The journey continues...

I realize that it's been several days since we posted, but internet is hard to come by in small Bavarian towns! And, have I mentioned yet, that the keyboards are different over here? Some of the letters and symbols are switched around, so I end up writing "love zou" or searching for the quotation marks (which I just did, bz the waz, and thez are over the number 2!)

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!!!


Frohe Weihnachten!

Merry Christmas from Munich! We had the most wonderful day yesterday meeting our German family members! Eva has been so welcoming, and we seem to fit right in. It makes being away from home so much easier when you are celebrating with new family! We enjoyed a yummy Raclette dinner (google it...super fun!) and then opened presents around the tree. Charlie and I went to midnight mass with Eva and Werner. It was the most beautiful church we've seen in Germany...and also the coldest!!! No heat last night, but it was a lovely service. It's amazing to celebrate the birth of our Savior in so many different ways. I have loved learning the differences in American and German celebrations of Christmas. And Mom, I found someone who knows about the pickle present!!!

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!!!


Changing shoes...

If you ever travel to Europe for longer than three days (which you definitely should) I highly recommend bringing TWO pairs of shoes, no matter what the travel guides say!!! After four days of walking, on average 9.2 miles in the same pair of shoes, your poor feetsies will cry for mercy! Which is why, my friends, I toured Munich in slippers today. Ok, they are technically down bootie camp shoes (huge thanks to Mark and Lolli for fulfilling my Christmas wish last year!), but any lay person might have confused them for slippers. But quitely frankly, I didn't care, because my feet were happy. Plus, these Munich girls walk around in crazy boots, tights, and short skirts. I just don't know how they stay warm!

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.


A little misadventure in every journey...

Hi 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!!!


Greetings from Rothenburg!

Hi folks! After a loooong flight with a baby and a very talkative Marine, we arrived in Stuttgart and were finally able to meet Jenny and Felix! They were such gracious hosts. We toured the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart (Jenny's first time, even though she works for Mercedes!), and then had a wonderful albeit FREEZING evening at the Weihnachtsmarkt in Esslingen. The Christmas market was exactly what I thought it would be, with an added bonus of a medieval theme. We sampled Glühwein (hot red wine) and Schöpfnüdeln (potato pasta with cheese and sauerkraut--Schwäbish-traditionale). We ended the evening with Felix's homemade French pizza. (Mom, you would have loved it!) We cannot thank them enough for allowing us to visit, and we are so thankful to have met family here!

We got an amazing 12 hours of sleep last night and are ready to tackle Rothenburg.

(Not my picture. I borrowed it from the internet...however, this is pretty much what it looks like right now!)

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.


First official trip blog!!!

I know, I know, you all (all 7 of you!) have been waiting with bated breath to read our first official trip blog! Hi to the new folks who may or may not be following along on our journey. I would give Oma and Petra a German greeting, but seeing as how Lauren spricht kein Deutsch and Charlie is at work, that will have to wait. (And if you are wondering how some German spontaneously appeared, its cause I copied it off the card Charlie put in my wallet in case he loses me. As if I, with the superior sense of direction, could get lost. How sweet.)

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. Hopefu
lly 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.


The 12 Days of Christmas

I love the 12 days of Christmas. I always get confused about when it starts, though. Do you start on December 13th at day 1 or day 12? That's completely besides the point for this post. Those who know me also know that I LOVE a good musical, dancing, and Glee. So when I came across this video the other day, I about died! I must confess, I almost have the whole thing memorized. Apparently this is what happens when a bunch of show kids get bored...if only I could dance like that! And those splits!!! Wowza! Enjoy!


The excitement is growing!

Charlie and I are getting so excited as we prepare for our trip in just 13 days! I survived my first semester of classes in PT school and am gearing up for five days of finals. It's amazing how high B's move from being "close to an A" to " a long way from a C!" B's mean degrees, baby! I have learned how to be in control and not let stress overwhelm me. It's a liberating feeling. After leaving Idlewood, I realized how "dead" I had become. There is not amount of money worth being miserable, and now I also see how there's no grade worth stressing over (unless it's a C, but we're not going there. Then I'd have to get into all the complicated PT GPA calculations and...well, nevermind).

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!

Neuschwantstein Castle

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!


An open letter...

Normally, I wouldn't get so worked up about this, but I am. Here goes...

Dear Tiger,

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.