We left Munich early Saturday morning after we started eating breakfast before it was open. I mean, how were we supposed to know that it was bank holiday? The guy was a little peeved and made us feel really bad, so we ate super fast and left!!! We traveled with all of Munich on a tiny little train into a fairy tale land. As we went further south, the mountains seem to rise up out of nowhere. Mind you, these are not the rolling hills of Appalchia, but the mighty Alps with their jagged and snowcovered crags. (Speaking of crags, anyone remember the name of that TV show where the kids climbed Crag Mountain at the end?? We racked our brains and for the life of us cannot remember the name!!!)
Ok, back to the mountains. (Becca, I feel a little like you sometimes! We must think alike!) The mountains people. These things are for real. Not even the Rockies compare. They were glowing in the morning sunlight. It was stunning! We arrived in Fussen, dropped off our bags at the hostel, and headed on the bus towards Tegelberg. We were hoping to ride the sommerrodelbahn (luge) on the side of the mountain. Except in this case, "sommer" really means that it is only open in the summer. We opted for the gondola to the top instead, and we definitely got the better in the deal. I might have taken an entire roll of film at the top. Maybe. :-) We hiked a little into the Alps and saw the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. And let's talk just for a second about the skiers. They climbed the mountain on their little skies and zigzagged their way back down. I would have died, considering it was probably a 70 degree slope near the top.
Sunday was castle day. I have been looking forward to seeing Neuschwanstein since I was little, and it was just as exciting as walking down Main Street and seeing Cinderalla's castle. Except that you can actually go inside Neuschwanstein. And it's bigger. And there's snow. Disclaimer: I'm not into princesses and all that mushy stuff. Bring on the knights and castles and storming the gates!!! We toured Hohenschwangau and then hiked up the hill to the big money. Crazy Ludwig tore down a 700 year old castle to build his and then outfitted it with all the modern conveniences. The castle is barely 160-something years old, but the interior is decorated in the middle-age style. I wish that we knew more about Wagner's operas because the entire castle is dedicated to his works.
The path to Mary's Bridge was closed, but we pretended like we didn't know what the signs said (Caution, Achtung, Death Is Imminent!) and marched right along. The path was covered in snow and ice, but the view was worth it!
Then we hiked from the castle to the town at the foot of the mountain. Rick Steve's had mentioned this place called Kristall-Therme. Since we weren't visiting the baths in Baden-Baden, we decided to give this place a try. We had a blast! I thought of Caroline the whole time because she always says to do stuff with the locals. You couldn't get more local than this! We spent 2 hours relaxing in the mineral baths. My favorite was the outdoor pool where you could sit in the pool in a bubbly lounge chair thingy and gaze up at the castles all lit up for the evening!!
We had dinner that night at a tiny little Italian place. There were no tables available, and a couple that had just sat down offered to share their's with us. We had a wonderful evening sharing travel stories and getting to know each other. To me, that it the best way to eat a meal!
We're now deep in the Scharzwald in Triberg. We hiked up the mountain to get to our hostel, and when we told the guy at the front desk, he got a really good laugh!!! So I rewarded myself with a big piece of Black Forest cake at dinner and then a taxi back up the hill.
Thanks for hanging in for the long update! You might not hear from us til we get back since the internet is sketchy and expensive here, so until then, tschüs!!!
This is our last day in Munich. We are headed back to Eva's this afternoon for Christmas dinner and to meet more family. Tomorrow we will take the train deep into Bavaria to see my childhood "dream castle," Neuschwanstein.
We wish you all a very Frohe Weihnachten and send our love. We'll be home for Christmas if only in our dreams!!!
An update from yesterday...we toured Dachau concentration camp on our way in from Munich. It's really difficult to describe the bleakness of such a place. It was cold, and the ground was covered in snow, and I thought of how many times the prisoners had to stand in their threadbare clothes for roll call. Walking on the grounds and seeing where so many innocent people died is quite shocking, even though there's nothing left but buildings. It's a hollow and empty place.
We spent today being tourists in Munich. I loved every minute of it. The city is so old, and beuatiful, and did I mention old?!? Darn you, Sherman, for burning down Atlanta! We started off at the Residenz and Treasury, and then headed over to the Marienplatz to see the Glockenspeil do its thing at noon. Worth seeing once, but the coolest part was how quiet everyone was when the bells began to chime. The whole square was quiet and then erupted into cheers when the jousting began!
