Sunday, December 22, 2013

Burg Hohenzollern

 A great thing about being in Germany during the Christmas holidays are the Weinachtsmarkts.  Translation: Christmas Markets featuring lots of handmade ornaments and decorations (especially wood) and an amazing variety of local food and desserts.  Of course, no German celebration would be complete without huge mugs of beer but the Weinachtsmarkts highlight is glühwein which is a hot mulled wine.  I don't care for it but it is very popular and a good way to warm up while perusing the stalls in the cold.  These markets run during the 4 weeks of Advent and can be found all over Germany.  Stuttgart has one of the largest and oldest and I will be posting images of that one soon.  This is the first Weinachtsmarkt we visited this year at Burg Hohenzollern.  This particular market only runs for 2 weekends (others run the entire 4 weeks).  The Hohenzollern Castle is about 30 miles south of us at the seat of the Schwäbische Alb (Swabian Alps.  Swabian refers to our unique cultural region here).  It is 2805 ft above sea level.  We drove up the mount part of the way, then took a shuttle bus another part, then another smaller shuttle up the steep, windy switchback trail, then walked up the rest of the way on a paved trail into the castle.  Crazy!  It is still privately owned by Prussian royalty... cool!  We went during the evening with some very good friends so we could enjoy the lights at night.  It was very overcast and foggy for the most part so the views were somewhat obstructed.  I can't wait to go back during the spring for the Mothers Day event when tourists can stroll through all the castle rooms!  Here is the website link if anyone is interested.
Click on photos below for larger images.
A pict of the castle from the web.   Our view from the car as we approached.

Inside the castle.  This was the only area open to tourists.

Me with some castle greeters (very Cirque de Soleil as one friend commented!)
And my favorite wintertime treat here... hot chocolate!
It is sooo chocolatey and so rich it's almost like pudding.
Of course, being in Germany you can have it plain or with a shot
of Bailey's or - my favorite - Amaretto. 

Our very good friends, the Wamberas...
Leonhard, Isabel, Thomas and Louise.

Friday, December 6, 2013

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Wow!  How is *that* for a title?!  (Of course, in my mind it is being sung by Andy Williams who I think does the best version of this and Peter will agree.  Love that he loves the classics!)

Well, I'm back!  Really.  Seriously!  I know, you are thinking, "Yeaaah.  She'll post one lousy blog and then come back *next summer* to give us a novel, promising more is coming."  And you might be right.  And, might not.  Long story short (believe it!)... my ancient Mac died, my camera died (I lost all of my Paris pictures which I hope can be retrieved), Peter's camera - which I had confiscated for my own use after mine died - crapped out, I lost my cell phone, I've been busy, it's dark and I'm wearing sunglasses... you get the picture.  (And if you didn't get the Blues Brothers reference... what can I say?  There are sooo many good lines from that movie you are missing out on!)

ANYWAYS, it is DECEMBER ALREADY!!!  Where in the world has this year gone?  I am now armed with a trusty new Mac (hurrah!) and lots and lots of photos that are of questionable quality from my weenie phone (a lame replacement after losing my "good" phone) and am ready to share with you all some new posts about our time here in Germy.

SO... get ready!  Lots of German festivals, castles, Paris (maybe) and a Year In Review.  And maybe a New Year's Resolution to keep up with the blog...  actually on the real live computer and not just in my head!  ;)

Hope you all are having a happy holiday season so far!  We'll "talk" soon!

Marky and Peter - Cutest boys on the planet!  (OK... I'm a bit biased.)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Happy Anniversary!!!

Well, we made it!  One whole year here in Germy.  I have to admit, it did take a few months to get settled here but now things are going pretty well.  It now feels like, "OMG!  We only have 2 years left to go see this or go do that!"  Of course, there are still "days".  You know what I mean.  We all have them and being in another country can sometimes amp up the ugh factor of those days.

Check back soon!  I am finally going to post what we've been up to lately.  I always think about our friends and family and think, "Oooh!  I should tell them *this* on the blog!"  But then I get busy, tired or lazy or all three and well, now it's been a month and a half since I last blogged.  Oy.

Happy Anniversary to us!  Fun posts to come... including our upcoming trip to PARIS!  Ooh la la!

