Monday, August 17, 2015

Salzburg and Munich

It's our second day in Austria and time for a trip to Salzburg. We tried to find a few Sound of Music sights without taking a tour. Here's the fountain Maria splashed in while singing "I Have Confidence" and the bells that rang at the wedding. 

Yeah, I know. Those aren't the things you would have looked for, but my little sightseers aren't the easiest to tote sometimes! We still loved Salzburg and also visited the Salzburg Castle (at the top of this picture). Still haven't found a princess at a castle...but we're still looking! "Hey Hannah, let's go see another castle today and see if we can find a princess!" That's how you get an almost 4 year old girl to cooperate! (Don't judge, we do what we've gotta do!)

And the view from the castle wasn't too shabby! (Another "wow") 

When you're the family photographer and you hand your camera off to your husband while taking a selfie and this is what you get...LOL! 

Day 4 we cheated and left Austria for a little time in Munich. We arrived and headed for the city center to see the glockenspiel. It rings every hour and has a scene "acted out" by characters in the clock. 

It was fun to watch but goes on way too long to hold the attention of my little watchers. But this sweet moment did happen while we were watching it! Sometimes these spontaneous little hugs just kill me! If these two get nothing else from our whole 5 months away I think they will become best friends - they're each other's only playmates!

And then it was time for a quick glimpse inside a church...and for Mark and Hannah to pray again (we needed a lot of prayers on this trip! Lol!). I would love to someday sit in the pews of an old church like this and listen to hymns being sung. This church had significant damage from the war but was refurbished and is beautiful. 

After lunch it was off to the Deutches Museum (technology museum). Yes, it sounds boring but we were primarily going for the Kinder Reich (kids kingdom)! The basement floor is a hands on kids museum that I'd read about and both kids had fun! There was a fire truck to climb on and play in and Daniel was convinced he was the only kid who should be driving the fire truck and kept trying to push the much bigger kids out of the way. Many tears were shed every time we pulled him away from it!

The oversize musical instruments were fun...and kind of what I wanted to see! 

Munich was beautiful but our day was short. We were both almost out of data on our international phone plans from the US and were trying to get SIM cards from a German phone store so we'd be all set when we arrived for our long term Germany stay in a few days. Unfortunately we were traveling without passports that day (oops!) and passports are required for buying a card. So a lot of extra walking for nothing. 

There were many other sights I would have enjoyed seeing in both of these cities but we took in what we could - walking and pushing a double stroller the whole time in both places. I wish our stroller had an odometer on it because we've put many many kilometers on those wheels. And the cobblestone and brick sidewalks are not easy on stroller wheels!

And now it's time for our Deutschland Adventure to officially start! 
Until next time! Auf wiedersehen!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Beauty Surrounds Me - Austria part 1

After leaving the Czech Republic we used our timeshare to enjoy a week at the Alpenland SportHotel in Maria Alm, Austria. This is a beautiful village nestled about an hour from Salzburg. This area is bustling with skiers in the winter but provides a nice quiet retreat in the summer. The first night as we ate dinner at the hotel restaurant and I told Mark I could just imagine it in the winter with folks sitting around in their ski clothes. When we checked in we were told they'd given us a 1 bedroom with a kitchen even though we'd booked the one without. Hooray! That means breakfast in the apartment and sometimes dinner too! The temperatures have been in the mid-upper 90's so there were times it was a bit unbearable but a fan helped and by bedtime it's not bad, although Hannah struggled the most with going to sleep hot. But there is a lovely sunset to enjoy from our balcony every night! My first "wow". 

Maria Alm is a very small and quaint little village with all the hiking, cafes, shopping and beautiful views you'd ever need. And I'm sure in the winter it's equally as appealing. There is a lovely Catholic church just behind our hotel and I'd love to photograph it in the winter! 

The last morning we were here it had finally cooled and there were low hanging mountain clouds and I made Mark pull over before we headed out for the day just so I could grab this picture! 

Our first day we enjoyed some downtime then took in the sights of Sell am Zee, a nice lake town. And the kids got to enjoy some playground time. Every corner we turned on our drive there resulted in more "wow"!

And ice cream, we had ice cream every day this week as a treat for good behavior (and to cool down). This girl loves her chocolate ice cream! 

Our third day in Austria was a favorite. We visited Saafelden, a village a few kilometers away. There we were were able to take a chair lift to the top of a mountain and ride toboggans down a bobsled run. Yes, we rode toboggans all the way down a mountain! It's a 1.6km run and was a crazy amazing experience. I highly recommend this to anyone who gets a chance! Both kids enjoyed it...and their parents! The oldest parent and oldest child did it twice! Pictures of the pictures we bought there:

(Please ignore me - I had to be a pack mule and wear Daniels toddler size backpack, my purse and my camera while holding him and driving!)
Then we rode back up the mountain to enjoy lunch with this view. Wow. 

And some more playground time! One thing we never had a difficult time finding was playgrounds. 

