Sunday, February 10, 2008

Thirty-Seventh Week in Germany

We were having trouble deciding where to go with Greg's parents while they were visiting. The girls had a week off of school. Yeah, Karneval is huge around here. Everyone has the week off of school. And, from the amount of people that we talked to at school that were taking ski vacations that week, we thought maybe it would be too crowded to plan our first European ski vacation. We ended up going to Berlin for a couple days and then on to Prague for a couple days.

We got to Berlin in the evening and we were all eager to get out of the car and walk around a bit. We walked to the Sony Center to see if we could find something to eat. We ended up at Vapiano, which is a restaurant that we have here in Bonn, but it was perfect for us because we knew what to expect and the girls loved it. We kept walking on to where the remaining pieces of the Wall stand. It was quite interesting to me because the last time I was in Berlin was in 1990, the Berlin Wall had just come down and Checkpoint Charlie was being removed the day I was there. The city has changed quite a bit since then. It was really fun to see it again. We kept walking past the Reichstag to the Brandenburg Gate, and then back to the hotel.

We started the next day at the Bäckerei of course for breakfast. That has become our standard procedure for traveling...find the nearest Bäckerei for breakfast. Man, do I enjoy fresh pastries on a daily basis. I am not sure my figure enjoys it quite as much. Then we set out for Legoland. It probably wasn't the top of sightseeing things on our list but our girls were ecstatic about it and we endulged. It was fun for all. We forgot our stroller for Bryn at home, so Bryn either had to walk or be carried the entire time. A mistake we will be careful not to repeat again anytime soon. We walked to the Berliner Dom, which was bombed heavily by the Allies during the Second World War, however they have reconstructed the interior. It is an amazing church. We took a pitstop at a Starbucks, for some hot chocolate and marble loaf cake. Yes, Starbucks are truly everywhere. It was a much needed stop as it was a bit chilly. Maybe we were feeling a bit nostalgic for things American because we ended up getting Tony Romas take out and ate back in the room. The girls were pretty tired and we didn't think they could handle doing the sit still in a restaurant for a dinner thing.

The next morning we started the day at the bäckerei again. We spent the morning at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum which was quite fascinating. I had no idea so many unique escape attempts took place trying to get to West Germany. We checked out of our hotel and headed to Prague. Due to construction and some weird rerouting, it took us a bit longer to get there than we had planned. We originally thought we would stop in Dresden for lunch but we decided to plow through and just get there. Again we arrived when it was dark, and we walked around town a little bit. We found a TGIFridays. The girls were pumped. I felt a bit sorry for Greg's parents who came to Europe expecting to experience bistros and cafes, and so far they had gone to Tony Romas and Fridays but it was easy and we knew we could find something there everyone would like. And, of course it is a louder type of establishment, and kid friendly. It was good, I must admit especially the desserts. It tasted like home.

Our first morning in Prague, we looked for a Bakery as usual but could not find one in our immediate area. Much to Greg's chagrin, we ended up at McDonalds. He refused to get anything. To him, this American dining was bordering rediculous. We walked to the Charles Bridge and took pictures of the quite breathtaking scenery. We kept on going to St. Nicolas Church which was incredible. The thing that captured me the most about the city was the incredible architecture that has seemed to withstand Wars, Political Regime changes, boundary changes, etc. It was quite a bit of walking and we finally found a quaint bistro to have lunch. On the way back to the hotel despite the fact that we were carrying sleeping Bryn, we went to the Mucha Museum. I am sure I enjoyed it the most of our entire party so thanks to those that endured the trip. Due to a rather lenghthy film shown at the Museum, we left with two sleeping children. We headed back to the hotel. The stroller would have been very helpful right about now. Greg and his parents wanted to go back out that evening and see the city and the Charles Bridge lit up at night. I stayed with the girls being fairly exhausted myself.

The next morning was pretty much get out and get on the road. I have been so grateful to Kris who has done all of the driving so that I wouldn't have to given that we had to take two cars. We had a bit of a drive in front of us. We were anticipating six hours. We did stop in Rothenburg on the way back. It was about half way so it was a great place to stop. We had lunch at an authenic German restaurant, which was greatly needed to round out the European experience. We stopped at the Käthe Wolfhart Christmas store and walked through the city gate, took some photos (which is where we took our Happy New Years Card photo incidently). It was quite late by the time we returned home.

On Saturday, Greg took his parents and Bailey to Aachen. It is really a cool city and the weather was great so they said the city was the happening place to be. And, of course, they went to the Aachen Dom, which is amazing. The other girls and I just spent the day playing. I think they needed some downtime after all of the traveling.

Sunday, it was time to say good-bye to Nana and Papa. We all had to go to the airport to say good-bye. Bailey had some good one-on-one Papa time on the way to the airport which made the trip worth it. The girls are getting used to the good-byes. But, it will probably be quite a while until we have visitors again. The girls keep asking when we will be visiting the US? Our answer: We will have to see.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Thirty-Fifth and Sixth Weeks in Germany

I am just going to hit the highlights. Greg left for the US "on buisness" for ten days. He was working so officially he was there on business but he just happened to catch a U of M Hockey game, go to the Detroit Auto Show, hit a few of our favorite places to eat, etc. We sent a big list of things we wanted him to bring back for us. The girls were trying to figure out a way to hide in his suitcase but then they would have missed their Karneval celebration at school. Karneval in Germany starts the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and is pretty much a big party for six days until Lent starts. It is certainly crazy and the celebration at the girls school was no exception. There was an assembly and a parade of each class so everyone had an opportunity to show off their costumes. Following the assembly was the much anticipated Talent Show that Bailey was insistent on being in. She did a tap dance that was quite fun. On Friday, Greg and his parents flew in. We had been told by many that we had to hit at least one of the Karneval parades that weekend. We chose a small one close to our house in Rüngsdorf, the girls got to yell, "Kamelle" and the people in the parade throw candy out to the kids dressed in costume. Apparently, the parades in Köln are really long, crowded, and crazy.

After the parade, we had to have a Valentines Day Party that Bailey and Avery had been planning for weeks for Nana and Papa's arrival. It was complete with cookies, prayers, a lesson, a hymn, and Valentines Decor. What was so interesting was that in Bailey's lesson she told a story about John Page who told Joseph Smith he could not go on a mission because he had no coat. Joseph took the coat off his back and gave it to him. The same story was told the next day at President Hinckleys funeral.