Sunday, January 26, 2014

Austrian winter adventure with friends...

Our latest adventure was a trip to Austria with a huge Army crew.  It's a tradition for the "office" to go rodeln (sledding) in Austria every year.  Since this is our last year here, we decided to tag along.  

Off we go!
Austria has absolutely NO snow this year. An Austrian at one of the ski resorts told me it's a phenomenon where the jet stream comes up from the south instead of the north causing Italy to get tons of rain, and Austria to get little to no snow and warm temperatures.  It was literally in the high 40's every day we were there.  So strange...

Needless to say, there was no rodeln on this trip.  We were bummed.  The Austrians make sledding trails from the ski lifts.  They are supposed to be fast and crazy fun.  The trails were all closed.  We never anticipated that lack of snow would be a problem in Austria in January.  Luckily, the Alps have glaciers - many of them - and the glaciers mean year round snow. Since the snow wasn't coming to us, we went to the snow, and we had a ball!

View of the Alps from town - we had no snow at our feet, but we could see it was in reach!

Overall, we went on a trip that we probably never would have taken on our own.  We stayed in a town that wasn't terribly exciting, but we also got to hang out with people we rarely get to see or barely knew before this adventure.  There were families and friendly faces at every turn.  With no rodeln in the forecast, we headed up to the Stubaital Glacier to ski. We met some great friends at the top and had a blast.  The kids all did ski lessons in the afternoon while the adults hit the slopes or enjoyed the warmth of the lodge and yummy German food.  Baby C hung out with some awesome girlfriends while I joined the others on the slopes.  That was freaking fantastic.

The following day we found another glacier at a ski resort called Solden.  These were our single friends without kids, but we had already enrolled little r in ski school and baby c was able to stay in the kindergarten. The end result was an incredible day of skiing and snowboarding.  Even little r had a great time and seriously learned how to ski.  That and baby c took his most expensive nap EVER. Haha, at least he had a warm and safe place to nap while I tore up the slopes on my board.

On our way up to the Stubai Glacier - so ready to hit the slopes!!!

The Glacier at Solden - you can always find snow at the top!
Our nights were all different but each had a theme of great fun with friends.  We did a night with the whole crew at a pizza joint that was pure mayhem and an absolute blast.  Another night eating homemade food with friends that rented a huge apartment with other families, and our final night was highlighted by Italian food, baby c's pasta face, and toes warmed by our sweet Lando boy.  Each night ended with the kids being tucked away in bed, and us gathering into the hallway with other friends that stayed at the same hotel to enjoy some wine, great conversation, and a ton of laughter.  I had the added benefit of enjoying the company of my laptop while I did homework and intermittently escaped to the hotel next door to borrow internet to upload my assignments.

A glimpse at our nightly evening gatherings in our hotel hallway

It was a great weekend that was bizarre and unexpected, but also an incredibly awesome time. As a true testament to the type of weekend we had, we hardly took a single picture.  We aren't sure if this is because there was very little snow, and the town was somewhat underwhelming or if we were just having too much fun to remember to take pictures.  Here is a sampling of the pictures we did take a long our adventure.

little r became an awesome skier on this trip!  Check out this blog post to see a video of him skiing down the BIG hill with daddy...

Ski lessons!
And time for the big hill with daddy!

The boys always manage to make fun in the hotel rooms.  There were literally no frills at this guesthouse, but little r had so much fun playing in our bed.  Do you remember traveling as a kid?  Yeah, hotels were always super cool...

"you'll never find me in here!"

"I'm not ready for bed!  Let's go play in the snow!"

As a final note about this trip, here is a picture of all of our ski passes.  When I used to ski as a kid (and a grown up), we would always leave the ski passes attached to our jackets as a sign of pride (I guess).  Not sure if this has changed in the states, but here in Europe they use plastic cards and computer systems to ride all the lifts and gondolas.  Another funny comment about this picture though, for those that have skied here in Europe, you also know that you pay a deposit for these cards.  Basically, you get 2.50 EUR back for every card you return.  We totally forgot.  That means we are also looking at a picture of 15 EUR.  Oops!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

And the little bear skis!

