Monday, January 16, 2017

Cologne, Germany

We drove up to Cologne last month to see the magnificent cathedral and several of the markets. If you go in December, we’d recommend taking the train, as the entire area near the cathedral is blocked off to vehicles. It took us nearly 3 hours from Kaiserslautern due to the heavy traffic once we got off the Autobahn near Cologne. The train time had originally been equal to drive time, not including traffic delays.
The church is beautiful. The surrounding areas were quite crowded, but we’re glad for the chance to see it and parts of the city. In my opinion, it is worth an overnight if you’d like to see a concert or a show (we just did a day trip). There are river cruises in warmer weather as well.
Much of the markets were the usual suspects of vendors, but we have three shops to recommend: the cathedral gift shop (just outside the actual church building) has neat greeting cards with delicate paper cut-outs of the cityscape. One vendor at the market directly next to the church sold coffee cups with black cats painted on them, along with names of cats- and customizable!
The market furthest away from the cathedral that we walked to was a couple of blocks beyond the crowded shopping streets. The market itself was also wall to wall people, but we really liked a vendor selling foot-high carved wood trees with matching colored ornaments already hung and included. The trees were painted in various colors. There is surely much more to see in Cologne, but we were ready to head home after dinner and a short stroll along the river promenade.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Speyer’s Technical Museum and December/January Market

51 weeks ago we had a great time at the transportation museum in Sinnsheim, and stopped in the town of Speyer on the way home. There we discovered the fabulous vegetarian vendor at the market- finally a healthy choice! We agreed to return for the technical museum in Speyer(Technik Museum), and finally did so. The anticipated 1 hour drive took longer due to traffic (someone else’s accident), but the ride home was quick.
If you decide to go to both museums, save your first set of entrance tickets for a discount at the second museum. After the clerk was done chiding me for not saving my tickets from 11 and ½ months ago, she forgot to tell me that there were “tokens” for sale for the musical instruments. We loved listening to the incongruous organs at the transportation museum, and looked forward to more at this one. If you plan on listening to more than 4 of them, please ask to purchase “Münzen”, which are 6 for 5 Euros. We didn’t see a sign about that until we had spent well past 5 Euros in coins on getting the different carousels, organs, etc. to play their tunes.
This museum has cars, planes, and military uniforms like the other museum, but also has a U-boat you can walk through, and a large collection of automated musical instruments in the building next door (Museum Wilhelmsbau), included in the admission. Don’t forget the tokens if you want to listen to more than 4 of them, such as an organ with built in drums, an accordion organ, a piano with built in violins (!) or just plain automated pianos! The parking cost us $2, and we did not sample the restaurant or the snack bar, as we were headed to the market! There is a large children’s play area, and an IMAX theater with shows in German.
Good thing we got to the market early this year, and stuffed ourselves with outstanding vegetarian food. I had rice with mushrooms in a cream sauce and mixed veggies with potatoes (50/50 plate of anything they have). Jeff had pasta and mixed vegetables. When we left a few hours later, they only had rice and veggies remaining, and pumpkin soup. Rest assured, there are plenty of meat vendors as well, along with fried dough, baguettes with garlic and/or tomatoes & cheese, etc.
There are many regular shops as well, some of which are unique from K-town. We plan to return before next December.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Dresden, Germany

We were in Dresden for too few hours, on our way to Poland, but liked it so much that we wanted to recommend it to everyone. It did take us more than 6 hours from Kaiserslautern, but we enjoyed the time we had there, and would go back.
The first market of the season (for us) on Thanksgiving Day was very nice- the “big” Dresden market was already set up with the usual suspects of vendors. The new (to us) stall was a mustard stand with over 100 different varieties. The one we bought was tasty. The Medieval (“Mittelalter”) market was tucked away between nearby buildings and we wouldn’t have found it in the dark if there hadn’t been a brass band blasting away. The musicians from Russia played a wonderful mix of carols, followed by “Copacabana” and “Ipanima”. We would highly recommend this market, complete with unusual vendors and great food such as apple dumplings (like stuffed doughnuts) and veggie soup for Jeff. The first night there was no entry fee, but there were signs at the gates with a modest fee listed.
The market near the rebuilt church was still in the set-up phase, but we admired three live sheep munching on hay in one of them. The sheep appeared happy and their thick wool seemed to keep them warm enough in the cold.
There were several street musicians and plenty of restaurants to choose from. A touching display of photos and artifacts from the WWII bombing is in the basement of the big church, the Frauenkirche. The stairs are inside, to the left when you enter the church. It was amazing to see the rebuilding efforts, and moving to notice some blackened bricks were reused on the exterior of the building. The tourist information center had many flyers about additional activities and museums we didn't have the chance to check out.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Church on the road