We climbed to the top of the New Town Hall and then the more impressive St. Peter's Church. It's 306 old rickety wooden stairs to the top. There are signs everywhere for "no smoking"...as if anyone could climb 306 stairs while smoking. Seriously?! Their lungs would have given out about 115. Whew! But the views of the city from the top...simply breathtaking!
We made three different trips into Saturn (like a Best Buy) and one trip to Conrad to try and find what we needed for our converter to work. Not an incredibly big deal to not dry my hair, except when it's f-f-f-freezing outside!! I haven't tried this new part we bought, so I'll let you know how it goes.
We walked around the city this afternoon visiting the farmer's market area and discovering the Christmas carousel. We also finished up our Christmas shopping in the market. So far, my favorite, and cheapest, souviners have been the gluhwein mugs from the Christmas markets in Rothenburg and Munich.
Tonight, we had dinner at the Hofbrauhaus. It's the oldest/biggest/loudest beerhall in Germany. (I think I got all those facts correct!) The had a real live oompa band complete with lederhosen and the little feather hats. I had white sausage with a pretzel and sweet mustard. Yum!! Charlie had the brat with saurkraut and a ginormo beer. We called this our "Varsity" meal for Germany!
We are so excited about meeting new family tomorrow! We will be spending Christmas Eve with Eva and two of her daughters and a hodgepodge of other people. It has been great meeting new folks! We have run into more Australians by far! I mentioned something about Jim Craig and the Man From Snowy River to one of the girls, and she had never seen it!!! The horrors!
So in other news, Britney Spears is currently blasting over the speakers in the hostel internet room/bar. I just can't seem to get away from her when I travel!! Our Ireland gang will remember that we heard one of her songs in every pub we went to!
I can now technically wish you a Merry Christmas Eve! Frohe Weihnachten! Love to you all.
Charlie and I are learning first hand that indeed the only thing you can control in every situation is your attitude! We have had a wonderful trip thus far, but we have had a few incidents that could have easily dampened, ney, crushed our spirits! Shortly after our last update, we hiked up to the center of Rothenburg to do the Nightwatchman's Tour. Long story short, gloves and snow made for a slippery camera handoff. The digital camera took a tumble onto centuries-old cobblestone...and the cobblestone had the upper hand. So camera 1 is not working at the moment. We're hoping to find a place in Munich that can work camera miracles. In the meantime, we've been snapping away with Caroline's camera, that she so graciously let us take. And by snapping away, I mean we're on our 8th roll of film!!! Definitely not what we planned, but we're taking it in stride. So don't plan on seeing any pictures before we get home, unfortunately.
I woke up early Monday morning and decided to plug in my hair dryer...and the converter doesn't work. Good thing I checked it BEFORE I showered!!! Hoping to fix this as well.
Left Rothenburg this morning in the rain. Can't wait to tell you all about Britta and her wonderfulness. Ran into a couple at the train station from Australia. They are in month 1 of their 3 month European escapade. Toured Dachau this afternoon. Now we are in Munich! Lots to do here. We are going to find something to eat and then go ice skating tonight, then tour the Marianplatz and Christmas market tomorrow.
P.S. Mom, our hostel does have webcams, but I don't know if I'll be able to use skype. I'll have to ask at the front desk. For now, send facebook msgs and we'll try to work out a chat.
Love to all!!!
We have figured out the trains and had no mishaps on the way here. Did I mention there was snow? We stepped off the train in Rothenburg and were greeted with what would qualify as a blizzard in my "live in the South and never see snow" world. It is beautiful. Rothenburg is the oldest walled city in Germany, and we can't wait to walk along the wall tomorrow morning. For now, we are off to St. Jakob's church to hear an organ concert, then dinner and the Nightwatchman's tour of the city. I already have my eye on the cuckoo clocks!!!
Love to all. Alles Liebe.
The weather is rainy in Atlanta, and they have already announced that Hartsfield is "experiencing some delays." In addition, our flight is "oversold" and they are looking for "volunteers who would receive compensation in exchange for their seats." You could not offer me enough money in the world to give up my seat on this plane, so they better look elsewhere. Hopefully this is not a foreshadowing of a dreary day!
