Friday, January 30, 2015

Back in the U.S.A.

Nick celebrating a belated Christmas
with the Detroit crew.
It has been 14 months since we left the shores of Maryland to join the Caribbean 1500 Rally to Tortola! Even though we love the adventure, we do miss our children and grandchildren and our landlubber friends. So we decided to take a flight around the world to see them all. We saw the London family in Germany so now it is back to the USA to see the Detroit and San Francisco families. Fortunately, Nick, who is in Portland, OR finishing his PhD in Chemistry, will join us in Detroit.

Vicki & Larry Florida -bound
Our promise to be back for Addison's eight birthday is one that we must keep so the trip was designed around that special day. She also wanted Grammy there for her birthday party with friends. I had to watch the DVD of Frozen to know what the 15 little girls were excited to see. Her party entertainment was Snow Queen Elsa and Snowman Olaf from the movie and the girls seem to know every word of every song from the movie.

Grand D with our newest guy Henry in San Francisco
We celebrated New Year's Eve at the club with my sister and her husband who were on their way to Florida to get out of the frozen north! We were treated to wonderful hospitality by our friend Loretta who offered us her home while in Detroit. We loved being in a house so I could cook in a real kitchen and I think Loretta enjoyed coming home to a prepared dinner!

Most of our days were filled with appointments: doctors, dentists, accountants, financial advisers, bankers, etc. Then we shared our evening meals with various friends and family members. It was exhausting getting everything done and seeing everyone, but well worth the effort. We call it the Four F's: Family, Friends, Finances and F(Ph)ysicians! One of the highlights was having lunch with our home parish priest, Monsignor Lentine who is 95 or 96 and still overseeing the parish! He is a very special person. And he and Dennis share a birthday.

Henry with parents Krystal and Jon
Next we headed to California to see Tanner and Henry, the newest grandchild. We had the opportunity to babysit all day with seven month old Henry. What a happy baby! We had a great time with Tanner (5) and had many good snuggles. The best part of all was just being together with Jon and Krystal, Ben and Sue, and niece Beverly and Dean for several dinners

He arrived early, but is catching up fast! Happy Baby.

Tanner showing SF to Grand D

What a sweet little boy.

We did some sightseeing in San Francisco, but spent most of our daytime while everyone was at work or school setting up new computers, iPads, iPhones and other technology. It is so expensive to do the downloading offshore or in other countries. Also it is nice to be able to call the HELP line when we got stumped!

Ben and Sue with Tanner and Jon
We will leave San Francisco for Sydney and then Auckland the last week of January. We plan to return to Portland, OR in June when Nick goes through his PhD Cloaking Ceremony. Then we will have to call him Dr. Nick! We are very proud of him.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Christmas in the Bavarian Alps

After four lovely days of sightseeing in and around Munich, we met our London children and grandchildren. The boys favorite thing is to go to the Bayern Munich sports store as they are big fans. They also cheered for the USA team in the World Cup, but were very excited that their favorite team, Germany, won it all!

Our interesting tour guide in native dress!
They wanted to show us their view of Munich as they visit often when seeing family in Germany. Of course, there were castles and churches on the list. We had actually taken a day trip on the train to see Neuschwanstein Castle which was commissioned as the private refuge for Ludwig II of Bavaria, but opened to the public immediately after his death in 1886.

Neuschwanstein Castle from the observation bridge
Now recognizable as the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle, Neuschwanstein is one of the most popular castles in Europe. The fairytale charm of Neuschwanstein Castle is also felt from the idyllic scenery of the Bavarian Alps. During the winter, some of the best views of the snow-capped mountains can be seen from the palace grounds.

The artwork in the castle was inspired by the operas of Richard Wagner, to whom the king dedicated the canstle, and the corresponding medieval legends from his works. Apparently, Wagner did not appreciate the lavish expenditures and never set foot in the place.

The throne room is magnificently decorated with frescos of angels, ironically the king died before the actual throne was built. Despite the medieval motif of the decor, the castle was actually outfitted with latest technology of the time with running water and central heating.

We had an interesting tour with a history professor who poked a lot of holes in the stories told about Ludwig and this castle in particular. He was insistent on giving on the FACTS! He was both entertaining and somewhat annoying, but made for an interesting day.

