Sunday, May 20, 2018

Our Week in Garmisch

My Couch Potatoes!  Bobby has Nutella all over his face. 
That's a sight, right?  We brought school work to do during the mornings when we had nothing scheduled before going swimming.  The first morning we woke up and were down at the pool in Brian's hotel at 10am because that's when the website said they opened.  The kids were really excited to swim, and I promised them four straight days of swimming.  The people at the wellness center desk looked at us weird and said that the pool opens at noon during the school year.  That was a major pain because I also had high hopes of getting Bobby a nap every afternoon.  Change of plans, we had to be at the pool after noon everyday instead so we spent the mornings doing schoolwork with the big kids and having the little ones watch German cartoons.  Educational, right?  Language skills are important in our family.  :)  They were in heaven since we don't do that much TV unless someone is sick.  We did make several trips to the park as well between school and pool.

We did another hike with Brian's colleagues as part of the conference.  Again we had a wonderful time.  I carried Bobby and he napped in the Ergo on the way there (uphill,) and he walked all the way back with his new found energy.

You have to look hard, but there is a duck between the boys in this pic.  Bobby loves ducks and this duck loved Bobby.  It got out of the water and followed us a good ways down the trail.  We finally just HAD to dig in our bags for some crumbs to share with him.  He was too sweet.

Duck is in this picture too, but he is well camouflaged..

At the end of our hike

That very night we went to see what Brian calls the "slappy boys."  It is a traditional German folk dance in Bavaria called Shuhplattler where the boys slap their thighs and shoes in rhythm with the music.  See video below.

One of the mornings I was able to get away on my own to go shopping in Oberarmagau.  I have always regretted not buying a nativity scene from there the last time we lived here and visited this area.  This town is known for it's Passion Play that it puts on every ten years and also for their wood carving shops.  They have nativity scenes and all kinds of statues of religious saints and such as well as all kinds of other "German life" statues.  I bought a very small set because they are pretty pricey.  Plus, Brian and I hope to come back to see the Passion Play in a couple years and maybe we could add to our basic nativity scene then.

I chose this one because I love that Baby Jesus can be in the crib or in Mary's arms.  I chose the "wrong" angel to go with her because I just really fell in love with this particular angel.  Technically, this is the Angel Gabriel from the Annunciation.  You can tell because he holds lilies which symbolize his connection to Mary.  The angel that went with this set was supposed to be mounted up high as if he was in the sky and was just not as pretty.  

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Sunday Mass and a Hike

On Sunday morning we left our apartment and drove half way to our new destination, Garmisch, and stopped at another beautiful Baroque/Rococo style church in the middle of nowhere called Wieskirche.  We has Mass here and had some brats at an Imbiss nearby.  We also stopped in the shops by the Imbiss and got Brotzeit (bread time) plates engraved with the kid's names on them.  This is a custom in Germany to eat a warm meal for lunch and a light dinner of bread, cheese, meat, and fruits and fresh veggies on wooden "plates."  We have started doing this frequently when the kids have late sports.  I can pack it all in a picnic basket.

Eating at the Imbiss, which is a "fast food" type stall.

After driving the rest of the way to our destination, we got situated at our two separate apartments first.  This part of the trip was for a conference for Brian and so he had to stay at the hotel where his conference was held.  We almost got an 8 person room there, but decided that might just be too much togetherness for five days.  Most nights two of the kids would stay with him and the rest with me in a two bedroom apartment.  Brian quickly hurried us over to the gorge.  We have hiked in the gorge twice before, but Hannah and Genevieve were so little the last time that they did not remember it.  The first time was in 2007.  Here's two pictures I dug up from that trip.

My, my, we were in better shape then.  Anyway, here we were back again with a bigger crew...

Bob rode in the Ergo for the whole hike because he is slow enough on flat, dry, and well lit ground, and this was none of those things.

This was a really enjoyable part of our trip.  I think hiking together is right up there with reading together as my favorite things to do together.  I like playing games too, but not as much because there is usually some kind of competitive arguing that interferes with my happiness factor during a family game. 

The end of the hike is where it opens up to a valley where you can go down by the river.  This was the highlight for me.  The kids all ran to skip rocks and it was so utterly peaceful.  I sat with Bob and just listened to two of my favorite sounds ever in harmony with each other, my children laughing and a rushing river.  River sounds are majorly nostalgic for me because our yearly summer vacation was to Red River, NM and that sound was a favorite even as a child.  My mom loves the sound of the waves at the beach, and so do I, but the sound of a river is just so much more my thing. 

Precious moments that I hope to never forget.

Then you get to hike all the way back!

The Flower Island begins our next big adventure.

