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!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Prague

While our visitors were here, my sis Kristin and brother-in-law Richie, Kyle had a stretch of four days off.   We wanted to do a short trip during those days, so we were deciding between Berlin and Prague.  After hearing such wonderful things about Prague from everyone who has been, and watching Rick Steves on Hulu, we decided on Prague.  It is an easy five hour drive from our place, and as usual, it was a gorgeous  and scenic drive.

We got to Prague in the afternoon and checked into our apartment in the Mala Strana neighborhood with a beautiful view of the river and the Charles Bridge. 
Kristin enjoying the view from the apartment
View of the Charles bridge from the apartment window
We headed out for the evening, with no particular destination in mind. One of my favorite things to do in a new city is wander aimlessly, and walk in whatever direction looks interesting. That's exactly what we did that first evening. We strolled across the Charles Bridge to the Old Town, taking pictures, looking at street vendors selling jewelry, paintings and sketches, and listening to the unique sounds of street bands. We made our way to the main square, which is so beautiful with it's Gothic towers, Baroque churches, and brightly painted facades. We decided that this would be the perfect place for our first Czech beer. The Czech Republic is famous for their beer, in particular, the pilsners and lagers. We were not let down!

One end of the Charles Bridge
It's easy to see why Prague is called the "City of Spires
 
Interior of a church off of the Old Town Square, now used for concerts
The Old Town square

We had dinner reservations that evening at a Medieval Tavern where there's a little show to go along with your dinner in a candlelit, pirate looking cellar.  I know, very touristy, but we are tourists, and it was fun!  In between dinner courses we watched sword fights, belly dancers, and musicians.  For a main course, Kyle, Kristin and I ate pork knee...I bet you didn't know that you could eat a pig's knee, did you?  Well, you can, and it was pretty good if you can get over how it looks. It was a great first night in Prague!

Kyle and Richie with their tasty dark lagers
An awesome view of the Prague Castle on our way back to the apartment

The next day we got up early, ate at a great breakfast place called Bohemia Bagel, and began our full day of sightseeing.   We started in the beautiful and impressive St. Nicholas Cathedral, which was just around the corner from our apartment. Then, we started the steep climb to the Prague Castle.  The castle is more of a huge complex of buildings and churches rather than what you picture as a castle.  It sits on a hill with amazing views overlooking the city.  (Right outside of the castle, I was very excited to see a band that was on the Prague episode of Rick Steves!)
The interior of the beautiful St. Nicholas Cathedral
View of the Prague Castle complex from above
The band from Rick Steves! (I'm a nerd, so what?)
St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle
A close up of Mucha's Art Nouveau stained glass window.  Gorgeous colors!
The burial place of St. Wenceslas
The working class houses of Prague Castle
After a full morning of Castles and Cathedrals, we headed to the apartment for some lunch and to rest up for the rest of the day.  Once we were recharged and refueled, we made our way to Wenceslas Square.  (Wencelas, as in the jolly good king, who was considered a martyr and saint, and is an important Czech figure since he's from Bohemia.)  Wenceslas Square is an important commercial and social center of Prague's New Town (it's not new though, it still dates back to the middle ages).  That day, they happened to have a street fair set up of traditional Czech food.  Lucky for us!  We got to try a really good sweet bread called trdelnik, where they roll the dough into a long rope, wrap it around a round metal rolling pin looking thing, and rotate over a fire to bake.  Once it's baked, they slide it off and roll it in sugar and nuts.  We enjoyed our trdelnik with hot wine, while Richie stuck with some beer and sausage.

The gigantic Czech National Museum at the top of Wenceslas Square
Trdelniks rotating over a fire, mmmmmm!
Warming up with hot wine and trdelnik (aka rolly bread in my language)
That evening we walked through the park near our apartment to a great restaurant, recommended by a local, called Olympia.  They had a large menu to choose from of traditional Czech food.  Kristin had delicious beef ghoulash with bread and potato dumplings, Kyle and Richie both had beef roast in a cream sauce with dumplings, and I had roast duck with dumplings.  I was very surprised when our food came out and they set half a duck in front of me!  It was melt in your mouth goodness!

Both dishes were mine!  I can't believe I ate the whole thing...just kidding! 
The next day we started out in the Jewish Quarter to see the Jewish Cemetery and a few of the city's historic synagogues.  The cemetery was really interesting and sad at the same time.  It was the only place available to Jews for burial for over 300 years, so it's said that some of the graves are stacked 12 deep.  The oldest gravestone there dates back to 1439.




After touring the Jewish Quarter, we admired the gorgeous Art Noveau buildings on our way back to the Old Town Square.  (Prague is said to be the best Art Nouveau city in Europe.)  We had lunch at a Spanish/Mexican restaurant that was actually really good!  We chose that restaurant because it was in the perfect location to eat outside and watch the famous astronomical clock in action. It's a tower clock that keeps track of not only the time, but position of the sun, astronomical signs, the saint of the day, ancient Czech time, etc.  Needless to say, we weren't quite sure how to read it, but it's really cool! It was built in 1410, making it even cooler!



You can see the Apostles parading by the top windows
That afternoon we hiked up Petřín Hill, a really nice park on a big hill. At the top of the hill is a small version of the Eiffel tower where you can go to the top for an amazing view of the city. It had been cloudy most of our trip, which made Kyle not overly happy with his photos. On our way down the hill, the sun decided to make an appearance, which made for a much more energetic Kyle! He went to morph speed to get in some good shots before the sun left us again. The city really did look much more cheerful in the sun, and so did Kyle!

Pretty sites on our way to the park
Petřín Tower
View from the top
Looking down the tower
Here we come, walkin down the street...
Soaking up the sun

A cool candid shot Kyle caught of a Czech woman.  What an interesting life she's probably experienced!

For our last dinner in Prague, we ate at a small Mom and Pop kind of restaurant, where we had another wonderful dinner. The Czech food is extremely hearty and filling, which is perfect for tourists on chilly days. (I wonder what they eat when it's really hot out?)

On our way out of the city the next day, we went to see a special sight that is important to our friend, Jason N. (who gave us awesome insider tips for our trip) and his family. His grandparents are Czech, and escaped Prague in 1938 before the Nazi invasion. They left behind a beautiful home and a bank, which became the Gestapo headquarters, and is now the Ministry of Industry and Trade. They moved to New York City, where they became successful once again.


The Ministry of Trade and Industry
Prague is a unique and wonderful city that we definitely plan to visit again. We loved the beautiful sights, intriguing history, tasty beer, and great company.