Thursday, July 31, 2008

Getting Ready for the Next Adventure!

We're in the throes of preparing for Freshman year in the dorm! Sheets, comforters, trash baskets, microwave, computer equipment, on and on! Will it all fit?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Note

A little note--- The post titled Southern Bavaria--Mountain Castles should be my last post about our Europe trip. Somehow I got that post and the one titled In and Around Bad Windsheim and Amberg out of order and I can't figure out how to fix it! So read the Bavaria one last & it'll make more sense! Maybe.

Monday, July 21, 2008

In and Around Bad Windsheim and Amberg

Note: Read this post before you read Southern Bavaria: Mountain Castles.

Before we left our old "neighborhood" to head to the mountains, we had to check a few more things off the list and show the girls where they were born, where they lived, etc.--just a few sights from their (early) childhood! First of all, the birthplaces of two very important young women:
Klinik Bad Windsheim (then called Klinik Augustinum), birthplace of L'Artiste. Not a very beautiful building, but the scene of a very important & world-changing event! Klinikum St. Marien Amberg, birthplace of the lovely Orangina! This is actually in Amberg, which we visited on our way to Garmisch. I just liked putting it here so both the important birthplaces are in the same spot! Orangina lived in Germany long enough that she has a few vague memories of Germany. L'Artiste was only a year old when she moved back to the States, so alas, no memories for her...until now! St Kilian's and the Rathaus, Bad Windsheim. Interesting perspective, eh? St. Kilian's was built in the 15th century and was restructured in the 1700s as a Protestant Reformation church. I noticed that the cemetary and the grounds of the church looked like they needed some attention--not a typical site in Bavaria. I wonder what the deal is? Landwehr-Brau: our local brewery's mobile bier wagon. Brilliant, and quite civilized idea, isn't it? If Chuck had only been with us, he'd have loved a taste for old times' sake! I'm not sure, but I think this used to be Chuck's favorite guitar shop. Notice the bull over the door. That indicates that it used to be a butcher's shop. Yvonne said that a couple of months ago, a big truck came squeezing down the lane and broke off the bull's horn. After all these many, many years some truck driver broke off the horn? What a pity! Moira finally finally got her spaghetti eis! That was the one thing that she wanted to have more than anything! I think she enjoyed it too! Next, we were off to the village of Ickelheim, where we lived most of the time we were in Germany, and of course, when L'Artiste was born. I included the first few pictures because that scene just has such a special place in my heart. I drove past those trees and pastures so many times on the way to school or out on adventures, and when I returned this summer, I had such a feeling of homecoming. It was great to be there again...and with the girl, it was really wonderful. Our house in Ickelheim. We lived on the first floor. They've expanded the soccer field out back, and now there's a club house of some sort too. I'll bet it's interesting on soccer nights!

Next, we headed for southern Bavaria--into the Alps! More on that later!
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Southern Bavaria: Mountain Castles...

Note: Read this post after you read In and Around Bad Windsheim and Amberg. I got the posts out of order somehow, and can't figure out a fix! Anyway, this is the post for the end of our Europe trip 2008!

Next, it was on to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which is in the far southern part of Bavaria--the Alps! Germany's highest peak, the Zugspitze (elevation 9718 ft) overlooks the town.

In the good ole days, we used to take the bahn up to the top of the peak to
view the valley below and the higher peaks to the south. These days, it would have cost us about $375 to get the 5 of us up there, so we just went part way and had a little picnic.

L'Artiste on her first gondola ride up the mountain. It took her a minute, but she got used to it and loved it in the end! :)

These two shots are from the top of the gondola run. I know they're painfully similar, but what a spectacular view! Don't you just have the uncontrollable urge to burst into a verse of "The Sound of Music?" Corny, but true!

When we got to the top of the run, I asked the gondola man when the last ride down was. He said four o'clock..."aber, wenn das Wetter kommt, you come." Well, as luck would have it, das Wetter kommt, (wow, does that happen fast in the mountains) and we didn't get to stay up there very long. We did get a picnic in though. It would have been really nice to walk back down, but we didn't have time before dark anyway. Beautiful path though--maybe another time...

Our Gasthaus--it was very nice, with a view of the mountains from the balcony. Not too expensive either, compared to some of the other prices we saw. In fact, it was in Garmisch that it was soooo obvious that the tourists are staying home in droves! There were rooms free in every zimmerfrei and gasthaus! Very little traffic and no crowds in the restaurants. That's not normal in the summer in this area--it's usually bustling.

4 friends in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

The further south you go in Bavaria, and into Austria & Switzerland, the more hand-carved wood and lovely hand-painted murals you see on the village buildings. I've included 3 pictures below, one more detailed than the others, so that you can see just how beautiful and intricate these murals are. The original ones are primarily religious paintings, although I saw one depicting a soccer game near Munich! Obviously, this top one is just a sign advertising a hotel--but what an ad it is!

