Friday, August 31, 2012

Sweet Indulgence

Indulge.  I recently read that people who satisfy their sweet tooth cravings are generally sweeter people.  

Buttermilch Schnitte.  Guten Appetit!

Kaffee & Kuchen (coffee & cake) in the afternoon is a German tradition and thus I am immersing myself in the culture.  As if I need an excuse to entertain my sweet tooth.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Switzerland Travels

Procrastination, once again, has teamed up with lack of time and now I find myself three months later ready (able) to write about our fantastic trip to Lake Lucerne, Switzerland.  I'm not sure where to even begin so I will start with a picture.....

Sail boats on Lake Lucerne with the Alps in the background

In May we traveled to Switzerland and the vistas were breathtaking.  My amateur photography skills do not do reality justice.  I smile just thinking about our time in Lucerne.  Although Switzerland is expensive (Swiss francs not euros) it is well worth the journey and the money.  The architecture is grand, the weather perfect, the water incredibly blue, the people friendly and the food - the cheese absolutely delectable - one can not go wrong with a steam bowl of fondue served with fresh bread.    
Chapel Bridge - 14th Century
Chapel Bridge

The covered Chapel Bridge crosses the Reuss River, it's highlight of the city because of the historical importance and age alone.  Views from the bridge are one of a kind.  Definitely recommend walking through this relic.  Be transported back in time as you admire the paintings on the wooden beams.  The water rushes past below you - the clarity, force and intensely blue color of the river is amazing.  Can you tell I love water?

There are many cultural, historical and natural outdoor sights to see in Lucerne and the Lake Lucerne area.  We spent three days walking around the whole city taking in as much as possible.  I must mention that Hannah was super well behaved the whole time with the exception of Saturday evening, but the explosive poo that ensued on Sunday morning lent complete credit to the previous evenings torments.  All-in-all, she did really well.

Beautiful buildings along the Reuss River

Highly Recommended Things To Do In Lucerne:

-Walk around the lake and enjoy the vistas from Lucerne
-Visit the Lion Monument (truly beautiful and peaceful)
-The Glacier Museum (right next to the Lion Monument)
-Admire the murals on the buildings (including the one below)
-Eat Fondue, Eat Any Cheese
-Venture up Mount Pilatus - We took the boat from Lucerne to the base of the Mount Pilatus, then the cog wheel train up the mountain, had lunch, took the gondolas down the other side of the mountain, stopped to check out the summer terrain park, then took a bus back to Lucerne.
-Walk through the Chapel Bridge
-Take the ferry even if you do not want to go up Pilatus - the views are awesome with the  crystalline water against the Alps.

Life is not cheap in Switzerland.  One of our cheapest meals - sharing a pizza & salad, one beer, and one tonic water - was around 60 francs if my memory serves me correctly.  Actually, the meal at the top of the Pilatus was surprisingly cheap in the cafeteria I believe it was around 40 francs.  I can not express enough how wonderfully delicious the cheeses are - a must taste.
If you drive to Switzerland, I recommend buying the vignette (sticker) before hand so you are not stopped at the board and stuck waiting.  I purchased the Swiss vignette at the ADAC (similar to US's AAA) here in Frankfurt just off the Ziel near the Hauptwache station.  Buying it in advance cost 33euros where as at the border it would have been 40 francs.So, save yourself time and money if you are driving and buy it in advance.  Good for one year.  In case you are wondering what this is for - it is how Switzerland collects taxes/fees, but in other countries the fees are added into the petrol prices.
World's Steeptest Cog Wheel Train

The steepest cog wheel train in the world goes up & down the side of Mount Pilatus and is one of the modes of transportation used in getting to the top.  We figured this would be a great test for Hannah to see how she did with the elevation changes - she slept most of the way as I sat ready to nurse, bottle feed, or offer a pacifier.  From the train the views were steep & stunning - over looking part of Lake Lucerne and the Alps.  I highly recommend making this trek.  We saw a couple people hiking, which looked like fun, but maybe when Hannah is older.
Almost to the top of Mount Pilatus
This was the most snow we saw all year.  The views from the top of Mount Pilatus - 2132 meters - were amazing panoramas.  Lots of people, surprisingly decent and inexpensive cafeteria, a hotel and trails.  The May weather was pleasant and comfortable in long sleeves.  We opted for the Golden Round trip and were able to hop on a gondola down whenever we were ready.  In all we spent the better part of the day on this excursion and it was well worth it.

Alpine Horns

And of course, the trip would not have been complete without hearing and seeing Alpine horns.  From my (small town girl) perspective it is pretty awesome that my 5 month old daughter has been on boats, up mountains, in air planes crossing oceans and time zones all before she is even one year old.  Compared to me - I was 24 years old before I ever left the country (Canada doesn't really count as we say in Michigan).  I have lots of hopes and wishes for her and one of them is to be a competent traveler, open to other peoples and cultures with an adventurous spirit.