We just got back from a fantastic ski weekend in Austria. I'll be sure to give you all the fun stories in a separate post soon, but I wanted to give my little man a huge high five for being an awesome skier this weekend. He seriously blew our minds.

Our first time skiing in Austria, little r was still a little tyke at only 2 years old. We had to put him on skis, and he fell in love with it. I wrote this blog back then, and I can still remember my dad thinking we had somehow staged it all because little r had no fear. We, of course, thought he was a natural, but isn't that what all parents think?

Last year we hit the slopes in Austria again. I was pregnant with baby c, but Big R made sure that, even though little r was too young for lessons, he got in some good ski time. There were a lot of laughs, and even more tears. A moment of bravery resulted in Big R carrying little r all the way down the mountain. Although, I think he wore a big of pride in the fact that he managed to get them both to the bottom safely, it wasn't exactly something we considered a successful run. The big hill was a tad too scary for the little guy.

Our little man was FINALLY old enough to have ski lessons, and he was so incredibly excited. We bought him his own skis, and he could not wait to get to the slopes. It was very important to him that I know he was NOT going to be scared to go down the big hill this time.

Little r was less enthusiastic that first afternoon on the slopes with daddy. No lessons yet, and that big hill was far more intimidating that he cared to admit. We were nervous, but it turned out we had nothing to be worried about. After a day and a half of lessons, he begged Big R to take him down the big mountain. First time on a chair lift, and he skied the long run down all by himself with Big R chasing him down the hill. His ski instructor said he was a natural. Ok, now I might believe it could be true :)

We have little r enrolled in the Erbendorf Ski Club.  Now we just have to pray for some snow!!! I'm so proud of my little man.  I hope the video works for everyone!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Christmas with my baby sister: a little Czech, a little Germany, and a lot of fun

I got the best gift I could have ever asked for this Christmas:  my baby sister and her husband came to visit us for the holidays.  They were redirected, delayed by a few hours, and showed up without their luggage, but they made it just in time for Christmas Eve dinner.  Their visit was perfect in every way. My sister really needed some down time to recharge before going back to her students after the holidays, so we did a pretty even mix of travel and local fun.  We even enjoyed an entire day completely at home finishing off with a late night of Monopoly.  When is the last time you played that? Yeah, us either!

After our low key Christmas celebration where little r volunteered to open everyone's presents, and we all ate enough food to feed a small village, I decided they needed a mini-adventure. Unfortunately, all of the Christmas markets in Bavaria were closed on Christmas Eve or earlier, so I hoped that seeing all the European towns in their holiday decor would still feel festive.  For their first adventure, I took them to the Czech Republic to visit the beautiful town of Karlovy Vary.  Barely an hour away by car, and you are surrounded by the charm of Eastern Europe.  It's such a fabulous place, and we had a wonderful afternoon there together.

Welcome to Karlovy Vary!
Such a beautiful place...
Yeah, she's thinking "I could get used to a place like this" :)
So romantic :)
and a great place for sisters to bond...
View of Karlovy Vary near the restaurant where we had lunch
Pose near really bizarre street artwork? Okay!

Karlovy Vary is the largest and most popular spa town in the Czech Republic.  I know, probably like me you had no idea that the Czech Republic had an abundance of these spa towns, right?  This is the 
crème de la crème of where people in this part of the world go to relax and heal.  One of the reasons it is such a popular location is because of its mineral water.  Colonnades expressing these mineral springs can be found throughout the city.  We took a pleasant stroll "in the footsteps of the springs" with our specially designed ceramic mug and drank our way to better health.  Each colonnade had a different temperature and mineral and carbonation content making them all have a unique taste.  Some were truly bizarre, some seriously tasted like blood, and others made your tongue tingle.  We were randomly a fan of most of them, and wondered as we sipped the waters if we were benefiting from the healing properties.  It was a fun way to spend the afternoon.

