Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas in Germany

December 22-27, 2008 The week of Christmas....

Monday, 22nd, Work Lunch Party at Taj Mahal, work gift exchange, and Christmas Cheer Party in my room with friends

Pumpkin Bread I baked for the ladies at work

Kari, Lisa Marie, and Bonnie in my room for the Christmas Party

Santa and his reindeers

The gang with our liquor, post liquor exchange

Lisa Marie, Matt, and Marcie enjoying the Christmas sweets

It's a rough life opening liquor, eating lots of food, and watching Christmas movies

Wednesday, 24th, 1/2 day of work, cemetery to listen to the band and watch families decorate the graves of loved ones, dinner with friends, organ concert, midnight mass

one of many decorated trees in the cemetery

Thursday, 25th, breakfast with friends, dinner at Terri's, out to celebrate


So much for a white Christmas...but at last there's beautiful snow on the mountains

Alpspitze from my balcony

My backyard

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Markets in Germany!!!

December 19-20, 2008 It's Christmas Time!! and 'tis the season to drink gluhwein, buy wooden ornaments, and watch Angels play instruments in town hall window's...only in Germany! As the end of the season draws nearer I made a desperate attempt to make it to a few more "must see" markets in Germany. Friday after work, I drove to Munich to see the Marienplatz and Tollwood markets. I spent the night with Florian, my couchsurfing friend, who has a great extra bed and a nice apartment near a S bahn stop. Saturday morning, we woke up early and I went on my way to make a rainy/snowy drive to Nuremberg, Germany's most famous Christmas Market. After some great photo ops taken from the Cathedral's "special exhibit" that overlooked the market, a gluhwein, and some shopping I made my way to Rothenburg, a town still protected by walls and towers. I enjoyed my time in Rothenburg but knew there was still one more stop on my list and I had to make it there by 1800. Augsburg was the last stop! Why did I have to be there by 1800? So I could see the 24 Angels appear in the Town Hall windows and play instruments!! I made it by 1700 and then made my way toward the Town Hall and Christmas Market where I walked the aisles of stands looking for the best place to stand and watch the show. Luckily, I staked out my spot in the middle of an aisle moments before everyone else started filling in around me. The performance lasted 5 minutes or so and was beautiful. Each Angel was dressed in a traditional dress with a short, curly wig. The music was so harmonious but what else would you expect from Angels? After the performance, dinner (aka wurst and gluhwein), and some shopping I made my way home through dark, unlit, puddle filled roads while the rain/snow bore down on my windshield...not exactly what you want after a long day of driving and shopping. I was, however, thankful that it didn't rain too much when I was in each of the towns. It somehow seemed to be raining the entire time I was driving all day but it was never raining in the towns as I was walking around! more pictures

Munich Marienplatz Christmas Market

Nuremberg Christmas Market

Angel Ornament on Rothenburg's Christmas tree

Rothenburg's Christmas Market

Augsburg: Welcome to the Christmas Market

Augsburg's Angel Show at the Town Hall

Augsburg -- town hall and clock tower hovering over the Christmas Market Square

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Colmar, France and the Black Forest