Max & Alex at the Medieval Christmas Market 

Katie and the boys took us to the Nymphenurg Palace that was a short walk from where we were staying. The boys enjoyed running in the garden to work off some of their energy and excitement. We did not go into the Palace since they had been there before and were more interested in getting to the Christmas Market and Bayern Munich store. We will visit again the next time we are in Munich.

Nymphenburg Palace, i. e., "Castle of the Nymph", is a Baroque palace in Munich, Bavaria, southern Germany. The palace is the main summer residence of the former rulers of Bavaria of the House of Wittelsbach. The palace, together with its park, is now one of the most famous sights of Munich. The baroque facades comprise an overall width of about 700 meters. Some rooms still show their original  baroque decoration while others were later redesigned in rococo or neoclassical style.

After a two hour train trip from München Hauptbahnhof, we arrived in Oberstdorf in the Bavarian Alps where the kids frequently vacation in summer and winter. The train is a great way to travel with the only challenge being all of the luggage. We have been traveling with four large duffels without wheels (ugh!) and they had ski clothes and Christmas presents in four large roller bags. It was quite humorous to watch us shuttle all the bags off the train, onto the platform, then on to the connecting train, then off again and through the ski village to our chalet! Where is a SkyCap when you need one?

Look who we found walking down the street!
One of the loveliest sights was their Christmas tree. It was small, but fresh with real candles! It made the living room glow. It was fun to be with the boys with the excitement of Santa arriving as we haven't had Christmas with them for several years. The entertained us with the songs they had learned for their Christmas pageant. Alex is quite the ham!

While they skied in Germany and Austria, we enjoyed the village and lunches out. And, of course, the Mulled Wine, called "Glühwein" in German, as it is a traditional and tasty Christmas drink in Germany and the prefect treat for cold winter days. We were enjoying the various German sausages, drinks and hot chocolate! I don't think we could handle it everyday without gaining a lot of weight!

Christmas Eve we attended the local parish church for a beautiful service in German. While we didn't understand the homily at all, Mass is Mass around the world. The church was all aglow with candles and the singing was beautiful. Following the service, the musicians gathered outside and continued to play Christmas carols under a clear crisp starlit night. It was postcard perfect!

Christmas Day it began to snow and snow and snow. About 18" fell within 16 hours and made the village fairy-like. It was time to head off to the sledding hill followed by hot chocolate and lunch. Then we headed back to pack up and catch the late train to Munich airport! Then on to the USA.


Friday, January 23, 2015

So Much to See in Munich

St. Peterskirche was beautiful
We spent five days exploring Munich. There were Christkindlmarkts everywhere. Each little neighborhood seemed to have its own and somewhat unique version. The merchandise was similar everywhere and none of it came home with me. Just a couple of ornaments for the grandchildren.

St. Peter's Church
One of the things we love to do is to visit the old churches. Munich has a number of famous ones and so we set off to find them. While I don't know much about them as all of the literature was in German, we did capture some of the architecture in photos which I share here.

St. Peter's
First we visited St. Peters Church (St. Peterskirche) in the City Center area. Located on the southern side of the Marienplatz, St. Peters Church boasts an eye-catching Gothic-style exterior, with definite Baroque influences inside. With more than 300 steps, the climb to the top is well worth the effort, affording spectacular views of the Munich cityscape. We did not make the climb!
St. Peter's

We enjoyed our stop at Frauenkirche, also known as the Cathedral of Our Dear Lady. This is the iconic church in Munich with the two domed towers. It is known for its legendary devil's footprint. The two towers (north tower 98.57 m, south tower 0.12 m less) were completed in 1488 and the church was consecrated in 1494. However, for yet another lack of money, the originally planned tall open-work spires so typical for the Gothic style could not be built and the towers had to stay uncovered until 1525.

The cathedral can hold approximately 20,000 people, and Catholic Mass is held regularly. The interior of the cathedral, which is among the largest hall churches in southern Germany, consists of the nave and two side aisles of equal height (31 metres (102 ft)). The arches were designed by Heinrich von Straubing.