Big hugs to you all!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Two weekends ago we took advantage of another long holiday weekend here in Germany (where *everything* shuts down, save for some restaurants, gas stations and the trains) and went to Prague, Czech Republic (where everything was open).  Why, you ask?  Well, why not?!  It's a straight 5 hour drive from Stuttgart to Prague (like driving from Detroit to Chicago) and is supposed to be a beautiful city that fortunately escaped most of the bombing of WWII.

We rented a small apartment in the heart of Prague in the Old Town section, right in the middle of all the action.  (Tip: check out Trip Advisor for "vacation rentals" instead of hotels.  You can get a nice place for roughly the same price as a hotel room and probably even much cheaper.  And with small children, it's a nice way to go so you're not stuck in a room with lights out at 8:00!)  Our place was right next to a mall of all things.  A real American-type mall!  After a much longer trip than the 5 hours we planned, the boys were thrilled to see the Golden Arches of McDonalds right next to our place and that was our first Czech meal.  Yippee.  But, the boys were excellent on the car trip and - as Peter pointed out - it was his birthday so he should get to pick the place to eat.  :)  We had fun bumming around that evening and saw many American and UK type products and stores, unlike in Germy.  It's funny the things that will give an expat a small thrill like seeing things that remind us of the comforts of home.  I think there's alot more American and english stuff there as when the Iron Curtain fell (1989?) there was a great opportunity for companies to charge in and set up shop.  Also, tourism is now Prague's largest source of income and they really do seem to cater to Americans and it was both strange and wonderful to hear so many American speakers in the crowds.
(As always, you can click on picts for a slideshow/larger)


Typical european bathroom...
shower "hose" in tub, washer / dryer located in bathroom

On our street / square facing the mall next to us.  Not a bad setup!  We had a rare moment of sunshine (just as it was time to get the kids to bed darnit!) on Friday night after returning from our friends' house so you can how beautiful things are with blue sky.

SO... what did we do in Prague?  Not much.  Or I should say, not nearly as much as I wanted.  If you've seen the world news lately, many cities in the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria have had epic rainstorms and I swear I would not have been surprised if I saw the Ark floating thru the city.  We arrived late Thursday afternoon and left on Sunday just before they closed the subways and many other things due to massive flooding.  It was that bad.

But it wasn't a total loss.  We saw friends we hadn't seen in years (he: American from Michigan  she: Czech... we met years ago when we all lived in Chicago) who now live in Prague and met each others children.  They had us over for a wonderful dinner on Friday night and we met up on Saturday evening for dinner at a train themed restaurant which the boys just loved.  The boys also loved the electric trams that ran crazily thru the city as well as the subways which had some of the longest escalators leading down that we've ever seen!  (As we have found in Germy, the trains/trams are the best way to get around!)  We went to a model train museum (for the birthday boy who is ever the train nut) and despite the deluge of rain we walked thru Old Town Square and took a peek at the beginning of Charles Bridge.  Even soaking wet in the rain I loved walking thru Prague.  The city is beyond amazing and the pictures just can't do it justice.  It is everything you would hope for as a tourist in an old european city.  Cobblestone streets and amazing architecture, statues and breathtaking views at every turn.  I will let my photos do the talking but... I definitely want a re-do!  I would love to take a walking tour and learn some of the amazing history of this city.  I am in love with Prague (as you can tell from my over-use of the word "amazing")!  The boys would like to visit the zoo which is one of the top 10 zoos in the world!

Some views from Old Town Square...

Clock tower on the Old Town City Hall.
It has the world's 3rd oldest astronomical clock, dating back to 1410,
and is the oldest astronomical clock still working.

Entrance to the Charles Bridge (14th century) from Old Town side and closeup...

I would love to walk thru Mala Strana on the other side of the bridge...
We did not walk the bridge and had to turn back due to bad weather.
Above Mala Strana is Prague Castle which is the largest ancient castle in the world.

 There are 30 statues on the bridge of saints and patron saints...

Buildings near the bridge....

The streets were lined with tons of souvenier shops.  Many sold jewelry with
garnet gemstones, marionettes and Bohemian crystal.  I have some of this crystal
I received as a wedding gift and would like to return to add to my collection! 

Dining with friends at a train themed restaurant.
All beverages are delivered to your table via train!

The National Museum (as seen from car while leaving town... wah wah).
It is closed for 2-3 years (?) for renovations.