Our bags are all packed, and I am extremely proud of myself. Caroline told me no less than 18 times to PACK LIGHTLY, LAUREN!!! For those of you that know me, and my mother, those two words simply do not exist in my vocabulary. But I was determined to turn over a new leaf. Lo and behold, I am all packed with room to spare! I firmly adhered to Rick Steve's packing list, and even resisted Charlie's adament request that I take a sleeping bag "because I had the space." But I stood firm and resisted the evils of overpacking, and I think both my feet and my back with thank me later.
I did remember our essential paperwork....
And necessary goodies for the plane. I simply cannot go to Germany without Gummi Bears!
Finally, I took Rick Steve's advice and tore apart his travel guide to make our own little mini personalized guides to the areas we will be visiting...
To all of our family and friends, we love you dearly and will miss being with you at Christmas. Thank you for sharing in our journey! We are excited to be exploring our great world, but we know there's no place like home. Love.
I'm feeling especially in the Christmas spirit this morning, as I'm blogging from bed by the early pseudo-sunlight and the twinkle of the lights on the Christmas tree in our bedroom. Whew...I admitted it! Yes, there is a Christmas tree in the bedroom. And two in the living room. Dinah says the house looks like a "winter wonderland." I'll take it.
Back to the Christmas spirit...webcams are amazing. I look everyday at the webcam for Neuschwanstein castle to see the snow status. Because, let's be honest, if it doesn't snow while I'm in Germany I'll be pretty disappointed. And today...snow! I decided to start webcam trolling and see what else I could find. I've found webcams for most of the places that we know we are visiting. Check these out, and make sure to find the HUGE Christmas trees!
Marienplatz in Munich
Town Square in Rothenberg ob er Tauber
Waterfall in Triberg
The only difficult thing about viewing webcams in Germany is the time difference. There is a very small window to actually see the sights in daylight because they are 6 hours ahead of us, and the sun sets around, oh, you know, 4:30 p.m.! I try to sneak a peek before I leave for school, because, as it is currently 8:27 a.m. here, the sun is already starting to set in Rothenberg. Happy viewing!
I've been a Tiger-Tailer from the very beginning. I followed you through your first victories. I've cut articles and pictures out of newspapers and magazines. I pinned the picture of you looking over the hill at your putt with your hands cupped around your eyes and the title "The Eyes Have It" on my door. I've admired every single Sunday red you've worn over the years. I was sad for you when your daddy died. I cheered for you when you sank the final putt to win your first Master's. I got your autograph when you could still meet your fans after the tournaments (I confess that I later sold said autograph, but it was for a good cause). I followed you when, quite frankly, you sucked for a little while and didn't win. And then you were married and had cute little Tigers and you had to get a new caddy when Fluff just couldn't cut it.
See, Tiger? Your fans have invested a lot in you. We made you famous, because, honestly, who admires golfers? And, I'm a GIRL! C'mon! I love coming home from church and watching the Sunday rounds with daddy. I walked all over Augusta National just to catch a glimpse. I mean, you're good, but we really like you because you aren't flashy and arrogant. Not like Greg Norman. Ew.
So, Tiger, let's be clear. If all these infidelity rumors are true, you will be filed in the Athletes I No Longer Respect folder. You'll find company among Pete Rose, Michael Jordan and Barry Bonds (his folder is full of fiery flames and gnashing teeth). Oh, and Greg, because he refuses to sign autographs and breaks clubs when he is mad.
Say it ain't so.
I am reminded of a song we used to sing back in the overhead days of the church youth group. The chorus started out, "Count your blessings, name them one by one." What a great reminder to put a name on each blessing. It makes me realize how much I truly have to be thankful for. Name your blessings today, and bask in the goodness of our God.
P.S. We can now officially begin the Christmas countdown...29 days!!!
And always at Christmas, when we read the Christmas story. He would settle into his chair, slide on his glasses, and open his well worn and loved Bible to Luke. We would all sit around in anticipation, listening about the angels, the journey, and the birth of our Savior. Sweet Papaw. Sweet memories.
