Friday, February 20, 2015

Home for the Holidays

For Christmas, Kyle and I were very blessed to be able to go home to Indiana and spend the holidays with our family and friends.  It had been a few years since we were home for Christmas.  Our first Christmas in Germany, Kyle's family came to our place, and we had a nice cozy holiday together.  Last year, my cousin Erin and her husband (back then boyfriend/fiance) were here for Christmas, and then we traveled to Indy shortly after.  We are very lucky to have always had family here with us, but it's not quite the same as being home for the holidays!

Kyle and I had been traveling like crazy the couple of months before Christmas.  We didn't have time to see a lot of our favorite Christmas markets locally in Germany, but we did have time to check out one new market that easily became one of our new favorites!  It was in a little medieval town about 45 minutes away called Bad Wimpfen.  They only hold their market for a couple of weekends, so it was crowded, but so atmospheric!  The little half timbered buildings looked like gingerbread houses and yummy smells of glühwein, bratwurst, and sugared nuts filled the air.  It was pretty magical!





We flew to Indy about a week and a half before Christmas.  It was great being there in time for all of the festivities and parties before hand!  We got to catch up with a lot of friends and family that we hadn't seen in far too long!  We got in the Christmas mood at parties with the Guynns, the Joests, the Wilsons, the Nelighs and many of our friends.

The Joests...Nice duck face, Dad!

Olive meets Great Grandmommy!


We <3 the Kruse family!

Hanging out with Uncle Jim!


We were so excited to see our niece, Olive, and our nephew, Isaac!  They change so much every time we see them!  They are just the cutest!

A cute little elf got off the plane from London!

Sadie loves Olive!

Peek-a-boo, Isaac!






Check out Isaac's Deutschland shirt!



Of course you probably know that we have a number of "American" foods that we have to eat when we go to the States!  Some items always on that list are pizza and Mexican food!  We also had some exceptional home cooked meals, like Dad's slow smoked barbecued ribs and Mom's chicken puffs!


We had very nice, traditional Christmases with our families on Christmas day.  It's a lot of fun now that we have little ones to watch with their gifts!  I'm so glad that Cory, Lynn and Olive were also there from London!


Sisters!








Cory was very happy with his own toys to play with!



Kyle just had two weeks off of work, and those two weeks flew by!  He had to leave the day after Christmas, while I was able to stay an extra two weeks.  Kyle wasn't looking forward to going back to Germany alone, but it helped that he had some beautiful snow and Gizmo there to greet him!




I was still in Indy for my birthday and New Year's.  I spent New Year's at a party with our friends Jason and Lydia while poor Kyle was at work!  Since Kyle wasn't there for my 30th birthday, I decided to have a fun girl's night out.  We had a tapas dinner at Barcelona, then went out for drinks on Mass Ave. The girls made it a fun birthday for me!



We had a wonderful time seeing everyone in Indy.  It was such a nice treat being home for Christmas. We look forward to our next trip to the States, when we'll be able to see some sun and green grass!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Vienna

Back in early December, Kyle and I took a four day trip to the beautiful city of Vienna, Austria.  It was a very short and easy non-stop flight from Stuttgart.  We arrived in early evening, although at that time of year it was already dark at that time of day.  There is a very easy train from the airport that took us straight to the city center, then a short walk to our hotel.  

Luckily it wasn't raining when we got there, but there was enough of a mist/drizzle to be annoying.  That was pretty much the case for our entire trip.  It was as cold as it could possibly be without actually snowing, which was very annoying.  Snow is very preferable to cold, windy, bone chilling rain!  Despite the bad weather, we absolutely loved Vienna!  It's elegant, grand, clean and I think one of the prettiest cities we've seen.

Our first evening we checked out a microbrewery and pub called 1516 that I had read about.  I think that place must have been owned by Americans!  Their craft beer was excellent, and the menu had everything you would expect at a brew pub...burgers, ribs, wings, barbecue etc.  It wasn't a very Viennese dinner for our first night, but I was very happy!  After dinner, we walked down to see one of many Christmas markets at the Karlsplatz.  It was a very pretty, atmospheric market, but we didn't hang around too long since there was no shortage of gusty rain.





The next morning after delicious croissants and coffee, we walked to see the Kaiserliche Schatzkammer, or the Imperial Treasury.  It was full of royal and ecclesiastical treasures, most of which were collected by the infamous Habsburg monarchy.  I think the crown jewels were the most impressive.





After treasure hunting, we walked over to see Vienna's most famous Christkindl markt at the rathaus.  Of course we had some glühwein while ducking in and out of stalls to hide from the rain.  (Snow would have been pretty magical at this market!)





From there we walked back to warm up at our hotel for a bit, stopping to see the impressive Stephansdom, or St. Stephan's Cathedral, on the way.  The Gothic church that stands today dates back to the 1330s, but was built on the ruins of two earlier churches that date back to the 1100s.



We had dinner at a nice little Italian restaurant, followed by drinks at a cool bar called the Onyx, with awesome views of the cathedral.


The next morning we went to check out the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, or the Austrian National Library.  The historic section that we went to see is located in what was previously the Hofburg Palace.  It's a nice place to visit just to see the architecture alone, not to mention the incredible collections of medieval manuscripts on display.





That evening, Kyle had arranged part of my Christmas gift at the Schönbrunn Palace!  The palace was the summer residence of the Habsburgs, and reminded me a lot of Versailles in France.  It was very Baroque, very grand and over the top!  After touring the palace (where no pictures were allowed), we enjoyed shopping and glühwein at the Christmas market outside of the palace.  Luckily, it wasn't raining at that time!  We then had a wonderful traditional dinner at the palace, followed by a a concert by a small symphony orchestra playing pieces by Mozart and Strauss. It was a great evening, and a wonderful early Christmas present.




We had a late flight back to Stuttgart the next day, but we had plenty of time for more touring.  We started off at the Museum of Fine Arts, which opened in 1891.  They had a great collection that was housed in a gorgeous facility.



 After lunch that afternoon, we went on a tour of the Vienna State Opera, built in 1861.  I think it was just as impressive as the Opera Garnier in Paris.  We also got to go backstage and see the crew working on a set for an upcoming production.  It would be pretty amazing to see something there!





Despite the pretty horrible weather, we absolutely loved Vienna.  We normally wouldn't have done so much tour and museum type of stuff, but they had plenty of sites to see to keep us busy and out of the cold rain!  Vienna definitely made the list of places to return to when it's warm and sunny!