While we were "down south," we visited Oberammergau, which is a famous village because of the Passion Play they do every ten years. It's also one of the major woodcarving areas too, so it's very interesting to visit there. In a shop there, I was watching a master carver work on an intricate and beautiful crucifix, and, as I looked over his shoulder and heard the tapping noise of his hammer and chisel, memories of being a little girl watching Daddy work in his shop washed over me. Different medium, same sounds.

In Southern Bavaria, the overriding theme for tourists is crazy old King Ludwig II (1845-1886)--the "Mad King." His touch is found in every corner of the region. He was quite extravagant, quite solitary, most accounts...somewhat insane. He had 3 grandiose castles built for him in Southern Bavaria, the most famous of which is Neuschwanstein.

We didn't make it up there this time, although we drove past it so the girls could see just how magnificent it is--or would have been, had it ever been finished. At the time of King Ludwig's death (mysteriously one day after he was deposed due to mental illness), only 17 rooms of the castle were finished, and they remain that way today.

Ludwig's other two grand castles were Herrenchiemsee, his rival to Versailles, built on the island of Herren in Chiemsee Lake and Schloss Linderhof. Linderhof Castle was, by some accounts his favorite castle, as it was isolated and "cozy," by royal standards, anyway. Ludwig detested public functions and the social events required of him by his position as King. Linderhof was a refuge for him, where he could enjoy nature and avoid his more formal duties. The Schloss itself is really quite small, for a castle, anyway--although it is typically opulent. It was Ludwig's, after all! This is the only one of his castles that we visited this trip. I had never been there, so it was very interesting--we had a lovely day to explore too.

Linderhof has several magnificent fountains that are interconnected with the Venus Grotto up the hill. The Grotto is a man-made cavern created to stage operas (mainly his beloved Richard Wagner's) for the king. The water features up in the grotto help to feed the fountains in the formal gardens down below. There were even electric stage lights in the Grotto! Wow!

One of Schloss Linderhof's formal gardens

The "stage" in the Venus Grotto--notice the tapestry at the back. Operas were staged here, and occasionally King Ludwig would have his servants pull him around the pool of water in this gilded boat--there's only about a foot of water or so in the pool.

King Ludwig's balcony perch in the Venus Grotto. While operas were staged here, Ludwig was the sole patron in the audience! He never received guests here at his "summer home."

After our southern Bavaria whirlwind, it was time time pack to come home. It was hard to leave Yvonne, because it seemed like we didn't have time to catch up fully! It's been way too long since we got to spend time together.

On our way home, in the Paris airport, all four of us gleefully rushed to the bank of computers in the waiting area to check our email and begin to get back into our "real" lives. Next on the agenda: moving the girl to Denton, TX to attend the University of North Texas! Suddenly, the 3 of us have all sorts of kelly green clothes around here! On to the next chapter.

Although my life doesn't incude lots of real "travel" per se, I hope to keep up with this more personal blog. It's all a journey, right?

Photo credit, 3rd mural above:
PartyO. "Oberammergau_P." Flickr Photostream. 30 July 2007. 22 July 2008.

More of Bavaria to Explore...

Lots of important sights left for the girls to see before we headed for the mountains! Here are a few. The scene above is one of the most photographed/painted intersections in all of Bavaria, the Plonlein, or "little square" in Rothenburg. Neither of these shots are great, but you can see why there's always a photographer set up at this corner, I think! This little house is at the intersection of two roads that lead into town from towers along Rothenburg's wall. Down the lower road to the right is Siebersturm (Siebers' Tower). Both it and the Kobolzeller Tor on the left date from 1350-1385, if you can imagine! The girls have grown up seeing this famous square in the artwork in their homes. Pretty cool to be there with them in person!

Lobelia--you just cant do this in Texas!

Yvonne, Moira and Orangina! What a day!

More pics next time of some of the important family sights around Windsheim!

Monday, July 14, 2008

All Our Old Haunts

Our first full day back in Germany! We got up early and went in to Wurzburg to the market, since that was one of the major things on the girls' list to do! When Orangina was a baby, she lived here, and came to the market every Saturday, so it was fun for her to see it as an (almost) grownup! :) It was such a good feeling to be back in the area--the smells and sounds of a Saturday market are really unique to those of us from the American suburbs. Lovely.

When we lived in country, we were lucky to live in this most beautiful of areas. We got used to the magnificent scenery and to some of the world's most picturesque streets. Rothenburg is just a few miles down the road, and that was our next stop. The girls have grown up with lithographs and photos on their walls at home depicting so many scenes and buildings from this fanciful little village. The picture below is a doorway in the courtyard behind the Rathaus in Rothenburg--a lithograph of this door has been hanging in my bedroom all of the Artist's life. When she saw it IRL, she gasped.
Even though Rothenburg is really "tourist central", we knew it through all the seasons, as a neighboring village, and we truly loved it there. Back in the day, it was jam-packed every summer weekend with American and Japanese tourists--so many you couldn't get down the street sometimes! This year, that was not the case.