We finished off the day by briefly leaving Austria to check out the views from Kehlsteinhaus, also known as Hitlers Eagles Nest. It is an absolutely amazing structure at the very tip top of the mountain. And it tickles me to death to be able to offer my own kind of anti-salute to Hitler by bringing my black children here to enjoy some gelato!  

We stuck closer to home in our fifth day in Austria, taking the chair lift not far from our hotel and enjoying the top of our mountain. We hiked a short ways down to a little cafe for drinks and then back to the top to soak up the sun. Seriously, this was beautiful! I could have sat in one of those chairs all day if not for having to chase down a wandering child so frequently! My mind kept returning to an old favorite song "Tall mountains, green valleys, the beauty that surrounds me; All make me aware of the One who made it all." 

The last day in Austria we found ourselves in Sell am Zee again for a little souvenir shopping and lunch. While enjoying a "quiet" ( I use that word lightly because we had our kids with us!) lunch at a sidewalk cafe a crowd gathered in the street near men dressed in traditional clothing and a strange performance/celebration broke out. Men were performing with large whips and also a performance army (mostly old men who couldn't march in step) began loading their rifles and firing. And then there was the canon. My kids were fine with the loud whips, the guns caused tears and the canon and more whips were more than they could handle ending with one near hysterics and the other also crying but more for attention. Somehow this was all related to the Assumption of Mary but we never could figure out the correlation!

I'm writing another post about our days in Salzburg and Munich so stay tuned! 

Austria was beautiful and I consider it a true blessing to have spent a week with my family in such lovely surroundings. If you ever get the opportunity to visit the Alps please do it! You won't be able to stay in a Hilton or Holiday Inn if you go to the smaller villages but you won't regret staying in a more local style hotel/resort either. Put on some good walking shoes and go enjoy! 

Lord, Your hands created some spectacular mountains.  You formed the highest mountain peaks and the most intricate rock formation. Thank You for allowing me the opportunity to witness it firsthand and sharing the experience with the three people closest to me. Please continue to allow us to have these amazing experiences throughout our adventure. Amen.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Pretty Hot in Prague

It's the end of our 4th day in Prague, Czech Republic and tomorrow we head south to Austria. Prague is a beautiful city and I'm sure it would have been more beautiful if not for this dang heat wave that has the whole area of Europe in temps near 100* F. Now I'm used to that back home but I'm also used to being able to actually cool off indoors. Many restaurants and business here don't have air conditioning but even the ones that do don't have a system that can handle this heat. And since most restaurants are open air dining I've found myself using the napkin to mop sweat from my face instead of keeping my face clean of food. We've walked all across this city and yesterday as we descended into the subway I asked Mark if we could just camp out down there for a while. Our tickets were good for 90 minute so why not? It felt absolutely heavenly! Seriously, I'm pretty sure Heaven feels just like that cool subway! Speaking of the subway/Metro, we quickly mastered the art of toting a double stroller up and down the escalators. It was pretty nerve wracking the first time but now we just do it. And these are escalators that go straight up for at least 4 flights. The first time we almost lost Hannah because we were going down and both trying to have 2 of us hold the stroller and also hold her hand. She was holding my hand and wouldn't take the first step onto it and then fell to her knees on it crying. The escalators move very fast so we were already several steps down. Mark was able to run back up and help her and now she does it all with ease and cheers for herself at the end. But she can't stop dancing when we're waiting for our metro train and I'm scared to death she's going to fall on the track! 

Hannah was a bit disappointed by her first castle visit...there were no kings, queens or princesses! I'd tried to explain that beforehand but she's 3 and she wants princesses! Seeing the crown and scepter did appease her a bit. 

The changing of the guard at Prague Castle was way over hyped. It was actually pretty lame and boring and drug on entirely too long....especially considering the temperature outside! 

Mark and Hannah were able to sneak in a quick prayer at one of the castle chapels. I'm pretty sure she was praying to find a princess...

We enjoyed a nice cruise on the River Vltava our first evening. Daniel was stuck with us while Hannah made some new friends who kept her entertained (not really a surprise to anyone that she made friends is it? She wants to talk to EVERYONE!) 

Just don't call the creepy mime a friend...weird stuff up in the Charles Bridge. 

The Czech people as well as all the tourists we've encountered have all been so kind. Hannah was crying today at a museum when we went to the coat check room to claim our stroller and the attendant was an older woman who kept trying to tease her. She eventually came out and hugged on her and gave her a nectarine. 

There've been a lot of tears, mostly by the same child. We're trying to remain patient but it's getting a little more difficult. At Hard Rock Cafe her food came on a guitar shaped plate which caused tears because she didn't want a guitar plate! (Big sigh....). She's 3. As long as the sun isn't in his eyes Daniel has been amazing, and the sun is an easy fix with the stroller awning. 

Tomorrow we will attempt to squeeze all our bags back into the small car and head to Austria. I'm really hoping the 80* temps feel better. Mark said he wanted to take the first funicular to the top of the mountain and enjoy cool weather. I couldn't agree more! 

