Jan 24, 2010

Zermatt, Switzerland

Our favorite vacation so far has been Zermatt! It's a tiny, ski town in the Alps, and it's most popular for being at the base of the Matterhorn.

Here's a picture Bri took of Zermatt while we were snowboarding.
We stayed in a small hotel, seen in the middle of the picture below, just behind the little wooden shacks.
We enjoyed the hotel for a couple of reasons: 1) Our room had a great balcony with an excellent view and 2) The breakfast in the morning was delicious, and the breakfast room was very cool. It had huge windows where you could watch the sun rise.

This was our view when we opened the curtains every morning. Doesn't it just make you want to go snowboarding?? I loved how the sunrise made the Matterhorn turn pink.
The first three days we were there, we snowboarded all day and then enjoyed the town in the evening. The snow could have been better, but we had great weather. As a Texan used to Colorado skiing and snowboarding, I was thankful for the weather : ) One really cool thing about Zermatt was how most of the lifts were nice gondolas or cable cars! It was nice to be out of the wind while you were on your way up the mountain. Even the chair lifts had these cool bubble things that you could pull over your head to protect you from the wind!

One of my favorite runs that we did started from the highest point you can ski from in Europe. They had an observation deck at the top that gave you a breathtaking view of the Alps. Check it out!!

I swear Brian didn't cut and paste me into this picture
Glaciers!! Enjoying the view!
Creating a slight breach of etiquette, I triple-dog-dared Brian to put his eye up to that frozen lookout thing (you know, from the movie The Christmas Story? - love this video)
So this was the beginning of that run from the top of the mountain. The view was so awesome, I literally stopped snowboarding just to look around every 200 yards. In this picture, I think those little yellow flags say something about crevices. I don't think that little rope would save me if I snowboarded over the edge - yikes!
So on our way down from the very top, we didn't realize that we could ski into Italy. Whoops. It was a gorgeous run, and we were so preoccupied with it that we didn't realize how we stopped seeing people for awhile. When we started to get close to the base of the mountain, we saw a town that definitely was not Zermatt. And our lift passes were only good in Switzerland - not Italy. Whoops. We had to buy a one-time Italy lift pass to get back to the right country - I guess suckers like us make this mistake a lot! Here we are with our passes!
Second time's a charm - back in Switzerland, hooray! They didn't have a sign like this when we entered Italy, although it would have been useful!
The view from the gondolas was awesome - every ride was like a scenic tour of the Alps.
And the way those cable cars worked was incredible! Look at the climb this one makes - it looks like we came out of the clouds or something!
On our way down the mountain, we made a couple of cool discoveries! For example, there was an igloo hotel where people were hanging out and drinking.
The inside of the igloo was freakin' cool! There was a bar made of ice, and booths built from snow!
Another time, we were snowboarding along...
And we found puppies! With a whiskey barrel! And the Matterhorn! Their names were Mini and Nana, and they were SO cute! I think we played with them on the mountain for at least 15 minutes. The one on the right was only 5 months old! She's gonna be a big girl!
The nights in Zermatt were so fun. After snowboarding, it was nice to come back to the hotel to clean up, enjoy happy hour in our room, and then walk the sidewalks of the city. Even though it was quite cold, the city looked really warm when it was all lit up at night.
After a full day of snowboarding, going to a bar on the mountain was always a good choice! This one had a really great view.
I love this town!
Another night we enjoyed some DELICIOUS fondu! We couldn't decide if we wanted cheese or meat fondu - soooo...we got both. One night, we explored our hotel and found this really cool wine cellar!
On our last full day in Switzerland, we decided to go on a hike. As we were walking along a beautiful trail on the mountain, Brian found a smaller (more snowcovered) trail that led down into a ravine. The trail was so cool because it had a lot of snowy bridges that had beautiful views. It was kind of funny though - we saw part of this trail from one of the gondolas when we were snowboarding on a previous day, and it looked SO rickety. I had pointed it out to Brian and said, "That looks SO scary!" And then...there we were...haha! Bri is great - he's so patient with me and helps me expand my risk boundaries.

The steps leading down into the ravine. Bri cleared them off for me on his way down - thanks, B!
If you enlarge the picture below, you can really see the wooden trail winding along the left side of the rock wall.
This part was kind of scary because there were holes in the wood! Yikes!
At the end of the hike, we walked on top of the river. I had never experienced walking on ice and hearing a rushing river flowing below me! Very cool.

Ice fishing, anyone?
The next day, our train ride home was gorgeous. We rode through many Swiss towns that were on lakes like this one.
We had a great time in Zermatt - I'd really love to go back again for snowboarding or to see it during summertime!

Jan 19, 2010

Happy New Year!

Brian and I celebrated the beginning of 2010 in Berlin! What a cool city - it reminded us a lot of Chicago with its cool architecture. It also handled thousands of visitors like a champ, which we loved : )

First, let's set the mood - here's our hotel!

