Sunday, August 30, 2009

Y3W14 - School Begins Again

We arrived home from Stockholm on Monday and Tuesday was the first day of school. Avery was starting the German equivalent of the very first day of "real school." This is the reason for the schuletütes. They are large cones filled with school supplies and candy for their first day. Because Avery was starting Year 1 this year, she falls into the "real school" category. The siblings, so as not to feel left out, also get a schuletüte but it is a bit smaller in size. It was great. The girls were very excited about their cones, as they called them. And to be honest, I think the excitement of the cones helped with the anxiety of starting school again. It was a fun tradition to take part in.

Other highlights were one of my conversations with Bryn this week:

Mom: Bryn, is that a nasty old cookie from Lleyton's seat that you are eating?
Bryn: But mom, I like nasty cookies.
Mom: Well, that makes perfect sense then.

The weekend was fun, fun, fun. Saturday, we surprised the girls and took them to the Rodelbahn (kind of like a bobsled), not far from our house. If that was not enough fun, we drove through some classic German towns in the Ahr wine region. We walked a bit in Ahrweiler and had a traditional German lunch at a Metzgerei (butcher). After which, we went to a friend's birthday party. The invitation was for Bryn but we all went and had a great time.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Y3W13 - Two Days in Stockholm...

is not enough! Bottom line is that it was a really fun city. We did as much as we could do with the time that we had as usual, but we certainly could have spent a few more days.

The week was spent doing all of the back to school things. You know, getting schuletütes, getting house shoes. Wait a minute...what the heck are schuletütes? What am I supposed to put in them? Am I supposed to make it or buy it? So, as you can see we spent some time finding out what they were and what I was supposed to be doing with them. All of this had to be accomplished before we left for Sweden because we were returning the day before school started.

Saturday morning at a 6:00am departure, we took off for the drive to Frankfurt Hahn airport to catch our 9:00am flight. The girls were champs I must say, especially since I overslept by about 15 minutes because my alarm didn't go off. We arrived in Nyköping, Sweden around 11:00am, caught a bus to Stockholm city and we were off. We walked around town a bit to get our bearings which led us past the Kungliga Dramatiska Theater (the theater's school produced such actors as Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, and Max Von Sydow to name a few).

Then to a very cool indoor market, that reminded me of Quincy Market in Boston. We made our way to the tourist office to get our Stockholm cards which allowed us free transportation and free entrance to almost everything. It was great.

We began our Stockholm adventure by walking along the Strandvagen to get to Djurgården. We started at the Junibacken Museum, which is a children's literature museum of Astrid Lindgren stories. If you have heard of Pippi Longstocking, this is the author. It was wonderful. I kept thinking how much my mom and my mother-in-law would have enjoyed it. The girls loved it. It was like walking into the world of her stories and they had a train that takes you through a tour of some of her books. Wow, what an amazing start.

Next we walked to the Vasa Museum. It is an incredible museum that houses a ship. The ship set sail in August 1628 and after minutes of sailing her maiden voyage, she sank in the harbor. It wasn't until 1961, that they were able salvage the Vasa. We watched a film about how they managed to salvage the ship which the girls loved. The most incredible thing is the massive size. You expect there to be a ship in the museum but you never expect it to be as gigantic as it is.

We ate at the Sjö Cafe with this beautiful view. And, walked back to the city center while the sun was going down.

We stayed in what turned out to be a really chic hotel that was once a liquor warehouse. Yep, we are all about style, AND hotels that have family rooms that can fit all of us.

Day 2, we knew we had to get an early start. We grabbed a bus into the city center and started with a city hall tour. Bailey especially loves the tours.

The Rådhus is well known as the site of the Nobel Prize banquets and ceremonies. The banquet is held in the Blue Room while the prize is awarded in the nearby theatre. All the Nobel Prizes less the Peace Prize are awarded in Stockholm. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Olso. It was decided that Norway would be the home of the Peace Prize back when Sweden and Norway had a formed a union between them. Since the formal separation of the two nations, some have subtly voiced their disagreement. However, cooler heads have prevailed as it might be a bit odd watching a couple nations fight over a ‘Peace’ Prize.

Next, was our walk through Gamla Stan (the Old Town) with unique shopping areas and the Royal palace. It is also the location of the Nobel Museum. We didn't do the whole museum but we took some time out for a Nobel sundae, complete with a chocolate Nobel medal. We had read that this is where the winners eat the week that the prizes are awarded and if you look under the seats of the cafe, the prize winners typically sign the underside of the chairs.

Stortorget square is also the famous site of the Bloodbath of November 1520. When the Danes lured the Swedes into the square and executed 90 men while everyone watched. If you look closely, you can see three canon balls left over in the sides of a couple buildings.

We didn't have time to take a Fika (the Swedish term for pretty much wasting time having coffee and cake, however, Europeans don't see it as a waste of time) at Chokladkoppen, but we did make Greg go in and purchase some cinnamon rolls (kanelbulle). We had to at least try them on our walk around Gamla Stan.

We took a boat to where the archipelago begins to a place called Fjäderholmarna. It was so nice to be on the water and it was a restful small place. The girls climbed on the rocks and played. We ate at one of the small restaurants (there were only a few to choose from).

Then, we took the boat back. We planned on doing the Skansen outdoor museum when we returned but we had a bit of bad weather and Avery somehow misplaced her jacket, so we thought no to the outdoor museum idea. Instead, we changed our train tickets and took an earlier train back to Nyköping so we could catch our 8:00am flight the next morning.

