Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rascal's Friend, Snowy Saturday

We've all made some new friends on this adventure, whether it's been on walks, at work, or at Chapel. Storm even has a buddy that she meets up with a few times a week to work out her puppy energy. Early one morning, we got a visit from Rascal's new friend, who we didn't even know! This guy drops by once in a while and it looks like they've really hit it off.

We awoke today to our biggest snowstorm yet in Germany. We think we ended up with 10 inches or so on top of the other snow we had. We spent the day on cross-country skis, heading toward a nearby village to stop for lunch. The going was a little slow, but we had a great day with lots of exercise. Just an amazing, snowy, beautiful winter's day.

We passed a few villages as we originally headed towards Grainau, but a few wrong turns and we ended up in Hammersbach!

Fortunately Hammersbach had a nice hotel/restuarant with cozy fires going.

And a cool chapel next door.

And dessert!

Our friend Brian, who I work with, went with us and we had fun getting to know that Jersey Boy a little better. After skiing, he invited us over for hot chocolate which was well-deserved. Overall, an exhausting and fun-filled day!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Partnach Klamm, Ski Stadium

After church today we hiked up to the Partnach Klamm, which is a beautiful gorge carved dramatically into the rock by an alpine river on the edge of Garmisch. To start you park just outside of the Olympic Ski Jump stadium built for the 1936 Olympics.

After leaving the stadium, the trail starts out along the river, very broad and with lots of shops and huts to get some food. Our friend Jennifer invited us to hike for the day, and like lots of things in Germany, we were able to take Storm to see her natural habitat.

Suddenly, the trail enters a series of tunnels and narrow ledges suspended above the rushing water. Lots of beautiful icicles and pools of blue/green water.

After leaving the tunnels and ledges, the trail broadens again and leads to many intersections. You can continue on towards the Austrian border, or towards small German towns like Mittenwald, or just continue on to the closest cozy Hutte or Alm restuarant.

We hiked onward for a few more minutes, and then headed back to town to call it a day.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

First Ski Day!

On Monday we got our first ski day in the Garmisch Classic area. With the snow getting really crusty down in the valley, it was great to find smooth soft snow on most of the mountain. Below is a 6 person chair above the Hausberg lift that ended up being Esther's favorite. A lot of other runs ran all the way from up top down to the valley. The downside was that once you got low enough, the conditions got very icy and more difficult. We're trying very hard not to be UT ski snobs. They really do have the greatest snow on earth out there, but Garmisch and the Alps make up for some less stellar conditions with lots of cozy, hearty atmosphere and tradition.

The "D9" lodge has fire places and lots of cozy knooks and tables to grab a beer or meal.

We met up with some people from work, so we split up. Esther cruised her favorite slopes with Ben's boss, while Ben headed up with the guys for some more advanced runs including the famous "Kandahar" downhill race course. Up there, you're amidst the peaks and cruising through trees, rocks and small canyons like this one.

When you take some of the longer runs down to the valley, you get some good views of downtown Garmisch.

Below, you can just bearly see a building at the top of the mountain. They guys told me this is King Ludwig's huting lodge.

Some friends invited us along that evening to an amazing meal at a local restuarant in Partenkirchen. Although it's hard to top a meal out at a place like that, we've learned to cook some great schnitzle at home. Once you figure out how to buy the cuts of meat, you add some sauce that comes in packets and is mixed with water and cream. It's REALLY good. Add a vegetable and some liquid bread, and you're good to go!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Recent Adventures

The furthest our Eurpoen travels have taken us so far is a 3 hour drive away. First to Stuttgart to pick up our car (POV=Privately Operated Vehicle), then to Salzburg which we actually traveled by train to see, but driving would take about 3 hours...then 2 weekends ago we drove to Grafenwoehr to do some shopping at a larger American base. On the way we drove through three different snowstorms and sat in a lot of traffic, due in part to the weather but mostly people returning from holiday. From the Autobahn we saw villages and which really caught my interest, so after shopping, on our way home to Garmisch we took a quick detour to check out Regensberg. It was amazing to see this little city that was once enclosed and had a main entrance that reminded me of Robin Hood or the Three Musketeers when they go racing in and out of the city on horses to take care of some important business. I grabbed this photo as we were stopped at a traffic light, just before driving through it. Sorry, it was dark, so the pictures weren't spectacular...especially from the car.

The thing that originally caught my eye from the Autobahn as Ben drove was the cathedral that you could clearly see from a few miles away. It took some searching in the old city with lots of one way streets and pedestrian only zones, but we finally found it and got out of the car for a few minutes to investigate. I definitely plan to go back and learn more and hopefully see inside.

If you follow us on Facebook you might have heard that we went night sledding last Friday. What a riot! They actually open easy ski runs and take you up in a gondola so you can sled down the partially lit ski runs. They don't use saucers-that would be a BAD idea. They use mostly 2 kinds of sleds. Ben was able to borrow a couple of "bobs" to use. You sit down, with your feet in the air in front of you and hold onto a joystick. You have to learn to shift your weight and use your arms and legs to steer and stop. It took us a few runs to catch on, but we had good teachers. Ben's supervisor, Sonya and her Husband Matt and kids Sara and Adam were there as well as a few others from their floor at work. I followed Sonya down the hill and watched her not only stay on the "bob" but take one of the kids on her lap...she's a pro!

