Sunday, November 26, 2017


We've been calling this month "no school November". Between Thanksgiving and the end of quarter teacher work days, the kids have had a lot of time off.  We advantage and drove about 3 hours northeast into the Erzgebirge or Ore Mountains that are outside of Dresden. There's a town there called Seiffen that is known for their woodworking - they produce quite a bit of the stuff that you see in Kathe Wohlfahrt stores and stuff.  So even though it was only the middle of November, we came away from that trip feeling like it was the Christmas season already!  The shops were so much fun!!
Several shops had large carvings out front

These figures move apart and come together and kiss at the end.  The kids thought it was gross.  It was very sweet!

So my dad served his mission in Germany and when I was a girl we had a few decorations that he had brought home with him.  One was this little wooden German village with singers, church, houses, and curly trees.  All of us kids LOVED that village and we were not allowed to touch it (we did anyway). I remember begging to be the one to be able to put it up and of course it was mangled a bit over the years.  One of the first shops we went into had them!  I had to buy myself one, plus some extra wooden houses, especially with the half-timbered details.  I bought a few for my dad too to make up for childhood accidents . . . 

Then as we begin walking around this town we find the church!  Not just the town church THE CHURCH FROM THE VILLAGE!!  I can't tell you how excited this made me!  I didn't know the villages were based off of a real church (although that totally makes sense right?)

Now we certainly haven't seen every church in Germany but they do not typically make them like this which is partly what made it such a thrill to find.  It isn't Catholic - I think most of Saxony (the state in Germany where these towns are located) are primarily Lutheran. The inside was very simple with pews on 4 sides facing the center and a very simple altar and all painted blue and white.

But then as we were walking around outside the bells began to ring and they had such a sweet sound!  I love bells (and I know I say that ALL the time).  

There are several artisans workshops up there but they were all pretty much closed.  The town was also in the beginning stages of prepping for their Christmas market and so between that and the shopping it really felt like Christmas.  We even got a slight dusting of snow!

We stopped for bratwurst and then had to take a picture with the Canadian moose . . . in Germany . . . 

Our hotel had NO ONE there.  I think most of their tourism is either summer or winter skiing.  We had a small suite with kitchenette and they had games in the hallway.  Chutes and ladders doesn't need a translation!

William with game pieces on his hands.

This is a Christmas pyramid and while we didn't buy this one (too big!) we did come home with one. It's actually not a traditional pyramid so there may be another in our future . . .

We did buy our annual nutcracker here though - and he's dressed as a local miner so it's a perfect souvenir!

Our second day was going to drain our bank account if we shopped some more so we left and drove down to Annaberg-Buchholz. This whole area on the border between Germany and Czech is known for their silver mining but most of that has been mined out and so they've turned to crafts - wood carving and lace making primarily. This is the Frohnauer Hammer, an historic but fully working hammer mill.  When we arrived the next tour wasn't for another hour and a half and it was horribly cold with wind so we didn't want to wait around to see the inside.  We went to McDonald's instead.

Because of the silver mining, there are several mining museums and we had seen a brochure for one where you ride a mining train but we couldn't find it!  So instead we walked downtown to find another mining museum and ran into this guy:
I think this is the German mathematician Adam Ries, only because the statue looks like his picture and underneath the counting thing (what are those called again?) there's an equation thing that is also on his commemorative stamp.  He is famous for his algebra books apparently.

Then we went to St. Anne's Church which was built in the early 1500s.  It is huge and all made of stone and looks pretty plain on the outside although the way they've done the stone over the main entrance is really beautiful.

But inside - oh my.  It's light and large with some amazing detail without being overdone.

Look at that gorgeous ceiling!

Carvings all the way around a gorgeous organ.

Everything is dedicated to miners, in fact I think St. Anne is the patron saint of miners.

Across the street is a mining museum with a part of the mine you go in.  It surprised us because I think of mining as something outside the town but literally these mines are under the town.  