I’ve made some interesting observations over the years about faith development while traveling. During August 2014, we were in Chicago and Quebec, attending church in both places. My home church had Bible readings each week that followed a sequence, known as the Lectionary. I don’t remember anymore which passages were read that month, but I noticed that the passages followed each other over the weeks. For example, at home in Massachusetts earlier in August, I heard the beginning part of a certain Bible story. The next  Sunday in Chicago, the sermon referenced the reading that week, which was whatever happened next from the passage the previous week. Then in Quebec, the church was following the same Lectionary, and we heard more of the story. Now, many stories are already familiar, but it was really neat to travel many miles and hear that continuity!
In Europe, we have the opportunity to attend church on base or off base, depending on what type of service we want to attend, such as contemporary, traditional, Gospel, etc. When we are on the road, we are sometimes lucky to find an English speaking service, like in Prague, with phenomenal music, too! Other times our flights or drive times or no English services nearby have resulted in us listening to podcasts. Well, someone more talented than I has arranged for automatic downloads so we can listen to good preaching and sermons. My favorites are: Nadia Bolz-Weber, Jon Niketh, Rick Warren and the team at Saddleback, and Fourth Presbyterian in Chicago. We usually listen in the car, but one time we were “stuck” in Copenhagen waiting for a bus, so listening to a podcast straight off the iphone helped to pass the time in a constructive way.
What are your favorite podcasts? We also have motivational podcasts such as Byron Katie, Martha Beck, and others to inspire us.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Krakow and Boleslawiec, Poland

We enjoyed our time in Krakow, even though it was very short, and would recommend it. If you can snag a cheap flight, it will be better than driving (we drove 6 hours from Kaiserslautern to Dresden, stayed overnight, and then drove another 6 hours to Krakow).

The Advent Market in Krakow included some unique vendors we had not seen previously at Germany markets. Their “hot chocolate” is literally melted chocolate with a spoon, not the drinkable kind. It tasted great but was way too intense to finish (think: hot brownie batter). Dinner was tasty in an Italian restaurant on the main square, and after walking around in the cold, we enjoyed tea and a snack at a café- try the raspberry honey tea!

The reason we drove (instead of flying) was to pick up “Polish Pottery” where it is manufactured, in Poland! The items were priced competitively, so it is worth the drive if you would like to get a bunch of plates, bowls, etc. Boleslawiec is close enough to the German border that you could make a day trip out of it if you wanted to stay overnight in Dresden 1 or 2 nights (not a day trip from K-town!). Friends who have wanted to go to several different pottery places have stayed overnight in Poland.

We were grateful for the many English-speaking employees we met throughout Poland- we also offered to speak German, but English seemed to be preferred. I wish I had taken photos of the smallest shops ever along our walk from the hotel to the market, but it was cold and we were hungry, so I didn't prioritize pictures at the time. We passed by dozens of tiny stores, specializing in 1 type of item/category, such as bathrobes and pajamas only, writing papers and notebooks only, 2 manicure stations only, soaps and bubble baths only, etc.!

P.S. I cannot post a photo of the Auschwitz Concentration camp museum. It horrified me to the depths of my soul, and is very meaningful, if you can visit. It is in the region near Krakow, and there are tours departing from Krakow.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Quebec to Boston by cruise ship

I just figured out that I never shared photos of this trip back in 2014! I caught a cold at the end of the cruise and was sick when we got home, then planned for the Life Coach Training trip in October, then was preparing the house to sell for our move.
We flew to Quebec and enjoyed the city despite the rain at the beginning of the cruise. I didn’t take as many photos on this trip, but the scenery throughout was beautiful even on rainy days (we learned on Prince Edward Island that when the cows are lying down, it means rain is on the way…sure enough, it rained shortly thereafter).
In Nova Scotia, the museum dedicated to the rescue of passengers on the Titanic was sad but memorable. I have never felt unsafe on a modern day cruise ship, though this one disappointed us when the outdoor hot tubs were closed and covered at 9pm- um, hello?
We did have some sunny days, too.
Bar Harbor, Maine, included a free shuttle bus to a state park, thanks to Jeff’s military ID card, and a beautiful walk around a lake. One of the reasons I like cruises is that on-board internet is so expensive that it’s nice to “check out” mentally from being connected all day to the outside world. These days, most cruise ship terminals have free wifi, and I almost took a photo of dozens of passengers on their phones, checking e-mail. Only for the sake of our cat-sitter, I checked e-mail, too, and found out about a job that was being posted for only 2 days, requiring extensive paperwork to be uploaded to the job application website before we got home. Um, no can do, really? Good thing we moved to Germany and I found a job right away then. We would recommend this itinerary- but if you like to enjoy the hot tubs after 9pm, don't go with a cruise line that is known for hosting the retirement age crowd (we liked the people just fine, nothing against retired folks!).

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ceilings of Europe

Rest assured, the ceilings in the cute German house we are renting are standard/boring white popcorn (no photo). But ceilings from days of yore are a sight to behold! This is a café in Vienna- really!!! The one where I had a lemon tart.
One of the smaller rooms of the Belvedere Palace in Vienna:
The large room in the same Palace:
Next up = St. Petersburg, Russia! The “Swan Lake” ballet theater:
Museum of Russian Art:
Church on Spilled Blood (please note, these are ALL mosaics, made of bazillions of tiny chips of stone):
Dublin, Ireland- the “Riverdance” theater:
Whew, that's all for today!