Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Guynn Family Christmas in Deutschland

Christmas is a beautiful time in Germany. We loved discovering and starting new German traditions for Christmas, as well as enjoying familiar and well loved family traditions this year. We were very blessed  to be able to share our first Christmas here with Kyle's family.

I was very busy the couple of weeks before Kyle's family arrived. I worked hard to decorate the house, bake cookies and truffles, and plan our menus. Here are some pics of our decorations.

Our first live Christmas tree!
A new traditional German decoration that John bought for me in Salzburg; a little smoker.  You put incense in it, and it looks like he's smoking! So cute!

A new tradition; our Advent Wreath.  You light a candle each Sunday in advent as a reminder of the spiritual preparation for the coming of the Lord.

Kyle's parents, John and Diane, flew into Stuttgart on the morning of the 14th of December. They arrived just in time to see our eight inches of snow on the ground before it melted and turned to rain. Despite the weather and short days, we enjoyed every minute of their time here. The first day, of course we had to keep them moving and awake to acclimate them to our time. We headed to our favorite nearby town of Tübingen to check out the Christmas market. We strolled the old cobblestone streets, while browsing the many booths set up selling hand made crafts, gifts, and decorations. Diane's first purchase in Germany was fittingly chocolate! While Kyle and I warmed up with Glühwein, Diane had hot chocolate that was so thick, she ate it with a spoon! For lunch we stopped at a local brewery for round one of sausages, pretzels, and beer.

That evening we spent getting ready for our three day trip that we would be taking the next day to Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps with a day in Salzburg, Austria. We had an amazing time on the trip. We saw so many beautiful sights, so I'll tell you all about it in a separate post soon!

We returned home from our trip on the 18th. We thought about heading to Strasbourg, France the next day, but Kyle and I were feeling a bit under the weather. Instead, we spent the day relaxing, stocking up on food, and taking Gizmo for a walk. After a busy trip, it was nice to have a bit of R and R!

Kyle's brother, Cory, flew in from his home in London on the 20th. Unfortunately, Kyle had to work for his first three days here, but we still had a great time. After catching up over brunch, we headed to a really cool Christmas market in a town nearby called Esslingen. This Christmas market is unique because it is also part Medieval market. We were all becoming connoisseurs of Glühwein (or as John calls it, wobbly juice, because his first cup made him feel wobbly) and Cory and John became very good at following their noses to the sausage stands. We met Kyle at home after his long day of work and had some American style pulled pork barbecue and some of Diane's famous mac and cheese. Mmm mmm good! (I stole the pics from the days Kyle wasn't with us from Cory and Lynn.  Thanks, guys!)

The next day while Kyle was at work, we went to see the Hohenzollern castle. While it was very breezy and chilly at the castle on top of the hill, it was awesome because it seemed like we were the only ones there. It was like the castle was built there for our own personal viewing pleasure. On the way home we stopped in Tübingen for some window shopping and warm drinks and truffles in a cozy cafe. A great way to spend a dreary afternoon! (No apocalypse either! Two thumbs up! :-)
Cory's wife, Lynn, flew in the next day. She was arriving in Stuttgart from Cambodia. (She and Cory had a whirlwind tour of Asia starting at a friend's wedding in Thailand, then on to Vietnam. Cory had to go back to London to work a bit, but Lynn went on to visit family in Taiwan then to see a friend in Cambodia. Wow! Craziness!) Not surprisingly, Lynn's luggage didn't make it to Stuttgart with her, but they did deliver it that night. That afternoon, we headed to the Birkenkopf, or what the Americans call Rubble Hill. It is the highest point in Stuttgart and was built by piled up rubble from World War II. At the top you can see pieces of what used to be buildings in Stuttgart. There is an amazing 360 view from the top.

After our walk up the hill, we all were all a bit chilly, but Lynn felt like she needed to keep moving in order to stay awake. (I don't know how she was functioning after 24 hours of travel from a tine zone who knows how far away!) We headed to a place that car enthusiasts probably dream of! It's a place that you can walk around that has tons of beautiful classic cars for sale, as well as storage for awesome newer cars that most people only dream of driving. We had cake and coffee at their cute cafe, then drooled over the cars.

