Friday, October 21, 2016


Every day we walk to the bus stop and cross over the Vils River.  Some days there are swans out there!!  We always get really exited about that.

Some ladies in our ward have started a mystery group.  One person posts that they have a mystery and includes any relevant details without giving it away -- time, location, proper attire, money needed, kid friendly, etc.  I've been to two mysteries so far (and missed the one where they talked about how Elvis Pressley performed during WWII in the building that is now our church!!  True story!!) and they've been  a lot of fun, educational, and great for getting to know people!

On Friday, William and I went to a mystery that made the girls jealous -- a cave!  It was about a half hour from our house and it's called Maximilian's Grotto.

This is our guide -- his English was not good at all but another German helped a little and I think we learned a few things!  At least we understand that during one war sometime, the cave was used to dump the bodies of Spanish soldiers (who are no longer there), a woman was lost and had fallen in, and now they make cheese in the cave!  Well they make cheese somewhere else but they age it in the cave.

Of course he pointed out the major features of the cave including this wall of "animals".  There's an eagle right in the center and an owl on the side.  The whole cave is pretty black because of the centuries of use with torches.

This cave also boasts the largest dripstone in Germany!  Woohoo!

It had some good open rooms and fun narrow spaces.  William really enjoyed it even without a jacket.  He basically refuses all the time.  The rest of us were in coats/jackets, hats, and gloves.

And then we came out into the beautiful Bavarian forest.  I love Bavaria!!!

We're starting to get more and more fall color but it's actually still pretty green.  Afterwards we ate at a restaurant that's just down the hill.  When it doubt, order the schnitzel.  I really like schnitzel!  And doners.  And bratwurst!  Believe me, we're not starving!

Saturday turned out to be an amazing day!  We started with a trip to a pumpkin patch -- literally a field where you cut your own pumpkins.  We spent some time picking out perfect pumpkins.

This is not Megan's perfect pumpkin but she did choose a small white one.

We paid 30 Euro for 4 big pumpkins and 4 small ones -- I think that's pretty good!  Then we washed them up and went out for a little more exploring.

Not far from the pumpkin patch are some castle ruins called Burgruine Wolfstein.  I'm sure that we'll see plenty of ruins over the years but this was our first and we all loved it.  After we explored, the kids' imaginations went wild and they ran all over getting thrown in the dungeon and rescued and stuff.  It was chilly but a beautiful day too.  This whole fall has been amazing.  Everyone keeps warning me about how awful winter will be and I don't doubt it but we're loving the cool weather and the fall colors.  We haven't had fall colors in years!

Everyone's trying to escape from the dungeon.

We translated the sign and found that mention of the place was in the 1100's and the castle itself was in full swing in the 1500's.  The tower was the first piece and it was built mainly for defense and of course keeping prisoners.

The kids were convinced that this was the real skeleton of a prisoner from long ago!
The tower is big but narrow on the inside because there are stairs that wind up between the outside and inner wall.  Now they're a combination of metal stairs that have been put into place and the original stone steps between the walls.  

About halfway up

Now we're headed up the narrow stone steps!

The view from the top was incredible!  Dizzying really.  They had signs up pointing out all the cities and apparently the view goes all the way out to Nuremberg!

This is looking down from the tower onto the castle keep walls -- it was high!

I love this picture of Abby backlit with the tower and that amazing sky!

Just a lot of pictures really but it was pretty breathtaking and we had a great day together.  The kids have declared that they want to go to more castle ruins rather than nice castles.  Well they're just going to get both!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Back to the Fairytales

The army has a very small base in Garmisch-Partenkirchen that has a resort and is pretty heavily frequented by military and dod families.  It's not cheaper than anything else unless you're enlisted -- they do charge a lower rate for those of lower rank because they make less money.  But in Germany we've found that it's hard to find a room that sleeps 5 and will probably often have to get 2 rooms or do airbnb so it was definitely worth it for us.  They had an indoor pool and a very large outdoor hot tub and a buffet restaurant that was easy to eat at even if not the tastiest thing ever!  We enjoyed our stay and had a great view from our balcony:

I love the clouds like cotton wrapped around the mountain!

One of these mountains is the Zugspitze -- the highest point in Germany I believe -- and they have a cable car you can take to the top but it's pretty pricey and everyone says it isn't really worth it unless you have a beautiful clear day and can really see the view.  There's also quite a bit of hiking through here that I want to do so we'll definitely be coming back at some point -- perhaps frequently over the next 5 years!

We've been living in Germany now for 3 months and although things still tend to be difficult (anytime language is involved), we're getting comfortable and familiar with our home and town and our routine.  But going out to the castles I had that same fluttery feeling -- my brother Jeff called it twitter-pated and he's right!  I almost wanted to cry because of how excited I was!!  But I didn't.  I was however, in absolute heaven!  You can drive to the castles through Germany or Austria and we took the German route mainly because I forgot to pack our passports (whoops! I need to get used to carrying them around) and we just thought it better safe than sorry.  But the drive itself was still beautiful and then we come around a corner and this is in the distance:
Yep.  That's Neuschwanstein through a car window on a very foggy and cloudy morning.  It was fabulous!!  When you get into the town, the 2 castles -- this one and Hohenschwangau -- are practically across the street from each other.  If you buy combination tickets, you tour H first followed by N.  The main reason for that is that King Ludwig II spent a good portion of his life in H as a child and then lived there while he oversaw the building of N.  In fact, he had only been living in N about 2 months and sleeping in his bedroom 2 weeks when he was deposed and then died.  And most of N is still unfinished, but what was finished was spectacular.

