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!  


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