Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Another day, another snow shower 

Not much to report from Germany, things have been very quiet this week. Most of our "regularly scheduled activities" are on hold until after the holidays. So we have just been hanging out. We've had snow about every other day, so Jacob and I have been outside enjoying that. Kenny has another 3 day weekend coming up, so that will be fun. We hope to go somewhere in January, before cabin fever sets in. Just not sure where yet, depends on his schedule and the weather of course.

Today Jacob and I went to Moebel-Pilipp in Ansbach, it is a huge furniture store. Not that we needed any furniture, we were just there for the play area. It was really crowded, there were a whole lot of people there with the same idea as us. There just aren't a whole lot of indoor play options, so we went there. After he was worn out of sliding into the ball pit, we looked around, and got a big basket for all of Jacob's toy cars while we were there. They keep multiplying while we sleep ...there are quite a few of them. Luckily most of them are little so the basket should keep them contained. Usually there are a few lurking around, just waiting for us to walk through late at night. One of those in the arch of your foot really wakes you up, that's for sure!

We are really missing the sunshine, haven't seen it in quite a while. I forgot just how gray the winter is here. And it's dark from about 4:30pm until 7am, which makes me want to hibernate. But it's almost January, and then it won't be long until spring. And the spring here is amazing, and worth the wait. So I just keep that in mind....

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas!!! 

Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! We have been busy this week, finishing up our preparations. We went to the hangar where Kenny works yesterday to enjoy a Christmas lunch, and Jacob had the treat of sitting in the cockpit of a Longbow (helicopter). He thought that was really cool, he couldn't stop smiling. He made Kenny shut the door so he thought he was really flying it. Then he had great fun pulling on the ropes attached to the rotor blades, watching them bounce. Tonight we made some cookies for Santa, although he wanted to eat most of them. Most everything in Germany was shutting down around lunch today, and won't be open until Monday. (Some things on the Army post will be open on Sunday) Things were very busy in town this morning, people getting all their last minute items. We had our snow last weekend, but maybe we'll get a little more for Christmas. If not, no biggie, there is still a lot of winter left here! That's about all for now, I'll post again soon.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

More Christmas Markets! 

We have been visiting even more Christmas Markets, this past weekend we made it over to the one in Rothenburg. During the week, a friend and I took the kids to the Christkindlesmarkt (Christ Child Market) in Nuernberg. This one is huge, over 200 booths. I was looking for some info to pass along to you about the markets, and found this from an article in "Santa Cruz Sentinel"

There are toys and decorations; sweaters, caps and mittens; leather purses and clothes, and many of these are made by hand. For those interested, there's even a savory mulled wine, called gluhwein, served with cookies and candies, breads and sausages. It's a holiday feast for the senses.

Beginning the last week of November, the old town squares in many of Germany's cities blossom with row after row of wooden booths. Smaller towns set theirs up later in December, sometimes just for a weekend.

The markets go by different names, the most common being "weihnachtsmarkt," which is a German phrase meaning "Christmas market." In the more traditional (and more Catholic) parts, particularly in Bavaria in the south, they are called "Christkindlesmarkts," after the Christ Child, or "Nicolausmarkt," after the bishop St. Nicholas, whose feast is celebrated Dec. 6.

The markets go back at least 500 years. Nuernberg has perhaps the oldest and arguably the best market. It surged in popularity there, and then throughout Germany, after World War II, when people desperately sought some relief from wartime deprivations and the subsequent destruction and rebuilding labors.
Nuernberg now features almost 200 booths, adhering to a traditional code of no plastic decorations or canned music, and boasting that "high-tech and war toys are nowhere to be found." It also has strict environmental policies.

Nuernberg has expanded with two new sections. In the Children's Christmas Land, youngsters can make lebkuchen, engrave glass, press tin for old-time ornaments, and write a letter to the Christ Child, who is the one to traditionally distribute gifts in this region. (This Christmas Land also has a merry-go-round, train and Ferris wheel, all steam-driven.) The Sister Cities Market has holiday wares from 14 countries, including Greece, Poland, Macedonia, Nicaragua, France, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States. Proceeds from these booths (about $30,000 a year) help with health and education programs in these countries.

A much smaller but equally festive and popular market is in Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber on the Romantic Road. The holiday theme permeates every building within the medieval walls of this ringed town, transporting visitors to an enchanting world of long ago.

I think that sums them up quite nicely, they really are an enjoyable part of the holidays. The kids had a great time in the children's area, they really enjoyed the rides. It was so cold we didn't stay as long as we would have liked, but long enough to wear everyone out. We stopped in at the newly opened Starbucks to warm up, that was a treat too.