Doesn't look like good internet service next week so more posts once will come later. Also I'm blogging from the iPad so if the posts look odd that's why. Ciao!


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

It's Day One of the Rest of Our Year

There's a song I like by Matthew West called "Day One", and while it's totally unrelated to this blog post (well it could sort of be related, we ARE a starting over in a way) I decided to steal his title. This is about day one of the ret of our year.

It's day one of the rest of my life
It's day one of the best of my life
I'm marching on to the beat of a brand new drum
Yeah, here I come 
The future has begun
Day one ------------   Matthew West

August 3rd The Husband and I boarded a plane bound for Germany with The Daughter (3 1/2) and The Son 1 1/2). We have a couple of weeks of vacation travel planned and then 5 months in the southwest region of Germany. I have to admit I was slightly terrified of the 9 hour and 25 minut flight, not to mention the following days of time and culture adjustment. In fact, I've even had friends at church watch me try to keep The Son contained and still during church and laugh at the thought of him contained in a plane! His last flight was 8 months ago and he screamed inconsolably the entire short flight. Thankfully the ear tubes he got 2 months ago seem to have helped. 
Our first flight is less than an hour, I was assigned to The Son because he's a Mommy's boy. My tips from this flight:
1 - snacks are always better from alternative containers 

2 - Forget toys, empty water bottles are the best!

3 - You're never too young for educational reading. 

Layovers can be a bit stressful with young children. They NEED to expend energy between flights but you don't want to use up the patience of your fellow travelers before you ever board the plane. Since our terminal didn't have a play area we made our own. Here kids, take care of some luggage!

And while we were waiting at the gate the agent told us she had moved the other person assigned in our block of 5 seats (2 seats and 3 across the aisle) to another seat so we could have all 5 for kids to sleep! That. Was. Awesome. It made such a difference! 

The second flight was almost too easy. I won't say it was easy because it took me to put both kids asleep and I can only be in place at a time. But The Son was asleep before takeoff and slept the first 3 hours!!!! (I should say that 2 nights before the trip we started melatonin and moved bedtime up an hour and the next night we moved it 2 hours to 6pm and we departed at 3:30pm. I also gave both kids melatonin after we boarded. 
He slept off and on and mostly just wanted held the rest of the time. The Daughter was slightly more high maintenance but still not on bad. She made a friend with the gentleman behind her and frequently talked to him, played on the iPad, listened to way too loud music and enjoyed the airplane dinner. Much to my surprise she didn't even mind using the airplane bathroom! But settling down for her was more challenging. The Husband kept trying but wasn't having luck so we swapped kids. I sang her our bedtime songs and said a prayer before she asked for her "Tranquil Child" drops. 2 minutes later she was sound asleep too and got about 2-3 hours of sleep. 

The only one who didn't really get any sleep was The Husband (sorry Honey!) 

We collected all of our luggage and passed off 3 of our suitcases to a friend to keep during our vacation and then got our car. I need to take a picture of it because it's very small and you should have seen the face of the lease agent when he saw what all we had to fit in it! It's completely packed. We will need to scale down our stuff in order to just have room for souvenirs! Then off to Nuremberg for our first night. The Daughter, who has never ever gotten car sick began screaming that her stomach hurt. Now she can be quite the drama queen when she wants but apparently this is real...she kept throwing up in the car. Perhaps it's because it's a small car and she's used to a mini van, plus she was tired and probably slightly dehydrated from the flight. But driving to dinner that night it happened again - acute screaming followed by...the deed. Ick. I had taken 2 changes of clothes for the kids on the flight and they didn't need them and she had gone through 3 in one day now! By the time we explored the city a bit and had dinner we had tired kids. Or perhaps exhausted?

 Today I gave her Zofran before we got in the car and she did great, no clue if it's the medicine or getting adjusted. But there was no vomit, and we even got prepared and got bags for her now too! We had a few hours drive though and I needed to try to get her to not scream in the car today. We drove to Prague, Czech Republic today and are a sightseeing a few days here. The Hilton Prague is an absolutely beautiful hotel, one of the nicest in the Czech Republic we're told. 
Our biggest issue we've had (so far) has actually been that The Daughter has no low volume to her voice. Seriously, she is LOUD!!!! We have tried since she was a baby to quiet her and she's just loud! And she's almost always making noise. She's made up numerous songs and rides along on the stroller singing nonsense songs, but she's happy! Unfortunately, we are a bit of a conspicuous family...what, you hadn't noticed????? ;) Being the white Americans with 2 brown children, one of whom smiles cutely and waves to everyone and one of whom is very very loud makes us just slightly conspicuous. Oh well. I just keep smiling! 

And on that note, we are ALL still smiling! 

Dear Lord, thank You for our safe and uneventful travels so far. This is an amazing opportunity you've blessed  us with. Please help us to glorify your name during our time here and to show Christ through our actions and lives. And Lord, please remind me in the hard times to keep smiling! Amen.