfel Muss. This was basically deep fried mashed potatoes with apple sauce. It was really good

This picture is from the Christmas market in Mainz. It was somewhat smaller that the others, but probably my favorite as it was not very crowded and very pretty. 

Cindy, Spencer and Owen in Mainz by the 5 story Christmas decoration.

Another Picture from Mainz.
The picture below left is from Esslingen. It very old city near Stuttgart(middle ages). Cindy took this picture of the old church in town. It turned out really well.
Below is a picture in a wine bar in Mainz after our Christmas market visit. We are eating Spudekas'. Which they serve with onions and pretzels. You can see from the expression on Spencer's face, it is to die for.

When we got up on Christmas morning it had snowed about 10-12 inches, yea white Christmas. This is a lot of snow, but it Stuttgart, it pretty much locked the place up tight. The streets are so small and tight, they have nowhere to push the snow. So, we had a relaxing Christmas and never left home all day.
See terrace below.