I have some pictures from the Christmas Markets over on the photo site. (Did you forget about it? It's been a while since I put new pictures up over there) There are also some new ones in the Everyday Pictures section, look in the Sep/Oct and Nov/Dec chapters. Go check them out if you have time!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

German Christmas 

Here is a photo from Wolframs-Eschenbach tonight, it's not the sharpest but still better than I thought it would be. (I really needed my tripod, maybe next time) To me, this is what Christmas is like over here. Not so bright and "in your face", but more subdued. Now don't get me wrong, the stores at the mall are just like in the U.S. But in the towns and at the markets this is the way Christmas looks.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

St. Nikolaus 

Almost every Saturday afternoon sales circulars appear in our mailbox, for the stores in the area. Lots of grocery/dept store ads and electronic stores. I usually look through them, for a few reasons. Often there are grocery items that are cheaper or better quality than what we have at our commissary. Pork, bread, and depending on the season the fruits and vegetables. It is also sometimes interesting to see some items that you have never heard of, or never want to hear of! And then of course we see clothes or toys etc., and always are looking for a good deal on something we may be needing.

So I come across an ad that says on December 6th (which was St. Nikolaus Day) if the children bring a "recht stiefel oder schuhe" (right boot or shoe) to the store St. Nikolaus will fill it with treats. Well, I just had to take Jacob to do this --- I mean how could I pass that up? So we went to the store, and I needed some items anyway. There were quite a few kids there and we waited for Nikolaus to come to Jacob, and then he was speaking to Jacob in German. Of course - Jacob was frozen no matter what langauge Nikolaus spoke. Jacob stood there holding out his little red boot, not moving a muscle but grinning like crazy. I clued Nikolaus in on the fact that Jacob spoke English, so he got to the business of filling the boot. And fill it he did! With nuts, chocolate, even an orange. It was really fun, we stood around for a while and watched the other kids visit with him as well.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Christmas Markets 

We were able to get out to a few Christmas markets over the weekend. The first one we went to was in Ansbach, it hasn't changed much since the last time we were here. But that is a good thing, it is really nice. We had dinner with our friends at Tali's Kebap Haus, they were happy to see us and hear about Florida. Then we wandered around, drank some gluhwein (a hot spiced wine in a mug), and let Jacob go on some kiddie rides. There were some nativity animals there, a donkey, goats and a huge camel. I mean huge! We were pretty impressed with the camel. It was really cold so we headed home after that.

On Sunday we went to two smaller markets, they were only on for the one day. (In comparison, the Ansbach one is ongoing until Dec 24th). The first one was in Lichtenau, and was really tiny. It was set in a little square, surrounded by half timber homes and old city walls. Some of you may remember way back when we drove around on these same city walls. There were some pretty things to look at and some good smelling food. The first two pictures are from that market.

After we spent a little time there, we went on to Grossbreitenbronn. (It is just down the road from Kleinbreitenbronn --- gross means large, and klein means small. So you have "large"breitenbronn and "small"breitenbronn. Although the big one is really small, and the small one is barely a few houses in the field.) This market was a little larger, it was in a field next to an old tower. There were more crafts to look at there, and St. Nikolaus was walking around with a bundle of sticks. We found out later from Mom that St. Nikolaus carries those around to whack the bad little kids with. We bought some fresh lebkuchen (German gingerbread) and Christmas stollen bread at this market. Jacob loves lebkuchen, he is always asking for it. I hope we can find some in the non-Christmas months, since he has become addicted.

Note the lovely gray skies in the photo, I don't think we have seen the sun since we returned from Florida. It's just the price we pay for the great weather in the summer, and the location! Hopefully I will get some nice pictures of the Ansbach market next time we go, and also the big one in Nuernberg. We are having Jacob's birthday party this weekend, so not sure when I will be going, but I will be going.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Some pictures from our trip 

Just thought I would post a few pictures from the beach, Jacob really enjoyed it.

And one enjoying a hotdog roast in East Tennessee (he liked the Cheetos!)

And finally, hanging out with some friends in Florida

We did a lot of shopping while home, and eating food we just can't get here in Germany. Saw lots of friends and family, the time went by way too fast. This will be the last from our trip to Florida, and I am rested from my vacation from blogging too! :) We went to some Christmas Markets over the weekend, so the next post will be about Germany again!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Home at last 

Just a quick note that we made it home safely. It was a long trip and we were happy to fall into bed last night. The weather here is gray and cold, a contrast to the sunny upper 70's of Florida. But I did see the signs for the Christmas Markets so we will be visiting those soon. And getting our place decorated for Christmas too. That's all for now, I have plenty to unpack and still feel like I am on Florida time. Will post again soon!

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