Thursday, December 6, 2012

An Austrian Alpine Weekend


This post is far overdo, but I guess better late than never!

I few weeks ago, shortly after our Amsterdam trip, Kyle and I took a relaxing trip to the Austrian Alps.  It was a beautiful three hour drive from our place, and Gizmo came along with us.  We stayed up the mountain from a small resort town called Imst.  We rented a cozy apartment with a fireplace and stunning views.  Just a minute's walk from the apartment was a skiing area, which was not open yet.  The town was extremely quiet since the winter sports hadn't started, but I'm guessing that in the winter it's a very busy place!  I think we'll have to go back during ski season and hit the bunny slopes with the Austrian kids!

The view heading up to our apartment
You can see the chairlift heading up to the slopes
The first evening we were there, we took it easy, walked around our area, and enjoyed some beef stew that I had made to bring with us.  One of the guest houses near our apartment had a cute little petting zoo complete with a donkey, horses, a couple of goats, and some eager ducks that came running every time you walked by, hoping for some food. 

Warming up with some hot cocoa
Night view from our place

The next day we headed to Innsbruck, which was about 45 minutes away.  It's a pretty town that hosted the winter Olympics in '64 and '76.  Lucky for us, it was the first day that their Christmas Market was open!  We enjoyed walking around the Alstadt, or Old Town, and drinking Glühwein at our first European Christmas market!  We enjoyed warming up by the fire that evening at the apartment.

Beautiful drive back to the apartment

We were planning on doing some hiking on our last day in Imst.  I had done some research, and just a five minute walk from our apartment were several trail heads.  We decided to make a loop, hiking down the mountain into town on one trail, have lunch, then hike back up to the apartment on another trail.  We had a beautiful hike down into town, with beautiful views overlooking the valley.  We had a really tasty traditional schnitzel lunch in town.  The restaurant didn't even mind Gizmo dining with us!

Getting close to town and lunch!
I was really excited for our hike back up.  I had read all about this famous hike called the Rosengartenschlucht.  It runs alongside a river that cuts a ravine deep into the mountain.  At the beginning of the trail, you pass by several houses built right into the cliff, then you hike up the ravine, crossing back and forth over the river, and even through a couple of little caves, ending at a blue grotto.  Sounds pretty awesome, right?  Well we get to the trail head, and there's a board blocking the trail with a sign that said, "Verboten," or forbidden.  The trail was closed for the season.  We stood there looking at the trail head with disappointment.  We look at each other, and back at the wimpy little piece of wood blocking the trail, and of course proceed to crawl under it.  It was definitely worth it!  It was absolutely amazing!  I can see why they wouldn't want people to hike it in the winter.  It would be pretty dangerous when it's slippery and icy, but it wasn't winter yet, so we went for it!

 

Houses built into the cliff

 
Can't get enough of the view from the top!
On our way home the next day, we stopped in a beautiful little German town just across the border called Füssen.  The town dates back to Roman times, complete with a castle and a monastery.  It's just a few minutes from Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany's famous fairy tale castle.  We had a nice lunch, sitting outside in the sun.  We strolled around town for a little bit, then headed back home.  We really lucked out with the weather.  The entire time we had blue skies and sun.  What a lovely, relaxing time!  As usual, we would love to go back!



Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

We had a quiet Thanksgiving with just the two of us this year.  We're used to having two big meals with two sides of the family on Thanksgiving, so it was a lot different this year.  I managed to make a full meal with all the trimmings in my tiny German oven.  I'm so glad that Kyle didn't have to work!

Our menu was: brined roasted turkey breast, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potato casserole, homemade noodles, green bean casserole, homemade rolls, and pumpkin pie.  (I left out crabberries on purpose.  Both of us take about one bite of them each year, so I thought it would be silly to have them!)  Our oven is so small, that my roasting pan wouldn't fit!  I ended up using a casserole dish.  The turkey took up pretty much all of the space, so after it finished, I kept it warm while I was baking everything else. 



Since we're not able to share a Thanksgiving meal with our families this year, we can at least post some of the things that we are very thankful for.

So first I'll state the obvious.  We're so thankful to have such wonderful family (extended and immediate), on both sides! Our families truly love, support, and care for each other and actually enjoy being together.  Our families even enjoy being with each other's families!  How did we get so lucky??

Thanksgiving number one last year with Kyle's family
Thanksgiving number two last year with my family
We're very thankful for our awesome friends.  Some that we've known forever, and also new friends.  Life wouldn't be the same without them. 

We're thankful that no matter where we head off, we have family and friends that will make the effort to come and visit us!  I always look forward to our guests so much!  I bet that even if we lived in Nebraska that they would still make the time to come and see us! 

We're thankful for our dog, Gizmo.  He's such a good, loyal little dog!  He's well behaved, and a good traveler, which is a must for us!  He's also the cutest dog ever!

Awwww, Gizmo!
We're thankful to have the opportunity to live in Germany.  We are addicted to travel, and this is such a perfect place to be!  We love the experiences of seeing so many places, and getting to know a new culture up close and personal.  It can be frustrating and annoying at times, but mostly, it's amazing and so worth it.

We're thankful to be Hoosiers!  I think that Hoosiers are extremely friendly and down to earth people.  We've met so many people that have visited Indiana or know someone from Indiana, and so many of them say that they are some of the nicest people they've ever met.  That's something to be proud of in my book!  I think growing up in Indianapolis in particular gives kids the opportunity to live in a big enough city without the harshness of a huge city.  People can give Indiana a lot of crap, but I would much rather be a warm and friendly person wearing pajama pants than a stuffy, arrogant person in an Armani suit and Burberry trench coat!  (Just for the record, I personally do not wear pajama pants in public :-) I think for the most part, Hoosiers have their heads on straight!