Actually H was spectacular too.  I don't know that I could pick a favorite really -- they were each very distinct and individual.  H was rebuilt on former castle ruins by Ludwig's father, King Maximillian in the 1800s.  So it's fairly new.  But the style of the castle was very medieval in a way.  The murals and decoration seemed much older -- suits of armor on the walls, etc.  It was surprisingly light and small -- especially compared to what you think it will be from the outside.  The king's room was decorated with murals of naked women which Megan thought was gross, especially in a boy's room.  Abby loved finding all the swans in the decor and eventually lost count.  They thought my favorite part was the reading chair (and it was awesome) and we all loved the little hidden doors that allowed servants to walk through the walls in order to take care of things (like heating) without being seen.

You do walk up a hill to the castle -- not as extensive as the one going up to Neuschwanstein -- but there were still amazing views from the top!

King Ludwig II had a sitting room next to his bedroom where there was a telescope angled so that he could watch the building of Neuschwanstein.

Chopper likes these videos of the fountains in slow motion.  The kids think it's funny too -- again because of the barfing.

There is some ivy that turns bright red in the autumn.  The forests weren't as colorful as we thought they might be but that red vine is gorgeous and I'd imagine that a few more weeks will make this place really colorful!

This is the building that houses the gift shop.  It's also the building where the kitchen is and when King Maximilian and his wife (can't remember her name) had kids, it also was the kids' house.  Imagine a whole house just for the kids!  And their servants I'm sure!  One floor of the main castle was the Queen's floor with murals dedicated to the role of women in the medieval era and gifts that had been given to her -- including her bridal gift which was a silver shield and a sword and spear.  Sounds weird until they explain that it was to represent the couple facing life's battles together -- then it's awesome!  The king's room and the queen's were connected by a hidden spiral staircase but otherwise the 2 floors and sections of the castle were pretty much separated.  The bedrooms were suprisingly small but the Queen's was much more feminine.  The king's (other than the naked ladies) was really neat.  While Maximilian lived, the bedroom was painted with the ceiling as the daytime sky.  When Ludwig lived there as the adult and reigning monarch, he had it redone to the night sky.  There was a moon with a plate that could be adjusted to represent the phases and there were stars that could be lit from the room above.  Pretty neat actually.

 The kitchen

This actually leads to the modern-day bathroom or WC

That's a good one!

After touring H, you're given about an hour and a half to get up to N.  It's quite the hike and they do have horse-drawn carriage and bus options but I'd imagine that there's quite the line during tourist season.  We stopped for a snack in a cafe and then walked up.  William wanted to run with me a lot.  
There are some beautiful views as you go up and then when you get there, courtyards and places to take picture and admire the view.  The one we didn't do was Mary's Bridge and the view from there is reportedly amazing.  Next time -- I'm sure we'll be going back!

There were also great views of the valley below

Most of the castle is the white/gray stone but there's a front and central part that is the yellow and red.

The courtyard waiting to go in for our tour

These are actually great pictures but I kind've wish more of the castle was in the shot.  Oh well!

There's a line for the carriage going up but not so much for going down so we rode behind two very hard-working horses!!

I feel like this is a really long post and I'm not even done!  We made one more stop that day -- at a church called Wieskirche.  I don't think this is the white church in the meadow but honestly there are so many beautiful churches and many are named similar things so it could be.  There was a field of cows nearby with their bells going and we ran in for just a minute as some rain was starting and got a great look at the beautiful interior.
The brochure I got says that this is Christ reigning from the rainbow.  This is the ceiling.  How do they paint up there, let alone paint that beautifully???

The organ at the bottom and the gate to heaven at the top.  There were also several very high niches where musicians can stand and play.

This is not in the church, don't worry.  It's dirndl shopping!

So apparently there had been a wedding earlier in the day.  I don't know why you would even really try to decorate for a wedding in a church like this but they kept it simple and the fresh flowers did look nice!

I forgot to take a picture of a funny thing that we saw here and also at Linderhof palace, although you probably wouldn't be able to really see it well anyway.  The ceiling paintings have legs coming out of them.  So it looks like a person in the painting is partially sitting outside of the painting -- like a statue.  It's kind've funny but also interestingly cool.

My dirndl!!  I've been wanting one since we arrived.  The blouse is not a traditional dirndl blouse -- I couldn't find one at the shop we were at that wasn't really low cut (because that's apparently how everyone wears them!) and the kids were not up for going in and out of shops so I will either try to make one or find one elsewhere.  It shouldn't be too hard!!  But I love the dress!!!

Ok I think that's it!  Short vacation but so so good.  We had a really good time as a family and I'm glad that we went.  I love living close to amazing things to see -- that was always the thing about Texas -- you practically had to take a vacation to go anywhere.  Here we have so many great things for just Saturdays or we can do long weekends or more.  It truly is a blessing and an adventure!!