However, I'm not above a little copy and paste action, especially when it is relevant and I don't have time to conjure up the necessary cleverness to write a blog.
Hence, this evening's blog. If you haven't noticed (and by you, I mean the 7 wonderful peeps who follow my blog), I've been MIA recently. Most notably, it's due to the fact that I have 5 weeks of school left and 18 million things to do. No exaggeration, because I don't do that either. :-)
I'm in the process of studying for a huge anatomy test on Friday, and I went searching for a diagram of the brachial plexus. If you don't know what that is, don't worry. It's unimportant to the story here. What is important is that I found a wonderfully clever and well-written blog about studying anatomy. In fact, those exact words could have come right out of my own mouth. But they didn't. Some guy wrote a post a year ago and beat me to it. Enter copy and paste. I won't take credit for his words, but I will kinda pretend like they're my own. Cause after all, it's what I'm thinking anyways. So, CGHM, whoever you are, I give you full credit for the following words. Thanks for expressing my thoughts so I don't have to.
Granted, this would be a drastic action, and one that would more immediately conjure up the question of where to send someone who would do such a thing (the "crazy house" would probably be agreed upon). But one would have to feel some sort of emotion - not "respect," but something else - for the purported "cheater," even if just an acknowledgment of his ballsiness.
The body is a cheat sheet no man can take away. In my estimation, the man who would slice himself for this should be institutionalized, but not before he is given an honorary doctorate for doing all he can to further the pursuit of knowledge, even at his own expense.
It's just a grade, people...not worth losing blood over. Don't get any ideas."
Oh, and in case you are wondering, here's the brachial plexus.
Just a cage of rib bones and other various parts
So it's fairly simple to cut right through the mess
And to stop the muscle that makes us confess
And we are so fragile
And our cracking bones make noise
And we are just breakable
Breakable, breakable girls and boys
This song by Ingrid Michaelson is hauntingly beautiful. As I listened to the lyrics a few moments ago, I thought about what it meant to be fragile. It could mean that you are weak, or incapable, or vulnerable. All of those have such negative connotations. We are fragile, but I think that fragility allows us to be vulnerable in a good way, vulnerable to love. Think of all the references to a hardened heart. What type of image does that incur? To me, a hardened heart is one that cannot break. A heart that cannot break cannot truly love. To truly love, you must be vulnerable. You must open yourself to another. Love makes us hurt. Love makes us grieve. Love helps put us back together. If we can never be broken, we can never experience the goodness of the mending, for "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." And for that, I will hold my fragile heart in outstretched arms to love.
Anyone who knows me knows that I.love.Christmas. Last year, I bought the very first Christmas tree from Lowes. In fact, it didn't have the price tag on it, and they were still unloading half of the shipment from the truck. If you look in our spare closet and wonder what could possibly be in the 6 blue rubbermaid tubs, I'll give you one guess! Yep, they're full of Christmas decorations! 6 tubs, huh? And we live in a 1100 square foot apartment. I love walking through stores and hotel lobbies and houses decorated for the season. There's just something magical and wonderful about Christmas. But my favorite part has always been the Christmas Eve church service. I love walking through the cold into a warm church to celebrate the birth of our Savior.
This year, I am especially excited about Christmas because Charlie and I will be spending it in GERMANY! This has been a dream for Charlie and I to visit. His mom's family is from Germany, so he has always wanted to visit the "vaterland." I, of course, am drawn to the castles, cuckoo clocks, chocolate cake, and Christmas decorations!!!! (Wow...I just noticed my incredible use of alliteration in that last sentence!) It is so exciting for us to finally be able to travel to a place that we have yearned to see for so long, and at Christmas, nonetheless. Does it really get any better than that?!?
I thought I would give you a little taste of some of the must-see-because-I-have-dreamed-about-this-for-years sights:
The largest cuckoo clock in the world in Triberg
The Kristkindlmarkt in Munich
Here's a quick recount of this week's events/incidences/violations of moral standards:
2 cases of students noticing various items were missing from their wallets.
2 criminal trespassing charges (apparently you can't be in GSU buildings if you're not a student).
3 cases of students locking their bikes and returning to find them missing.
1 girl left her cell phone unattended for 2 hours and was surprised to find it missing when she returned.