So you get off the lift, get in a line, and go in small groups so that you don't create big mobs for crashes. It really was fun-and nobody got injured!

Below is an example of the other popular kind of sled. It looks like and old school wooden toboggan on rails. In winter you will see adults pulling children around town on these all the time. It's pretty cute. I didn't try this kind-I wanted to master the "bob" but Ben did, he said it was just as hard to, he went back to the "bob" too.

Here you can (barely) see what part of the sledding hill looked like. I would say there were about 5 different segments or hills connected together. Some spots were steeper or curvy and some spots were so flat you might have to push yourself along a bit. It was really fun until the end-it became really icy and there were moguls and jumps that it appeared people had dug on purpose-but if you couldn't see them you were at the mercy of the hard plastic slamming the ice as you landed on your bum, hopefully without falling off. We both fell off plenty of times but were not hurt except for some sore muscles the next few days. We also enjoyed a stop at the lodge (or Hutte) at the top of the run for some drinks, bratwurst and cheesy music. It was a fun night that I'm sure we'll repeat.

I can't remember if we mentioned that we had to take a driver's test to get a European driver's license. Well, we did. The Army requires that you sit in a class and take a test in order to have a German driver's license during your stay. We did that a few weeks after we arrived. Then we found out that you should get an International Driver's License also so that when you drive to other countries you will not have any problems. So we went to the German DMV with our licenses and our Euros and got our IDLs so we could drive into Austria which is right over the mountains. Sledding, by the way was in Erwald, Austria.
I had been looking forward to driving in Austria because Innsbruck is only an hour away. So, when my friend Corie had a day off last week, we drove down for the afternoon and enjoyed some shopping, food and sightseeing. Obviously, in one afternoon we didn't get much further than the Swarovski shop, but lucky for us, right outside was the Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof). It is amazing to see things that are centuries old. Americans have such a unique history compared to places in Europe. What we think of as old has nothing on these cities.

The arcitecture and ornateness of it all is astounding. You really have to stop and think about what you are looking at and realize that people have been looking at and using these buildings for longer than you can imagine. How many people in history have had this exact view from where I stood as I took these pictures? Royalty, Peasants, Soldiers, Farmers, Merchants...Tourists. :)

Corie and I had a fun girls day out and really enjoyed the winter wonderland exhibit at the Swarovski shop. I'm not exactly sure what the chair had to do with it, but it sure was fun for taking pictures and goofing off.

One of the cool things about Innsbruck, and Austria in general, is that the buildings tend to have bright colors. This picture was taken late in the day with little sun, but you can imagine the bright blues, reds, yellows and greens that liven up the city.

So we still have a lot of Europe to explore, but considering what we've seen in just a few days and hours of sightseeing so far, it almost exhausts me to think of what we have planned for the next few years. Almost. Really, I can't wait!

Friday, January 1, 2010

International New Year

When we moved into our apartment we were a little nervous about meeting our neighbors. They are all German, of course, and we had no idea whether they would speak English or be interested in befriending us at all. Well, we are very pleased. The people above us keep their apartment as a vacation home and come only on weekends and holidays (we have yet to meet them and since they are rarely around, we are not likely to be a bother to them at all or vice versa!), the man next to us does not speak English, but Ben can communicate with him and he has been friendly and polite when we see him. But the jackpot are the other upstairs neighbors. They are a sweet couple who have been married for 43 years. They have no children but are very social and seem to know everyone in the neighborhood. They gave us a warm English because he was an English translator for the German Army before he retired and she speaks very well also. Herr and Frau Fehler have traveled to the States many times and have been to Utah. They are very outgoing and fun people to be around. Many Germans may be friendly on the street but might never invite you into their home. The Fehlers have invited us in twice. The first time was when we first moved in and introduced ourselves (new neighbors introduce themselves in Germany) and the second time was at their invitation.

They invited us up to have a glass of champagne for New Years Eve even though they had good friends visiting. Their friends were also wonderful English speakers who had been to the States and included Utah in their travels. We had lots to talk about since they have known each other for 40 years and we were just getting to know them. At times Ben and I had to remember to speak slowly and not use too much slang so that it was easier for them to understand us, and they at times relied on each other to help translate a word, phrase or idea, but all in all I don't think much was lost in translation. :)

At midnight we went onto their balcony which faces part of the mountain range and the Marshall Center (where Ben works) and Edelweiss Lodge (American resort). At around 11:45 pm the fireworks began...not only the official fireworks at the Edelweiss but the fireworks in everyone's yards...yep, real shoot up into the sky and explode fireworks-the ones that are illegal in the States. Literally, almost every yard was setting them off all around us...and when you looked up to the mountains, the different lodges were setting them off as well, so you could see what looked like colorful sparks shooting up into the sky from the mountainsides and mountain top. The fireworks lasted over 30 minutes and were accented by the Blue Moon. Absolutely amazing. It was breathtaking...and noisy. Storm hated it and hid in her crate under our stairs. Poor thing.

But for us, it was an amazing New Year. Totally unexpected, totally exciting, and one we hope to continue enjoying all year with good friends: German, American, who knows...

Happy New Year friends.

Herr and Frau Fehler, Esther, Oswald, Irene, Ben