That evening when Kyle got home from work, I had made a big German dinner for all of us to enjoy. We had sauerbraten (a marinated beef roast) with vegetables, red kraut, and home made spätzle. (It was the meal we had tested out with my sister and brother-in-law when they came to visit.) It turned out really well once again!
Thankfully, Kyle had December 23rd-26th off. On the 23rd we headed downtown to Stuttgart to check out one of Germany's biggest Christmas markets (along with what felt like the entire population of Stuttgart!). This Christmas market has 280 booths selling anything from ornaments, to slippers, to chocolate covered fruit and hot sugared nuts. Every booth's roof was beautifully decorated with the most impressive displays that we had seen in any Christmas market. (Kyle and I had been to five different Christmas markets this year.) After the market, we all went to have dinner at the Restaurant Buesnauer-hof (courtesy of Kyle's Aunt Sharon and Uncle Jim. Thank you! :-) This restaurant has the tastiest German food that Kyle and I have had so far. It is in a house in a neighborhood run by a husband, who does the cooking, and a wife who does the hostessing and serving. We had garlic shrimp and salad for an appetizer. For our main meal we ordered four different meals to share, family style. We had schnitzel with jäger sauce, cheesy spätzle, beef in a pepper cream sauce, maultaschen with ham, and pork in a cognac cream sauce. For dessert we brought home Christmas tiramissou. It was all so delicious, we were in a food coma after we ate. I can't wait to eat there again!

The next day was Christmas Eve, although it didn't feel like it because it was 60 degrees outside! I hit the mall and the grocery store with John and Diane, while Cory, Lynn and Kyle slept in and played several rounds of the Settlers of Catan. On Christmas Eve, everything closes at 2 pm, so everyone and their brothers were out getting their last minute shopping done. We were successful in our shopping, and were finally getting the hang of barreling our way through the crowds. We spent the rest of the day at home, getting ready for Christmas!

Cory's victory dance
We didn't have a White Christmas, but it couldn't have been any nicer than it was. We started off with a nice breakfast of sausage and egg casserole, fruit salad, french toast casserole, and mimosa punch. (More wobbly juice!) We took a family picture for Grandmommie after breakfast while all of the presents still looked nice, wrapped under the tree. There were a lot of cool gifts this year, with everyone's travels through Europe, and Asia from Cory and Lynn. (John and Diane had European gifts for us too!) That afternoon, Kyle and I video Skyped with my family while we opened gifts we had sent to each other. We really missed being with them, but we're glad we got to "see" them!
Christmas breakfast
I guess Cory and I were the only ones that got the goofy face memo.
That evening we had the traditional Guynn family Christmas dinner of ham with pineapple, green bean casserole, baked beans, and most importantly Delicious Potatoes. (That is the real name of the potatoes, and they are so delicious we can only justify having them once a year because of all of the bacon and cheesy goodness!) For dessert, of course we had to have chocolate pudding pie. That evening we got to enjoy John's gift to us--the video and picture slideshow he made of our trip to Tulum, Mexico for Cory and Lynn's wedding. It was so nice, and of course made us all want to go back for a repeat trip as soon as possible! 

John and Diane had to leave the next day. They had a blizzard in Indianapolis to land in but, they made it home safely! Cory and Lynn still had the full day to spend with us here. We took a walk in the Schönbuch park through the tiny, historic town of Bebenhausen. Gizmo was happy to come along! We stopped to have some beer and snacks at a local brewery on our way home. That evening, we played a couple rounds of the Settlers of Catan. Lynn was out to get Cory, after his multiple wins a couple days ago! She won both rounds, even though Cory was wearing the lucky hat. I guess it's not lucky anymore!
Cory and Lynn headed back to London on the 27th. It seems really quiet around here now. Gizmo and I miss our pack! We had such a wonderful time with Kyle's family, and we can't wait to show them around Germany when it's beautiful and green in the summer! We are so thankful that they all took the time to come visit for Christmas. I hope everyone back home had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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