December 12-14, 2008 Molly, Laura, and I took a little road trip in quest of Christmas Markets!!! Our destination: the Black Forest and Colmar, France. We stayed in a neat hostel in the Black Forest - it had a large "hangout room," a kitchen equipped with 2 fridges (label your food and leave it in there), a variety of spices, and a recycling system, bathrooms with modern circular showers, etc. and our 10 person dorm room was pretty nice too. The room was very spacious, had night lamps, coat hangers, and lockers. It was one of the larger, more open hostels I've stayed at. This was my first expierence staying in a larger dorm room, usually I stay in 4 person rooms or smaller. When we went to bed nobody else was in the room and we were told there was another "group" sharing our room. Well, at 6 am we "met" that other "group." A group of drunken boys/men who were just getting home from the bar at yes, 6 am! 2 hours later the girls and I woke up and we left for the Christmas Market in Colmar. What a great city! It reminded me a lot of Strasbourg, timbered houses, a little venice (part of the town was along the water), and in general, frenchness, my fave! However, we experienced one of my worst encounters with a very stereotypical French person. Long story short, he refused to speak English (maybe he was being honest when he said he didn't speak English but I doubt it) and so Molly and I practiced our french with him and I told him we only wanted drinks (Seulement Boissons) but somehow he got Poisson out of that (Fish). We thought it was kind of weird when he brought out soup spoons and sure enough, a little bit later we received 3 bowls of Fish soup (Poisson Soupe) -- Poisson vs. Boisson...but at no point did we ever say soupe...Anyway, he got angry when we attempted to tell him that we didn't order the fish soup and we didn't want it. He then brought us our bill and banged our table after we had paid, signally for us to leave...RUDE! The rest of our Christmas Market shopping was very pleasant. Yummy food, good drinks (gluhwein, of course, and hot orange juice) and cute ornaments. Colmar didn't offer as much as the other Christmas Markets I had been to but it was still nice. There were several Christmas Markets throughout the town so we checked them all out, including the kid market with animals. After touring around Colmar we returned to Freiburg to see their Christmas Market. It was pretty crowded - mostly people standing around drinking gluhwein, not pushing to see the ornaments. We ate really yummy thai food...that is after we went in to two different restaurants and were told we needed to have reservations...crazy how busy all the restaurants were! Our drive home on Sunday was beautiful! It was bright and sunny, the ground was still covered with fresh snow, and the towns and overpass was beautiful! As we were leaving the Black Forest it was beautiful because we were surrounded by large trees (maybe Evergreen) on both sides that had perfectly placed fresh snow on the branches hovering over the road! It was beautiful. As we continued driving we saw some great views including a town covered by a cloud fog with only the snow-covered roofs sticking out from the cloud and a beautiful sunset behind the mountains we were driving towards. Of course we were listening to and singing to Christmas music the whole way there and back making everything that much more wonderful! Unfortunately, everytime I pulled over onto a designated pit-stop/scenic area there were trees blocking our way so we couldn't get clear pictures....So, hopefully my description was enough to take you to the moment I experienced. more pictures

Christmas Decorations in Colmar

Titisee, a small town in the Black Forest we stopped at on our way home...look at all that snow!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Budapest, Hungary

December 5-7, 2008 Courtney and I took the overnight train to Budapest for the weekend! What a great way to travel! Nobody has to drive late into the night, fight traffic, or deal with construction...We were lucky enough to have the cabin to ourselves on our way there...not so lucky on our way back home. Budapest was a beautiful city! Full of life, architecture, and culture! Some highlights included: the Fishermen's Bastion, the Hungarian Baths at Gellert Hotel, the city at Night from Gellert Hill, and the Christmas Market. The Gellert Baths were very confusing - we didn't know where to go or what to do. We also didn't know that we would have to pay extra for towels, locker rooms, etc. We did pay for a changing room/storage room but decided we didn't really need towels and "dried off" in the sauna. The baths consisted of a large room with a large swimming pool and communal thermal bath. On either side of this large room/hall were his/her thermal baths with saunas and masseuses...too bad we didn't have more time for a massage! There were a few moments where the language barrier was confusing but we made it through buying our transportation tickets and navigating our way around the Baths. more pictures

Danube Bend

Danube Bend

Fishermen's Bastion


Fishermen's Bastion

Budapest at Night

The handmade Hungarian Pottery I bought at the Christmas Market - cute, huh?? and cheap ($30 for all 5 pieces!)

Photos from Courtney:
Above Budapest

Budapest at Night

Gellert Baths

Hungarian Baths

Heroes Square

Kurtos Kalacs -- hollow cylinder pastry with coconut coating

At the Christmas Market

Christmas Market

Langos -- fried bread with sour cream
on the overnight train


A few pictures of the beautiful snow in Garmisch-Partenkirchen! *The first big snow was November 22! That night we went sledding down the mountain, the Kramer, behind the building complex I live in! It was sooooo much fun! We flew down the mountain!

The Alpspitze, Waxenstein, and Zugspitze! (view from my office!)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Horse & Carriage Ride

December 1, 2008 In celebration of the holiday season, our resident services has planned a month full of fun activities for employees. Monday evening they took about 30 employees on a horse and carriage ride through Garmisch and Partenkirchen. We rode back to the stables where we stood around a fire, drank gluhwein, and ate meat, cheese, bread, and cookies.

Courtney and I on the Horse & Carriage ride

Our Carriage

The other end of the Carriage

My favorite horse in the stable