Posing in the Castle Colonnade
little r was very helpful filling our mug
Aaaahhhh, feel the healing...
baby c wasn't terribly interested

As we wandered through town we noticed a huge crowd at the end of the square and heard loud overhead announcements.  No clue what was up ahead, we were taken aback when we walked right into a Nordic Skiing competition.  Did I mention it was probably 50 degrees that day?  Our Christmas season was unseasonably warm, and yet several streets in old Karlovy Vary were converted to snow.  It was fantastic to watch!

Snow might have been artificial, but that didn't slow them down
We were standing at the finish line
A view down the street - so cool
little r had the best view!

After our unexpected attendance at the Nordic Skiing competition, we strolled back through Karlovy Vary and took in the town by night.

More romance...
Baby bonding and snuggling time
The markets were gone, but the decorations were still beautiful

After our Czech adventure, we decided to lay low and relax through the weekend.  We enjoyed a few walks through town, lots of incredible food from the local Bakerei and Metzgerei, more beer and wine than we probably care to admit, and dinner out at a couple great restaurants nearby.  We even enjoyed a game night testing our monetary prowess with Monopoly.  We played the game as couples, and it gave the night a fun twist.  We had a ball.  I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.

I couldn't keep them cooped up the entire time though.  There's a great ice skating rink in Weiden about 20 minutes away, so we took little r ice skating for the first time.  Uncle Ryan is a hockey player, so he was pretty ecstatic to show little r how it's done.

Off they go! Little r was so excited!
little r wanted to do it all on his own...
until he fell down... i really shouldn't be laughing here - doh!
we didn't let him quit, even though he really wanted to
...lots of moral support
and he was back to skating like a pro!

We also spent a day at the indoor pool in Weiden so that little r could show off his swimming abilities at the indoor pool.  It was a great time for firsts.  Little r jumped off the diving board for the very first time, Big R did his first flip, and Aunt Jessie dove off the high dive for the first time ever in her life.  Me?  I was a supporting spectator.  haha.  Unfortunately, pictures from the pool are hard to come by, so I'll leave it all up to your imagination.  We kind of left the pool abruptly after little r lost his entire bratwurst lunch in the pool when he choked on a mouth full of water.  I'll leave that one up to your imagination, too.  Yikes...

We gave Jess and Ryan enough down time, and they were ready and anxious to take in a little more of Germany before they had to head home.  There is just too much to see around here, so it took awhile to narrow down the best spot to spend their last day.  Jess decided on Nuremberg, and it was an awesome choice. I'm not sure you can pick a better spot in this part of Bavaria to get a hard dose of Germany.  We took the train, such an easy trip, and the weather was absolutely outstanding.  I'm having a tough time deciding which pictures to show you because all of the pictures Big R took were amazing.

Church in Altstadt Nuremberg
Old facade in Nuremberg
Nothing but trouble
I remember little r doing this when he was 2 :)
Love my seester!
Taking in the view
Sun on the Cathedral

After walking through the markets, eating some brats and drinking a little gluhwein, we found ourselves at the castle.  We actually paid for the tour this time and learned about all of the amazing history.  Nuremberg is a pretty fascinating place!  The views from the castle are pretty phenomenal, too.

A view from above...
another stunning view
I can't help myself - here's one more...
Jess and little r were inseparable the entire visit

After the castle we strolled back to the train station, and took in a few more views and a traditional German lunch along the way.  Fantastic afternoon in Nuremberg!

Albrecht Duerer's House
sun setting on the cathedral

waiting for the train back home

Completely inseparable
The train was crowded so we had to snuggle up

Of all things, we had Mediterranean food for dinner at an incredible Greek restaurant in Erbendorf.  It's always nice when our commute is on foot.  It was an awesome dinner, but I was sad knowing this was their last night here.  We had such an incredible time with Jess and Ryan while they visited us for the holidays.  It's so strange to think the next time we see them we'll be living back in the good 'ol U.S. of A.

I hope you had as much fun as we did, Jess and Ryan.  Thanks for spending your Christmas with us this year.  We made memories we will never forget!