Water, boats, mountains, architecture and fresh air - life does not get much better than this really.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

German Birthdays

Birthdays are a big deal here in Germany.  Typically, at least for adults, the birthday girl or boy invites family and friends over/out to celebrate.  If you are invited it is an honor and unless you have previous plans then you definitely need to attend.

Yesterday was our neighbors birthday (she is the nicest woman - we are lucky) and she invited us as soon as we were back from vacation.  I was completely honored as it was just her family and us crazy Americans.  After consulting some of my German friends, I learned that 1) you go if you are invited and 2) a bottle of wine and/or flowers are always appropriate when gift ideas are nonexistent, which is an ailment of mine.

With husband, baby, wine and birthday card in tow we fearlessly headed into an unfamiliar social situation.  So our evening was filled with new experiences, wonderful people, great food and lots of conversation.  Our neighbor and her family were very gracious and uncritical (thank God!) of our lack of German skills.  I also realized that I understand way more German than I thought, although speaking it is a whole different story.  Walking back to our flat I was thinking - WOW! we are lucky to have such a great neighbor and secondly - Damn! I need to learn German already.  Rosetta Stone I am about to be all over you.  No more excuses for missing German conversation group - time to get serious.  Yes, I could live in Frankfurt for three or five years and get around just fine without knowing the language, however, I am not going to be one of those people.

Everyday is full of new lessons, realizations and experiences.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back to Reality

Our summer holiday back to the mitten - Michigan - was lovely.  Feeling really blessed to have spent so much time with the ones we love and doing what we love.  I will remember forever the smell of home when I went running early in the morning, the air so fresh clean almost intoxicating and there is nothing like that in Frankfurt.  Maybe our camping trip this weekend will reveal some fresh crisp air.

In homage to the state I love and to our pilgrimage home here are some pictures.....

Waking up to a sunrise on Long Lake (Traverse City, Michigan) is my pure bliss.  There is no greater serenity than sitting down with a steaming cup of coffee on the porch to journal with the cool morning air inviting the day.  While we were home I received a sticker with a picture of Michigan and the words, "Wherever I Roam Michigan is Home" no words can ring more true for me.  And as far as inland lakes go....Long Lake rocks!  The air, water, purity and peace are all addicting.  The boating, kayaking, swimming and paddle boarding are excellent and some of our favorite past times.

We were lucky enough to be home for over a month.  In that time, we celebrated the 4th of July, my Dad's birthday, Hannah met almost all of her family for the first time - missing some great aunts & uncles and one grandparent who we will see in February, took part in an awesome wedding for some of our dearest friends, saw Dave Matthews Band at Pine Knob near Detroit, drove all over Michigan, and Travis did the Chicago to Mackinac Race (and worked too).  Needless to say we crammed in as much as possible and had a great time.  Michigan started to feel like home again - it was great to see our family and friends.  Time flew by especially the last couple weeks.

The fireworks on Long Lake were awesome this year.  We were lucky enough to be sitting out on the boat watching them - nearly right under them.  The Gray family dog, Opus, has now decided he doesn't really like those loud and bright things so much anymore.  Hannah on the other hand slept through the whole display.  And yes that is a picture of us with her bundled in the carrier passed out and me wearing a big grin because life doesn't get much better than that moment.  Still can't believe she slept through the fireworks.

It is safe to say that Hannah impressed me (us) quite a bit on this trip home.  She was a champ on the 8 hour flight to Chicago, she didn't poo for 15 days, she cut two teeth (!!!) while we were home, went swimming several times and she grew longer and stronger.  Hannah was a complete peach with meeting new people all the time, driving around in a car way more than she was use to and being held by new adoring folks very frequently.  I'm not bragging (maybe a little), but she was awesome.  She even started taking naps, real substantial naps not just 15 minute rests.  She must love Michigan and all it contains as much as her parents!

One more thing to love about Michigan -wildflowers!  Sweat peas, daisies, bee balm, day lilies, clovers, orange butterfly flowers, and the list goes on.  And of course there are the Farmers Markets, blueberries, peaches, cherries, and so much fresh local produce.  It is a great feeling - sometimes overwhelming- when walking around, going to the grocery or out to eat and you see dozens of people you know greeting you with a smile or a hug....much different than life here in Frankfurt.  Something I miss, but appreciate even more when we are home.

Finally, I end this entry with the sunset - seems appropriate.  There is no vista more breath taking than a Lake Michigan sunset.  This picture was taken on the South Beach in South Haven, Michigan.