Good news for us--bad news for the poor shopkeepers that are having another slower-than-normal high season. I spoke with one friendly and helpful man whose family owns a little shop near the marktplazt--Friese Kunstgewerbe (the Friese Shop). He told me that his family's business has really felt the pinch since so many of the American posts in the area have closed, and the sagging dollar is keeping U.S. tourists at home. Very friendly man and his prices aren't too terrible either. They're just around the corner of the Rathaus steps to the right as you're facing the building. Anyway, I could really tell a difference because we weren't crowded at all.

We ate lunch on the terrace at one of my favorite gasthauses--the one overlooking Jakob's Kirche. I I remember taking Chuck's parents there one afternoon long, long ago. Hotel Reichs Kuchenmeister. Later, we walked down to the cloister so the Artist could take some pics and see the beautiful valley spread out below. She came away saying "we have to come back at Christmas!" Such a great little village. I'm all for the Christmas visit, BTW! All it takes is $...

More in Paris....and On to Germany!

Still looking thru the photos taken by L'Artiste . I'm usually terrible about doing something with the pictures from a trip so this time I'm really going to try to do a better job!

I thought this Paris scene was interesting. You can't see how ridiculous Paris traffic is in this one though. C'est horrifique! I remembered it being ridiculous, but I think it's even worse now. On the way into town, our van driver was squeezing down a street (at a speed slightly less than that of light) and when we came to a right-hand turn, there were dozens of pedestrians on the sidewalk about to cross the street. One of them actually ran into the van and almost got flattened! Then the driver decided to pull a U-turn on a 2-lane street, and someone on a moped was in the process of passing us on the right, between traffic lanes. We hit him slightly too--with a flurry of French curses! That was all in the space of about 4 minutes in downtown traffic!

In my last post, I forgot to mention our evening trip down the Seine. It really was lovely. By the end of that long day, we were mighty tired, and we hadn't eaten much because we were trying to save a little money--every time we turned around it cost another 50 euros! So we were kind of bummed that the boat was too full for us to have a seat up top--but we just stood and it was certainly worth it. I would say that evening is the only time(at least in the summer) to take that trip! There was a nice cool breeze, and all the buildings are dramatically lit so you can see all the sights you'd ever want to see, but at night they're all bathed in a warm light. And of course, the Eiffel Tour is just glorious with all its lights twinkling in the sunset. It really was lovely.

As I mentioned earlier, the next morning we left for Germany on the ICE train, which is a fantastic thing! It took about 4 hours to get to Frankfurt, change trains, and then about an hour to get to Wurzburg, and BOY did it beat driving! I like European trains anyway because they're clean, on time and you get to relax and enjoy the scenery. The new trains even have wireless hotspots, so there were many businesspeople working as they traveled from one country to the next. Very cool.

We got to Wurzburg, and Yvonne was there waiting for us--oh how nice it was to see her! It's been 6-7 years since I've seen her, and that's tooooo long! I must say that as I stepped out of the Bahnhof, even after all of these years, I felt a little bit like I was going home. I just felt different than I had in Ireland or France. And the feeling grew through the days, as we visited so many of our old haunts. Even as I write this, it brings tears to my eyes a bit, because we had so many wonderful times there, and Germany holds such a special place in our hearts. The one missing element was having Chuck there with me. By this time in the trip, I really missed him anyway, and coming "home" intensified that. I wish he'd been there with us.

For dinner that night, Chip met us in Wurzburg at a gasthaus overlooking the beautiful countryside--I can't remember what the name was--and Taylor got her first real German meal. Schweinelendchen! She loved it. We sat for a long time on the porch overlooking the valley as the sun set, was good. On to Rothenburg tomorrow!

Sunday, July 6, 2008


We four girls met up in Paris as planned...but my luggage didn't! It finally showed up after we'd been in Germany for a couple of days, so thank goodness Moira and I are about the same size!

The first day in Paris, we took a bus tour of the city, which was much better once we got up top where it was cooler and we could see. That's a nice way to get your bearings, and it was an easy thing to do for those of us who were jet lagged!

The next day we did something that I've wanted to do for 20 years--ever since I was in Paris before and missed it because of labor strikes. We went to the Musee D'Orsay! That is truly a museum that I could spend a week in, easily. Of course, we were on a whirlwind tour, so we only spent half a day there, but I'm ready to go back already. We concentrated our time on the 4th-5th floor--the Impressionists, of course. It was quite moving for me to be that close to pieces of art that I have seen and read about all my life. Pisarros, Monets, Van Goghs, Sisleys. Wow. It really was breathtaking. And the Orsay building is truly a work of art in itself. What a glorious thing that they used it in this way. It really was a dream realized for me to get to spend a few hours there. We used the Rick Steves' Orsay podcast tour, which is a must for any visitor with an mp3 player. Get it here. We also used his tour of historic Paris to learn what we were looking at at Notre Dame and in the Left Bank area. Highly recommended. Thank you Rick & company!!

Our next big adventure was taking a train to Wurzburg to visit Yvonne. That was fun! Lovely way to travel--and fast! I loved it. I don't think they had the superfast ICE train from Paris to Wurzburg when we lived there--it SURELY beats driving!