There are different miners costumes/outfits according to rank I believe.  The tour was in German, we understood some but not all.

We had to dress in capes and hard hats to go in.  They actually weren't hard hats though, I think they were more for fun.

The mine was really narrow. This one you wouldn't have been able to have carts or trains in, in fact, most of the statues of miners show them carrying the ore out in long shallow bowls.

These are the ladders they would climb into the mine on!  That will probably fit one foot.  And the rungs are curved on the bottom to help the water drip down rather than collect and make the ladder slippery.

On the left are the stairs we went up (they had a spiral staircase installed to go down that was much easier) and on the right are the ladders. I could not have been a miner!!

We did it!

After the mine tour we went into the museum.  I don't think these were used in the mine but maybe for trees to cut the braces and supports?

Another ladder, slightly wider.

The miner's lamps they would wear on their belts

So much talent in carving!

Carved figures wearing the various forms of the uniform.

Bobbin lace is a big deal although we didn't run into any shops because we didn't wander too much.  I love bobbin lace and would love to learn!

The kids loved the miniature wooden fest

Wooden carved and painted chandelier

A better view of the church -- I couldn't get it all in!

This area is part of the former East Germany and there are small signs of that.  A fun one is the street crossing lights. They don't look like the ones in the west! Some people say they look like spies.

We had a cold but really fun trip up there.  I love the fact that we are able to explore these places that are out of the way.  Hardly anyone spoke English but Chopper and I managed to get by!  And I'd love to go back and do more of those tiny towns.  That's the problem, every time we go somewhere new we want to go back and see more but then we also have places we haven't been!  There's just no way to get it all in!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Würzburg . . . For Comparison Purposes!

A friend of mine at church told me that they like Würzburg better that Bamberg.  Those kinds of statements always need exploring and although we got a late start last Saturday, we decided to test it out!  In the end, we only had a few hours so I can't really say if we liked it better.  The palace?  Amazing!  The churches?  Different and interesting from a lot that we've seen.  And we missed some big things like the Marienburg Fortress but we really enjoyed our afternoon and the city itself.

 We started with the main attraction: the Residence, an amazing palace right in the heart of the city.
Megan totally smiled for pictures when Stanley was involved!

Ok I'm not sure if this is the front or the back but see those larger doors in the very middle?  Those used to just be archways.  It was an open court that you drove your carriage right into and then turned around so that you exited the carriage right onto a grand staircase with amazing paintings at the top.  The prince-Bishop who lived in the palace (I don't yet understand the monarchy titles and positions quite yet but that's what he was called) would meet you there.  The lower the step that he stood on, the greater your importance.  Apparently Napleon's carriage was pulled by 8 horses and there wasn't enough room so he had to walk in.  And he was not impressed by the palace.  I think he was just pretending.

The statues around the outside fountain were incredible and several inside were also amazing.  One of my favorites is when they carve statues of women with veils over their faces.  I am always in awe of stone that looks like there's a sheer fabric covering the face.

These four statues were all different arts I think.  The one above was music, this one is sculpture and I think the one below is writing.  I can't remember the fourth.  Apparently I didn't take his picture!

We got really lucky.  When we bought the tickets it turned out that there was an English tour in 5 minutes.  And they were completely sold out of their English guidebooks.  Most of the palace you wander and tour on your own but the guided tour went through some additional amazing rooms and was actually really good although the guy was kind've rushing through -- though that's not a bad thing with kids!  The kids don't love tours BUT we seem to find enough to occupy them that they get through without too much complaining.  In this case there were quite a few 3D elements to the design (ceiling paintings where limbs actually stick out are some of our favorites) and the guide showed us where the king would go poo (yes, he actually used that word) in front of everyone on his special "chair" and the kids thought that was fascinating and disgusting.  Yes to both.