Most importantly, we're thankful for our Lord and Savior that has blessed us endlessly.  We know that as long as we keep our heads turned up towards Him, we do not have to worry. 

I hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We're sorry to miss out on the festivities in the States, but we'll have to make up for it when you all come over to visit!!

Coming soon to a blog near you: An Austrian Alpine Weekend.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Amsterdam




It's quaint, modern, laid back, fast-paced, old-fashioned and edgy all at the same time.  Amsterdam is a uniquely beautiful city.  We visited over Veteran's Day weekend with our friends, Alison and Travis, and had a wonderful time.  None of us had been to Amsterdam before, and I think it was all we expected, and more. 



It was a short one hour flight from Stuttgart.  We arrived in the afternoon and checked into our apartment.  It was a nice place in a popular neighborhood in the canal district.  Just down our street were a wide selection of bars, restaurants, and clubs, some more exclusive than others.  (There were a ton of Argentinian steakhouses throughout the city...anyone know what's up with that??)  We ate lunch at a place down the street that had an Italian, Mexican, and Argentinian menu.  It was pretty random, a bit like the city.

Our living room in the apartment
We spent our first day there doing what I love best;  wondering around, walking whichever way looks interesting.  In Amsterdam, every way you look is interesting!  There were actually little bits of blue skies that day, which I think is a novelty in the fall.  While walking around, we quickly found out that being a pedestrian in Amsterdam is a dangerous sport!  You have to watch out in every direction for street cars, buses, angry little smart cars, and by far the most dangerous vehicles were the bikes!  They were everywhere and intersections were pretty much a free-for-all.


We made our way through the old town, admiring the bridges and hundreds of canals, the stately houses that line the canals, and enjoying some Dutch beer along the way. That evening we ate at a traditional Dutch restaurant, at my request.  The food was wholesome and stick-to-your-bones good.  I had a hotchpotch, which was mashed potatoes mixed with carrots and onions topped with beef and gravy.  Kyle had chicken sate with peanut sauce.  The chicken sate seems more Thai to me than anything, but it was pretty much on every restaurant's menu.  Good thing it's tasty!  The food that Amsterdam is the most known for is the herring.  They eat it pickled or raw, sometimes on a sandwich with raw onion and pickles.  We weren't too interested in trying that!

We started off the next day at a bar/pancake house (random, right!?).  Pancakes are really popular there, but they're definitely much different than American pancakes.  They're HUGE and very thin, more like an unfolded crepe that can be topped off sweet or savory.  From the pancake house, we headed to the original Heineken Brewery for a tour.  We got to see the old brewery and taste wort.  Then, we were turned into bottles of beer and rode through the beer making process on a virtual reality ride.  Pretty fun!  There were a lot of interactive displays and cool things to see and play with.  The tour came with  three beers along the way...it was 5 o'clock somewhere!

Ready for the Heineken experience!
The brew master stirring up some wort
 
 We hit the big street market after the brewery tour.  There you could buy anything from lingerie, to fresh fish, to cheese or waffles.  We went for the waffles covered in chocolate!  They were gooey, warm, chocolaty goodness!  Travis also indulged in a fresh stroop waffle, another Dutch delicacy that he became obsessed with after trying them from a German grocery store during Dutch week.

From there, we took the Heineken boat (where we drank Heineken from super cool 007 can bottles) to the town center to pick up our free bottle openers (and use the bathroom :-).  We checked out a different part of town and had a quick bite at an Irish pub.  While we were eating, we witnessed a real Dutch protest (not quite sure what they were protesting, their signs were in Dutch).  After lunch, it was back to the apartment for much needed refueling of the batteries, the i phone's and our own.

My name is Guynn, Lori Guynn.  I drink my beer neither shaken nor stirred.
Enjoying the river cruise
Everyone knows that Amsterdam is notorious for one, the "coffeeshops", aka the pot joints (haha) and two, the red light district.  While we didn't visit any coffee shops (we could certainly smell them though) we did visit the red light district after dinner, just to say we did.  It's actually a very nice, historical part of town with nice restaurants and shops.  While you're shopping for a scarf, you could also shop for a "date."  It's kinda creepy; the prostitutes stood in windows lit with red lights.  They would look at you as you walked by, or some of them were busy texting on their phones.  The street also had a variety of  adult shops and "shows".  It was definitely very interesting to see, while leaving you with a sleazy feeling at the same time.

The red light district
Just outside of the red light district
We had tickets to visit the Anne Frank house on our last full day there.  (Thanks to Alison and Travis purchasing tickets online, we didn't have to wait two hours in the cold to get in!)  We started the day with a delicious breakfast/lunch of sandwiches before heading to the house (where unfortunately you can't take pictures).  Our tour started with a 30 minute introduction.  We were then able to walk through the museum and attic apartment where Anne Frank lived with her family and another family for two years until they were captured by the Nazis.  It was really interesting and of course depressing.  It really makes you appreciate all that you have.

Kyle's lunch: open faced roast beef with capers, Parmesan, and truffle mayo
Down the street from the house.  Anne listened to the bells of that church.

More randomness
That evening we took an evening cruise on the canals.  It was really pretty to see the city from the water with the bridges and houses lit up.  We were also able to see parts of town that we never would have made it to otherwise.  


Our flight back to Stuttgart was at 4:30 the next day.  We spent our last bit of time in Amsterdam eating tasty food and doing a bit of shopping.  We had an awesome time, and Alison and Travis were great co-travelers! We would all love to go back again, maybe when it's warm and sunny!