Constructing a church with a capacity of 20,000 is surprising when one considers that the city only had about 13,000 inhabitants at end of the 15th Century. The interior does not overwhelm despite its size because the double-row of 22 metres (72 ft) high columns helps enclose the space. From the main portal the view seems to be only the rows of columns with no windows and translucent "walls" between the vaults through which the light seems to shine. The spatial effect of the church is connected with a legend about a footprint in a square tile at the entrance to the nave, the so-called "devil's footstep".This is a black mark resembling a footprint, which according to legend was where the devil stood when he curiously regarded and ridiculed the 'windowless' church that Halsbach had built. (In baroque times the high altar would obscure the one window at the very end of the church visitors can spot now when standing in the entrance hall.)
In another version of the legend, the devil made a deal with the builder to finance construction of the church on the condition that it contain no windows. The clever builder, however, tricked the devil by positioning columns so that the windows were not visible from the spot where the devil stood in the foyer. When the devil discovered that he had been tricked, he could not enter the already consecrated church. The devil could only stand in the foyer and stomp his foot furiously, which left the dark footprint that remains visible in the church's entrance today.

St. Johann Nepomuk
Legend also says the devil then rushed outside and manifested its evil spirit in the wind that furiously rages around the church. Another version of that part of the legend has it the devil came to see the construction place riding on the wind. Having completely lost his temper he stormed away forgetting the wind, that will continue to blow around the church until the day the devil comes back to reclaim it.

Another stop on our church tour: St. Johann Nepomuk, better known as the Asam Church (German: Asamkirche) is a church in Munich, southern Germany, built from 1733 to 1746 by the brothers Egid Quirin Asam and Cosmas Damian Asam as their private church. Due to resistance of the citizens, the brothers were forced to make the church accessible to the public. The church is considered to be one of the most important buildings of the main representatives of the southern German Late Baroque. This church is very narrow and very dark. You almost miss the entrance as it is tucked in between two buildings.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Off to Munich for Christmas

One of the many interesting stalls.
After 10 days in Istanbul, we flew to Munich, Germany via Paris. We had four days on our own to explore the city before Katie's family joined us. It is a wonderful time in Munich as it is
Good that I am not collecting things as there is so much!  

Beautiful Munich at Christmas
Weihnachtsmarkt time! The city is very festive and has wonderful aromas coming from the various sausage, candy, nuts and baked goods vendors. It is a wonderful time of year to visit Munich.

The Christmas Markets are colorful and lively with people in good spirits. The smells of fresh pastries, sausages, hot wine and roasted nuts is overwhelming! And very tasty, too.
More sweets everywhere.

The Munich Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) - the “Original” - is the oldest Christmas market in the city. The origins of the Christmas Market are reported to date back to the so-called “Nicholaus Markets” of the 14th century. Town records first mention a “Nikolaidult” that took place near the Beautiful Tower in Kaufingerstrasse in 1642.

Traditional cookies
Munich’s medieval Christmas market isn’t just a theme chosen at random to distinguish itself from the 20 or so other markets in Munich. There is a historical precedent– Christmas markets in Munich date all the way back to Medieval times. A St. Nicholas fair was actually mentioned in writings as early as 1410.
gluehwein (mulled wine), a popular holiday drink at German Christmas markets
Some people collect the various Gluewein mugs from
the various German Christmas Markets.
Dolls, Santas, Angels everywhere
The Medieval Christmas market (in German, known as the Mittelaltermarkt Munchen) was designed to reflect those early markets, to show what a market may have actually been like in the middle ages– complete with period dress, drink and crafts. While some modern items are mixed in, surprisingly the market manages to retain a feeling of authenticity.
A view of the Marienplatz
We spotted St. Nicholas in the crowd.
Mulled wine is the most popular holiday drink at German Christmas Markets. And I love it! It’s red wine served warm with a dash of cinnamon, cloves, orange and sugar added.  Social events revolve around Glühwein during the holiday season.  Friends bundle up and catch up over a mug of Glühwein at one of the many Glühwein stalls. It warms you through and through. Actually,Glühwein became my favorite refreshment in Germany - especially in the cold. 

There were Christmas Markets in many areas of Munich

Lunch on the spit!