1 girl dropped her Crackberry over a rail and it was gone when she went down to get it. I don't know how it survived the fall.
1 man arrested for sleeping in a car that wasn't his. He broke the window to get in.
1 girl reported that someone entered the bathroom and took a picture of her in the stall.
1 idiot left his backpack and books unattended in the library. They too disappeared while he was gone.
1 well-intending individual had his wallet snatched when he took it out to give money to a panhandler.
And the icing on the cake (I must quote this one)
A non-Georgia State individual was charged with Theft. The individual placed a laptop computer in his pants and left the University Bookstore. Officers apprehended the man after a brief foot chase ensued [because everyone knows you can't run very well with a computer in your pants].
For the sake of brevity, I left out the individuals impeding traffic, selling alcohol to minors, dealing drugs, possessing drugs, harrasing students, and vandalizing cars, which accounted for a total of 13 incidents. :-)
And that, my friends, is why you don't leave your stuff lying around, carry pink pepper spray, walk with friends, and don't buy drugs. Duh. Be smart. The end.
Yet, my heart continues to be burdened for little Samuel. I find myself checking Bryan and Kathryn's blog hourly to see if there are any updates. While I rejoice with those who are rejoicing, I find myself mourning with those who are mourning. Bryan blogged last week that he is continually praying that their family would be on our hearts, and I am reminded of that every time Samuel comes to mind. One family who is rejoicing and celebrating their new life, and one family is handing their sweet baby to Jesus. Yet we can celebrate both lives, for each has such a special purpose, though we may be unable to see it right now. The Lord is the giver of joy, peace, sorrow, comfort. I struggled this weekend trying to reconcile my joy and my sorrow. As I held Eve, my heart ached for Kathryn, who hasn't held her child in four weeks.
As I think about life and death, I am drawn once again to one of Mattie's poems. It is amazing to read the thoughts of a child, especially on such a difficult subject. His poem may seem lighthearted, but to me, it's a picture of a child facing the reality of death with courage and hope.
For a long time,
I have wondered about
How you will meet me
When I die and come to
Live with You in Heaven.
I know you reach out
Your hand to welcome
Your people into Your home,
But I never knew if You
Reached out Your right hand,
Or if You
Reached out Your left hand.
But now I don't have to
Wonder about that anymore.
I asked my mommy and
She told me that You
Reach out both of Your hands,
And welcome us with
A great big giant hug.
I can't wait for my hug, God.
As I read about Samuel, I am reminded about another little miracle. His name was Mattie Stepanek. Mattie is another little boy I never met, but he is one of my heroes. He was born with an aggressive type of muscular dystrophy, as were his siblings. He coped with watching his brothers and sisters succumb to the disease by writing poems, or Heartsongs, as he calls them. Mattie's book, Journey Through Heartsongs, has become a source of comfort and encouragement. Despite having lost two siblings to the same disease that he was dying from, Mattie choose to look at his glass half-full, "because if you live life feeling like your glass is half empty, well, it might as well be empty all the way."
Mattie was very real about the pain he experienced. He never denied it, but he also didn't let it dictate how he would live. His life was full of hospitals and tests and doctors and disease. But it didn't beat him. As I read Mattie's writings, it reminds me of the strength Bryan and Kathryn show every day. My heart aches for them as they are navigating life with a sick child. But sweet Samuel is fighting. The doctors are fighting. Bryan and Kathryn are fighting. And we are fighting with them every day. I haven't seen Bryan and Kathryn in years, but little Samuel is in my heartsongs and prayers every day.
Mattie was just eight years old when he wrote the opening poem of his book. When I read it, I think of Samuel, and the miracle of his journey so far. I encourage you to join Samuel on his journey by praying for his healing.
Thank you, God,
Not just for life,
But for our journey through life.
Life is a miracle,
And a journey through life
Is full of so many more miracles
If we travel with our Heartsongs.
Thank you, God,
For blessing me with the
Gift of Heartsongs,
So that I can enjoy my miracles.
Check out the cast singing my favorite song of all time...
I'm here to audition for the role of kicker!
Something is not the same
I'm through with playing by the rules
Of someone else's game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!
It's time to try
I think I'll try
And you can't pull me down!