It was definitely a whirlwind tour of Stockholm and we could have used a few more days to relax and take in a bit more of the sites, but I would not trade the two days we had for anything. It was definitely worth the trip and I would love to go back someday.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Y3W11 & W12 – Christensen Roots in Denmark

This last week and a half, my folks have been visiting. Ellyn and I have been saving our first choice venues for last. When we arrived, she named Rome as her must see location and I had wanted to see Scandinavia. The appeal of visiting the former home of our (Christensen) ancestors was enough to get my Mom and Dad over.

In order to avoid the horror of 8 to 10 hours in the car with Lleyton, amongst other things, we booked a night train with 6 beds. Leaving Köln around 10:30pm, we slept our way to Copenhagen, Denmark, arriving just before 10:00 am with the whole day in front of us. Wanting to see various parts of the country, we decided to visit København (Copenhagen) for the first couple days and then spend 3 days visiting various parts of the Denmark. Our family comes from two primary locations. Ancestors from both my dad and mom’s side come from the island of Fyn. We visited the largest city in the region named Odense. Additionally, the Christensen side of the family came from the northern most part of the Jutland peninsula. They were primarily from the city of Hjørring. Our travels were a delicate balance of seeing the things that one ‘needs’ to see, while trying to draw some connections to the past. The map below highlights the places we visited.

For the girls, Copenhagen was all about Tivoli, Denmark’s oldest amusement park opening in 1844. It is a combination of restaurants, theatres, carnival activities, and amusement park rides. We spent the afternoon and evening of our second day at Tivoli. One thing that we particularly noticed was the fact that the park resides right in the middle of the city. From inside the park, you can look out and see the Rådhus just outside the park walls. It was a charming place with its Tivoli Garden Guard marching to the beat of drums. This group made up of 100 boys between the age of 8 and 16 has been a part of the park for 100 years. The girls loved the rides and gigantic cotton candy.

Ellyn and I were particularly impressed with the earlier part of that same day when we traveled by train 40 minutes to the north to the small city of Hillerød to see the Frediksborg Slot. After seeing so many castles (and churches), we find ourselves getting a bit numb to the sight of another 800 year old structure. This one however was so impressive it ranks up there with our favorites in all of Europe. It also houses an impressive collection of art including works by the artist Carl Bloch – the painter of many familiar Biblical pieces used frequently by our Church in their publications.

My folks were excited to see the original Christus sculpted by Bertel Thorvaldsen. Replicas are found on many Mormon Temple grounds and in visitor centers – most famously in Salt Lake City. The Christus is accompanied by individual sculptures of each of the apostles in the Vor Frue Kirke (Church of Our Lady) in downtown Copenhagen.

Other interesting places included the Rundetårn, a tower dating from 1642 that employs a spherical ramp in lieu of stairs. Legend has it that the king, Christian IV, rode to the top on his horse during the opening ceremony of the tower. Years later, Peter the Great repeated the same ride when visiting Copenhagen. The girls also enjoyed seeing the Hans Christian Andersen character, the Little Mermaid, immortalized in bronze in the Copenhagen harbor. A local Danish woman asked us, while we were visiting the site, whether we were disappointed (the statue is quite small and apparently some of the locals don’t understand the hype). We simply replied that while the hundreds of tourists are a bit overkill, it reinforces the charm of Copenhagen.

From Copenhagen, we travelled to the northern tip of the country and the city of Skagen. On the way, we stopped in Odense. Odense is most famously known as the home town of Hans Christian Anderson. His house is now part of an impressive visitor’s center dedicated to his life’s work. It was of excellent quality and included some amazing artifacts attributed to his life. Bryn really got into hunting around for particular items (the museum gave the girls a card with pictures of specific items for them to find throughout the exhibit). It was a great chance to gain a better knowledge of his compelling life story and his remarkable journey from extreme poverty to becoming Denmark's most well known citizen.

With our arrival in Skagen, we had officially traversed from Danish city life to small town living. Skagen, while still a harbor/fishing town now draws much of its income from the tourist industry. It is a quaint village on the northern most tip of the country. In Skagen, we visited the local Art Museum dedicated to the many 19th century artists who gathered in the region. We rented bicycles and rode around the peninsula, visited the very tip of Denmark, ate fish in the harbor, had classic Danish ice cream cones, and did a bit of swimming.

On our second day in the area, we hiked from our hotel to Den Tilsandede Kirke (the Sand Covered Church). The church was overcome in the late 1700’s by migrated sand dunes, and today only the church tower remains.

After our hike to the Sand Covered Church, we began to make our way back down the peninsula towards Kolding where we were to pick up our night train back to Köln. On our way, we stopped in Hjørring. Knowing in advance that wouldn’t be anything specifically attached to our ancestors remaining (our ancestors immigrated from Denmark to the Utah Territory in the 1850’s/60’s), we simply enjoyed walking the streets and looking at historical buildings and churches that were around at that time.

Our quick visit allowed us a couple hours in Kolding to have a good meal prior to the ride home and snap a final family picture before boarding the night train.

Back in Deutschland
The remaining few days with my folks in town were filled with a trip to Burg Eltz in the Mosel river valley...

and a visit to the Bundesliga home opener fussball game between FC Köln and VfL Wolfsburg.