Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Quick Update!!!

I've been SUPER busy over the last week or so, so I apologize for slacking on blog posts.  I'm going to hold off on more Germany pictures for a bit and instead give a quick update on what I've been up to lately!  Work has been a madhouse due to the coolant loop failure and an excess of work that needs to be done before the holidays.  At least the time goes buy quickly.  Last weekend S and I flew to New York and met up with the extended family from my mom's side for my cousin D's wedding.  I'd never been to NYC in December before, so I really enjoyed seeing all of the department store displays, decorations in Rockefeller Plaza, and general holiday buzz in the city.  S had never been to NYC at all before, so we were sure to hit up the "classic" NY spots, including a Jewish deli, Macy's, Times Square, Rockefeller Plaza, Sak's shoe department, the 9/11 Memorial, and of course some NY style pizza! And it snowed on Saturday to add to the general holiday feel as well - S's first time in real-life snow (ski snow is the only other time he's been in it, which is a totally different feel).

And of course we were there for the big wedding of D and S, which was  just absolutely beautiful.  It was so wonderful to see all of my family and I'm thrilled to bits that S is our newest addition! 

We got back on Sunday and then last night we hopped in the car for yet another trip.   This one was much quicker, but I was totally psyched and geeking out about it - we went to see Neil deGrasse Tyson speak in Austin!!!  I love listening to his speeches (I've posted them on the blog here, here, here, here and here) and to see him in person was truly awesome.  He ended his speech with my favorite quote ever by Carl Sagan, which naturally I silently mouthed along with him - loved it!  Afterwards we waited in line to get one of his books signed and I got to talk to him for a whole 30 seconds.  I was so awkward, but it was incredible none-the-less!

So now it's back to the grind and the super busy work schedule.  I've got a lot of off shift and holiday work coming up before I get my big holiday break, so I don't know if I'll have much time to post, but I'll do my best!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Germany Part 4 - The Black Forest, Triberg

Our day in Triberg was probably one of my favorite days of the trip.  We woke up, packed up the car, ate a complimentary breakfast at our hotel, and then bundled up for a mini-hike to see the tallest waterfall in Germany!   The waterfall was tall and noisy and sprayed so much water that the entire area surrounding it was lush and green.  It was great to get some fresh air and see such a pretty natural site.

There were a couple of bridges/platforms that crossed the waterfall.  K and I stuck with the middle and bottom ones, but S insisted on running up to the top one as well.  From between the trees, we could catch glimpses of the nearby hazy mountains and trees of the Black Forest, it was quite beautiful.

After getting our fill of the waterfall and surrounding forest we headed back into town to hit up some cuckoo clock shops!!!  The one big purchase I had saved up for on this trip was my very own, authentic German cuckoo clock and I was SO excited to finally get one!!! (A side note - the cuckoo clocks are sold everywhere in southern Germany, we'd seen them at all of our major stops.  However, I really wanted to wait and buy one in the Black Forest, as this is where they are actually made)

The clock shops were incredible, filled wall-to-wall with exquisite clocks.  The top picture above is the first (and it turns out, best) shop that we went to.  The second picture was my favorite clock from another shop.  It was so detailed and amazing and the price reflected that.  What I had thought was a generous budget for a clock did indeed get me a very nice clock, but it was alsoin the "lower" price bracket of the available clocks we saw.  So which one did I get???
I got this little green beauty shown right here!  S had the requirement that the clock wasn't just all one color of wood because he thought it was too difficult to see all of that expensive wood-carved detail and I wanted something that showed some beautiful craftsmanship. This one was the perfect compromise.  I received it in the mail about a month later and promptly hung it in my house!
After I made my cuckoo clock purchase, we hit the road again and drove to the nearby town of Furtwangen to check out the German Clock Museum!  It was a clock sort of day.  We spent a couple of hours perusing the history of clocks.  My favorite exhibit was the history of clocks in the Black Forest region, the clockmakers really were incredibly talented.

S also found his all time favorite cuckoo clock:
Yes, that's a race car!  After we were all clocked out, we hit the road again, headed for our next hotel in Schwangau.  We took our time and admired the beautiful scenery in the Black Forest. 

We'd been hitting some fun stretches of Autobahn along the way as well and S finally got a chance to really push it here.  He got our rental BMW diesel up to 235 km/hr! (146 mph!!!!!) 
It's a blurry picture, I know, but the light was fading and we were in a car, ok?  His previous "record" on the autobahn had only been 200 km/hr (124mph), so he was pretty psyched!  This is the fastest he wound up getting during the course of the trip.  We got in to Schwangau sort of late, so we quickly checked into our hotel and then ran out for a bite to eat.  On our way back we caught a sneak peek of the next day's adventure....

Next installment, will our day of touring the most unreal castles I've ever seen.....

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Germany Part 4 - The Black Forest

The morning after our car museum extravaganza we packed up the car, took some pictures of the cute little area of town we were staying in during a quick ATM run, and then hit the road toward the Black Forest!

Of note in these pictures is the green hill side - that's actually a vineyard that was just around the corner from our hotel!  And see how the leaves are changing colors!  I was so happy about that!  Also, that church, those bells, SO LOUD and they rang SO EARLY in the morning....  We decided that on our way to our next hotel in Triberg we would detour to Baden-Baden, which is a spa town with a giant casino.  It wound up being very beautiful, quite ritzy, and somewhat pricy...

The top two pictures are of the giant hotel/casino/spa that graces the center of the town.  The Casino is famous as the site where Dostoevsky learned enough about addiction to write "The Gambler".  Of course it wasn't open when we were there and we had just missed the tour.  So we headed down the street to the most beautiful "visitors center" I have ever seen.  The front of the building was a giant half enclosed hallway with stunning stone work and elaborate pictures painted on the walls.  The buildings here were just insane.  Since the weather was gorgeous we decided to walk through the park/promenade area, known as Lichtentaler Allee.

There were HUGE trees, beautiful buildings and museums lining the paths and a few pretty ponds and fountains.  We stopped off in one rather odd "art" museum that depicted the life of children of the children of that region in the 1800's.  After our walk we hit up a local cafe for flatbread pizzas and then hit the road again.  On our way from Baden-Baden to Triberg we stopped to check out the Black Forest Open-Air Museum in Gutach.

The Museum was actually a conglomeration of classic German a-frame buildings, the largest being a giant old farmhouse.  The buildings have been left intact and date all the way back to 1612.  They had buildings containing giant water powered woodworking tools for building more structures, a storehouse, a mill, a chapel, and textile exhibits.  We got there only an hour before closing, so they let us in without paying, which was really nice.  But we kind of had to rush through the exhibits.  From here we drove through the twisting mountainous roads of the Black Forest and made our way to our hotel in Triberg. 
This particular day also happened to be S's birthday!  So after we got settled in our hotel room we walked around the corner to a local restaurant where we noshed on traditional German fare and S had his very first piece of Black Forest Cake (Schwartzwald Torte) for his birthday cake!  Since it had egg I couldn't eat it, but I was told that it contained so much cherry schnapps that he could have gotten drunk off of it! 

More on Triberg next post!