Yes, we are on yet another trip!  They seem to be endless, but we are moving soon and...I can't stop trying to squeeze in more trips.  I like to blame my husband who is the instigator of most of our trips, but really I've caught the wanderlust bug too.  So badly.  Brian was just saying today how I seem to be enjoying this time in Europe so much more than the last time we lived here.  And, well, yes I am.  Last time we were here in Germany, I arrived with two little ones under age 3 and soon was pregnant with number three.  About four months after I had Isaac, Brian deployed and was gone for a year.  When he returned we had a mere 6 months before we were over the Atlantic on our way back to the states.  I had no one to carry things or help me around the house or help with the youngest.

This time is so different.  Yes, I do have a lot of children, as nearly every person who packs up my groceries and loads them into my 12 passenger van likes to point out, but six is sometimes easier than three.  I have three capable extra sets of hands to help me this time with those three littlest ones and with the dishes and the laundry, etc.  And although I don't HAVE time, I guess I have learned to make time to stop and enjoy the scenery and to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to us while we live in Europe.

As I've been making appointments and lists for our impending move, I've even begun to say, "Hey, we didn't ever make it to the (fill in the blank).  Maybe we can go on that one Saturday that is left open on our calendar still."  It used to just be Brian saying that, but now I am guilty of over-scheduling us as well.

Today we drove down to the Bodensee, also known as Lake Constance (a lake that borders Austria, Germany, and Switzerland) to visit Mainau which is an entire island park dedicated to flowers.  They have greenhouses, flower fields with designs in them, and a staircase waterfall with flowers all intermingled as well as a butterfly garden, a palace, and a petting zoo.  The island is breathtaking itself, but add in the views across the lake and it just knocks your socks off.

After buying your tickets you walk across a foot bridge and at the front of the island (unless you come by ferry) there is a playground that is to die for.  Really the coolest thing ever!  It had wooden rafts and poles on a shallow "pond" and the children could just hop on and push them selves over to the other side.  I truly could not even describe some of the other things there and do them justice.  I just know that as a kid, I would have loved it.  Our kids loved it and would've been content to play there all day.  Lucky for them we didn't let them or they would have missed out on the most amazing butterfly house ever.

I've been to a couple butterfly houses with the children before, and there is always a briefing given explaining the rules and how to protect the butterflies, yada yada.  Plus, there is always a double door system and some kind of checking for any rogue butterflies that may have landed on you trying to hitch a ride out of that joint.  And on top of all that they had a maximum number of people they allowed in at any given time.  I know that Germans are not so big on regulations, but more into personal responsibility.  However, I also know they are big into their animals and wildlife, like more than they are into human life at times.  So I still expected the same sort of rigmarole here, but I was surprised to find that they  had no number control, no rules or employees watching to make sure you follow the rules, and only a chain mail type of push through entryway.  It was kind of freeing.

There was a sort of one way figure eight path to keep the traffic flowing.  Butterflies were everywhere in this large green house and plates with fresh fruit were scattered throughout drawing butterflies in packs.  The ponds were stocked with fish and turtles.  There was a cage with a couple of parrots as well.  We saw some butterflies land on some other people and Genevieve and Isaac both really wanted a butterfly to land on them.  Both got their wish, and Genevieve's butterfly who we named Smitty (as a nod to the German word for butterfly, Smetterling, and to our last name) landed on her nose and stayed there for at least five minutes as we all continued walking through the house.  It was tasting her with it's little proboscis all the while.  She was quite the spectacle walking around with a butterfly on the end of her nose.  One also landed on Brian, but not long enough to get a nickname.

Since I am posting this so very late, I am adding this picture that Genevieve drew for me for Mother's Day.  She's so sweet!  I love when my kids draw!

There were a tremendous amount of tiny bugs swarming around the island which did not make Hannah happy.  Although she seemed to enjoy watching the butterflies, she was afraid one would land on her which hampered her fun.  The playground was too young for her, I guess so she followed Bobby around some of the time.  And the petting zoo is just not her thing.  Who knew a veterinarian's daughter could be so not into animals?  She did appear to have fun playing in the stream that came from the staircase waterfall.

Well, I found out where Germany's been hiding all their children.  On Mainau!  Plus, I counted at least ten pregnant women which I also don't typically see.  Good to know they are somewhere; I was starting to wonder.

On our way around the lake to our apartment, we stopped at the  Birnau Basilica.  I had already been there, but none of the rest of the family had.  There are no pictures allowed inside, but you can see some of it's brilliant Baroque style here.  My favorite part is the three dimensional stations of the cross, particularly "Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus."

Then we stopped in Meersberg for dinner and ice cream.  It was a late night with getting all the kids a shower at the apartment that we stayed in, just across the Austrian border.  It was just beautiful scenery all around this house.