No pictures allowed inside so I had to buy some postcards of amazing rooms and then take pictures of those!
This is that amazing staircase and at the bottom is where you come in on the carriage.  I literally felt like a princess walking up those stairs - I don't think I've felt that way in any other palace or castle yet!  The paintings at the top were to represent 4 of the 5 continents: Europe, Asia, Africa, America.  Australia is not pictured.  They are in order of civilized society and America is the least.  The lady representing America rides an alligator and the people near her are eating each other. No joke.  It's not portrayed gruesomely and I guess in the 1700s that's what people knew about it!

This was an assembly hall that Megan loved (we all loved it really), but she was actually twirling!  I'm telling you, this place was something special if it makes Megan want to twirl!  It also had a room with the most amazing wood floor that we've seen and gorgeous rooms where the ornamentation was in silver instead of gold and the colors were just amazing.  Plus tapestries, furniture, etc.  Have I mentioned that I loved this palace???  I will definitely go back with visitors!

After the tour we went out into the gardens and wandered and let the kids run off some of that energy.

One of my favorites.  It totally looks like they're contemplating the beauty of the place and in reality they're looking at a squirrel.


Abby took my phone for a bit and took a pretty good picture of me!!  And plenty of flowers and mushrooms.  Mushrooms and snails are her favorite things ever right now.

After the palace we wandered into the city.  Würzburg was bombed really heavily during WWII and has had a lot of reconstruction.  There's also a lot of modern buildings and plenty of shopping.  But the interesting thing was the churches.  Most of the churches we've seen have been rebuilt to what they were before -- usually heavily Baroque or Romantic styling.  Some will incorporate modern elements as well.  But these churches were all old on the outside and totally modern on the inside.  It was probably the first time we've really seen that.

We didn't go in all the churches (there were a lot!) but the Dom was the main one and we expected a classic cathedral.  Instead, this is it.  I don't know the reason for the Menorah (because I always thought it was a purely Jewish thing) but the organ was amazing with the lights behind and several pipes are angled out and away.
The side doors were this.  Megan was really interested in them.

The altar of course fit our expectations but this is pretty low-key, especially where the stucco work isn't gilded at all.  I did like the lightness that it added though to be so much white.

And then through the main hall it felt so modern.  No arched gothic ceilings, just flat and plain windows.  The paintings or mosaics on the ceiling (too far away to tell for sure) were also very modern and angular.  No fat cherubs or angels or priests.  Anyway it was neat to see something different even though I also love the usual things!

About this time it started to rain and so after the churches we went into a restaurant and had a nice Italian dinner.  We eat a lot of Italian when we're out and about ironically.  Chopper doesn't love German food and the kids are fairly limited in what they'll eat.  Abby says she likes schnitzel but she doesn't eat much of it.  William will always go for a hot dog and fries (bratwurst actually) but Megan doesn't like a lot of German food either.  Italian usually means the kids can have pizza and Megan can have plain noodles or salad.  And usually you can't go wrong with Italian!  Anyway then we wandered around the shops and I found the first thing I really, truly miss about the states: bookstores!!!!  Because things were closing and I needed some postcards, we stopped at a huge bookstore that was packed and awesome.  We all wanted to browse so so much but what's the point?  It's not fun to browse books when you don't know what they're about!  I miss bookstores.  I miss digging through used books particularly.  There was a used book sale in Amberg a few weeks ago.  All books just 1 Euro!  I bought a few because they were old hardbacks that were gorgeous but there were a ton of books with authors that I love that I would have grabbed up if they hadn't been in German!  Sigh. Enough complaining about lack of books because I don't really lack books.  Amazon just isn't fun shopping.

Anyway we walked over the bridge for a great view of the Marienburg Fortress which is where the prince-bishops lived before they built the palace but it was already closed so we didn't even walk up there.

A few stumbling blocks on our way back to the car.  A lot of cities do this - they place these blocks at the place where someone lived who was taken away in World War II.  They have the information on them of when and where they died as well.  You don't really see them unless you're looking down or specifically for them which I think also says something.  How often with tragedy and atrocity do we not see it even though it happens so much?  Food for thought.