Monday, January 11, 2016

Thompson, Berner, Schnell Christmas '15

So now that I've told y'all about Iceland I have to back up a little.  Eric's mom, sister, and step-dad came for a two week visit and we had a packed itinerary waiting for them!  We went to Iceland the last half of their visit, but I was so excited to tell you all about it that I'm sorta having to blog backwards now.

So just bear with me.
The best way to combat jet lag is to push through it, orrr glue your eyelids open, which I had seriously considered when we first moved here.  The first day of jet lag is hell, every cell in your body wants to sleep, but you have to force yourself to stay awake.  So when my in-laws arrived in Germany, 7 hours ahead of the time that their brains are used to, we put their luggage into our car and then jumped on a train to Wiesbaden's Christmas market!  We were hoping that distracting them from their jet lag would be their best bet for staying awake, and Christmas markets are pretty great for that!

Here's the thing though.... I did not take my big camera with me to Wiesbaden, Christmas is over, and I'm just not in the mood to share crappy pictures with you, and let's be honest... you all don't want to hear about another Christmas market.  Am I right?
We stayed just long enough for me to get a glühwein cup and to give Eric's family a taste of what German Christmas markets are all about.  I think they liked it!

It was important to my father-in-law, Warren, to visit the door of the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg (Vit-tin-berg) where in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses questioning much of the Catholic Church's practices and beliefs.  It is this theses that is said to have started the Protestant Reformation.  
In order to see this particular church we decided to make a long weekend of it and visit Leipzig and Dresden while we were at it.  Obviously, the whole Martin Luther thing was more up my in-laws' alley, not mine, but I'm always excited for an opportunity to see a new place, any new place- you won't hear me complain...eeeeven if I couldn't care less about the Protestant Reformation.

To ensure that Warren got to see the important door, we headed to Wittenberg first.

Glühbier- surprisingly really good!


Isabelle is now taller than her Aunt Nikki and Grandma LeAnn!


The Schlosskirche was closed so we were not able to tour the inside, we could only see the famous door and call it good.  But, I got another glühwein cup and Warren got to make a check off of his bucket list, the exact right things to make us happy, so we weren't totally bummed that the church was closed.  Wittenberg was actually one of those places that turned out to be a pleasant surprise- the Old Town was a mix of cutesy and traditional and it wasn't insanely crowded.

Now that we had the whole Martin Luther thing out of the way, we spent a day in Dresden and I couldn't wait to go there!  Dresden was on my "hopeful list," which is different than my bucket list.  My hopeful list is a little more realistic, and are places that if I didn't get to see my heart wouldn't be totally sad about it, but are still things that if I got the chance my heart would be forever grateful.  My bucket list, though, is completely nuts and unrealistic, but if my heart never gets the chance to do or see the things on it, my soul wouldn't be complete.  I am crazy ambitious, I like to daydream, I like adventure, and I like to make lists, so a hopeful list and bucket list is how I roll.

I was SO excited to see Dresden!

Eric bought these gloves for me for Christmas in Dresden, but I was too excited to wait until we unwrapped our gifts a few days later.  They're perfect for keeping my hands warm while taking pictures!

Church of our Lady Cathedral

Dresden is the capital of Saxony and is really close to the Czech Republic border.  Wikipedia says that the city used to be known as the "jewel box" because of it's architecture, which just so happens to be a sure fire way for me to fall in love with a particular city!  I LOVE wandering around cities with amazing architecture where I can people watch and take pictures!  And that is exactly what we did while my in-laws went to the green vault- one of the richest treasure chambers in Europe.  Personally, I don't think you can beat the crown jewels in England, so we passed on the green vault so that we could people watch instead, because once you've seen a diamond as big as your face, your heart is pretty content with the ridiculousness in the world.

We didn't spend all of our time outside in Dresden, even though I would have been perfectly happy to do so.... no, we actually got coffee, sat a good long while inside the Church of our Lady Cathedral and then had an awesome dinner at a cool hip restaurant right outside one of the Christmas markets.  Dresden was so worth every second we were there!  It really was a great day, and I loved it!

For our long weekend we rented an apartment in Leipzig since it was central to, and an easy commute to, Wittenberg and Dresden.  We took time to tour the main square each evening after spending most of our time outside of Leipzig, but it was insanely crowded and after long days the last thing I could handle was a thousand rude people all at once.  So I can't tell you that Leipzig was as incredible as Dresden, but I can tell you that it's likely Leipzig didn't get a fair shake.  Our apartment was in the perfect location, and our little neighborhood was actually pretty awesome, so to be fair.... I think my mood got in the way of really liking Leipzig, and I might try to convince my husband to take me back.

Leipzig reminded me a little of Düsseldorf- great shopping, but a lot like any other city you've ever seen.  But like I said, the neighborhood where our apartment was, was awesome!  I just didn't take any pictures of it.

On our way home we took a small detour towards Würzburg so that Eric's sister could tour the Residenz.  This was technically Eric's third visit to Würzburg, my fourth, and Isabelle's first (you can read about those HEREHERE and HERE) so we were not all that excited for this little detour, but it was important to Nikki.  Traveling is exhausting, even when you don't have jet lag to blame, and after a long weekend we were really ready to get home.  But we knew that this was important to Nikki, and we are here to help visitors have the absolute best trip ever, even when it means not being as excited about something as our guest.
So while my in-laws toured the Residenz, Isabelle, Eric, & I got coffee, wandered around a bit, and reminded ourselves to try to enjoy every moment anyway.  

My in-laws didn't get to spend a whole lot of time in our "home" town of Kaiserslautern.  During their two weeks with us we were at home for a day and half, gone for four, home for a day and a half, in Iceland for five, home for two, and then we said our goodbyes.  Eric tried to give them a small taste of what living in Germany is really like for us (spoiler: it's totally normal and almost exactly the same as living in the States.  After you adjust, it's toootally normal!), he took them to the downtown area where we do our shopping, showed them where he works, which is also where we pick up our mail; he showed them where Isabelle goes to school, where we get gas; they also went grocery shopping at the German grocery store we get most of our groceries from, you know... all of that typical normal stuff we all do no matter where we live.  It maybe sounds a lot more exciting, the whole living in Germany thing, until you see how normal our life is here, and then it just gets boring.

So, after we were sure that Eric's parents and sister had a good idea of how happy and normal our life is, we took them to Speyer for another (and our very last ever) Christmas market.

Speyer was a short simple drive from our house and I don't know why we haven't gone before, but I was glad to be able to add one more glühwein cup to my collection, and it was a great market to end our Christmas season here in Germany.
We ended the day by picking Isabelle up and going out to dinner at castle ruins near our house for a traditional German meal- a perfect ending to a great day!  Eric & I were so happy with how great of a day it was that we didn't even care that we got a parking ticket!

So there you have it, two entire weeks (minus Iceland, if you haven't read that one yet go HERE to read about one of our most favorite trips ever), in a nutshell.  We've got a lot of "lasts" coming in the next 8-10 months and so far we've survived two of them- last Christmas market and last visitors.  We had hoped to make Eric's family's trip as great and as authentic as we could.  I got the feeling that the cultural differences were a little harder for my father-in-law to adjust to than everyone else, so I can't be sure that he was as happy with his vacation as we had hoped.  But even so, Eric, Isabelle, and I feel so lucky to have had his family come and visit so that they could share in our experiences here!  

And that goes for all of the visitors we have been so lucky to have while we've been so far away.  We know the sacrifices made in order to make the leap across the ocean, and we want you all know how very thankful we are that you all came to visit!  

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