The walk to Brandenburg Gate was beautiful! For those who know me well, you know I was thinking - CHRISTMAS LIGHTS!!!!! And yes, we were bundled from head to toe - it snowed all night! P.S. - this picture was taken at, oh, 7 pm - we partied ALL night : )

You could spot the party from miles and miles away! Luckily we were only a few minutes walk from it all - the lights were spectacular!
Seriously, this city knew the drill - they were screening people and moving them into the party faster than anywhere I've ever experienced - D.C. has a lot to learn from Berlin. This shot was taken after we passed through security and were on our way to the concert. The building on the right is actually the U.S. Embassy in Germany.
We had so much fun! It snowed all night, which made the whole scene beautiful. The concert was impressive/hilarious/what?? Let's see, there was a group that sang Abba - not my favorite music, but it was hilarious to watch. There were three guys who looked like John Candy dressed in glitzy outfits who played all KINDS of music - from Country Roads (apparently a German favorite - see our Oktoberfest post as well) to a song about Amarillo, TX to Proud Mary - haha! Then there were the popular German hip-hop artists who were really energetic, and the crowd LOVED them! What a fun night! As we were leaving Brandenburg Gate, fireworks were being lit everywhere! It was SO loud! Here are some fun highlights from the night!

I think this image from the next day sums up New Year's Eve pretty well : )

The rest of the weekend in Berlin was just as impressive as New Years. The city has so much to offer! The Tiergarten is massive and stunning - especially when it is covered in snow!

The Jewish Memorial was also breathtaking. As you can see, from the outside it just looks like a lot of short, grey stones.
But as you begin to walk the rows, you begin to see that they are massive columns that make you feel small and lost. It was a very impressive memorial that helps you try to imagine what the persecuted people must have felt during that time.

Another cool sight was the Berlin Dom. We have found that cathedrals are very difficult to show in pictures. They are far too immense and ornate to convey how beautiful they really are. However, as you can tell, I keep trying so that you can get some idea of what they are like...

The picture below was taken from the top of the cathedral. The view from the top really showed me how huge this building was. For example, the picture shows a full size (if not oversized) pavilion-looking-thing (sorry, I don't know the architectural term). However, when you look at the cathedral in its entirety, this one piece of "decoration" appears to be so small and insignificant.

Another favorite from Berlin - the currywurst! Check out the line for this one currywurst stand.
We had our doubts in this ketchup-curry-hotdog concoction, but oh there was a reason for the crowds! YUM!! My eyes are saying...I do NOT want to share this food.
Our last night in Berlin was a blast! We went to an Irish pub and, well, I think this video shows how much fun we had : )

At the end of our vacation, we went to see Avatar in 3D! We don't have a good English theater in Frankfurt, so we were really excited to find a 3D showing in English in Berlin! Ray ban 3D glasses are so cool...

Happy New Year!!

Jan 10, 2010

Christmas in Rottenburg

For Christmas Eve, Brian and I enjoyed a nice evening at home and video chatted with our families. I cooked a ham along with other Christmas-y dishes, and we ate to our heart's content.

Christmas day we drove to Rottenburg to spend the weekend with the Reiner family. We enjoyed a nice two-hour road trip and arrived at the Reiner house, where Andrea and Verena had been busy at work in the kitchen! They cooked an amazing Christmas goose along with all of the fixin's. It was my first goose, and I loved it!

The Reiner's tree - the lit candles gave it a beautiful glow

On Saturday, the Reiner's surprised us with tickets to the Christmas Circus that was in town! It was a really cool show that had all of the circus fun you remember as a kid - lions, acrobats, jugglers, and a big tent.
Fun at the circus!

We had a nice breakfast every morning - yum! Also, I loved the Christmas ornament chandelier that hung above the table

On our last day with the Reiners, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and went on a nice walk to the church where Andrea and Klaus got married - so gorgeous!

It was a really special weekend - Brian and I were very thankful to be with family on our Christmas day in Germany!

Jan 9, 2010

Visit to Reinbek and Hamburg

The weekend before Christmas, Brian and I flew to Hamburg to visit the Hinrichsen family. Jens and Barbara Hinrichsen are Brian's dad's cousins who live in Reinbek (just outside Hamburg), and they graciously invited us to spend the weekend with them and 2 of their 3 children, Rebecca and Jonas (David, unfortunately, was out of town).

The Hinrichsen's beautiful home, all decorated for Christmas!

Hamburg is a beautiful harbor city with lots to see and do! And Brian and I were very lucky to see the city covered in snow, which apparently isn't very common. The snow gave us a little trouble getting in and out of the city, but the Hinrichsen's were very patient and helpful with our delayed travel schedule.

On Friday night, we spent the evening eating a delicious meal and getting to know Jens, Barbara, Rebecca, and Jonas. We had so much fun talking with them that 4am rolled around, and we didn't even realize it!

On Saturday, Jens and Jonas took us on a tour of Reinbek and Hamburg. We walked, rode trains and buses, and even took a boat tour! They also took us to the Hamburg Christmas Market, which was definitely one of my favorite markets we saw this year. On our way back to the train station, we saw the Hamburg Christmas Parade!

Our boat tour of Hamburg

Fire dance at the Hamburg Christmas Market
Gluhwein with Jonas, Jens, and Brian

After a delicious dinner on Saturday, the Hinrichsen's, Brian, and I video chatted with Brian's parents, and it was a lot of fun for everyone to catch up. Then we went out to a local bar (actually called the American Bar, haha) with Rebecca, Jonas, and some of their good friends. We had a great time hanging out and getting to know everyone.

Video chatting with the Rentsch's in Michigan

Sunday was another snowy day, so we went on a nice walk with Jens to see their neighborhood. The houses and surrounding forest areas were gorgeous.

Jens and me at the Reinbek lake
Walking through Reinbek. I loved the neighborhood!

We had an outstanding time in Reinbek, and we look forward to seeing the Hinrichsen's again!