Friday, January 24, 2014

Christmas and a Proposal

We were lucky enough again this year to have family here in Germany with us on Christmas!  My cousin that studied for a semester at the University of Limerick in Ireland made the trip down here as soon as her finals were wrapped up.  While she was making her way from Ireland, her boyfriend, John,  was making the longer journey here from Raleigh, North Carolina.  They managed to find flights that arrived here in Stuttgart less than an hour apart.  (One less trip to the airport is always a good thing!)  Both flights were delayed, and they ended up at the baggage claim at the same time in different terminals.  Erin and John hadn't seen each other for the entire semester so it was a happy reunion for them!

They arrived late in the evening, so we enjoyed some Mexican food and relaxed a bit at home.  They managed to stay awake until we started watching TV, then they were both out of it pretty quickly!  The next day we had plans to visit a couple of Christmas markets in two beautiful German towns.  I love the German Christmas markets.  They're full of wonderful sights, sounds and smells that really put you in a festive mood.  (The glühwein, or hot mulled wine, served at all of the markets doesn't hurt the mood either :-)  My favorite Christmas market in the nearby town of Esslingen was our first destination.  Kyle was off of work and able to join us, but he just came off of a night shift, so he was in la la land until dinner time that evening!  The Esslingen Christmas market is also part medieval market, so it has it's own unique flair.

We left Esslingen around lunch time and drove about an hour and forty-five minutes to a gorgeous picture perfect town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  It's known for being a very well preserved medieval village.  Several movies were filmed there and it also inspired the village in Disney's Pinocchio.  It's Christmas all year round in Rothenburg with a Christmas museum being located there, as well as the original Käthe Wohlfahrt store.  The Christmas market was also still set up, so it seemed a perfect place to go a few days before Christmas.  We had a wonderful time walking around and enjoying the quaint atmosphere, despite a bit of rain and large crowds.  We had a great dinner with sausages, sauerkraut, and cheesy spätzle before making the drive home.  (These pics are all from the i Phone.)

The next day was a special day!  We went to visit the nearby and impressive Hohenzollern castle first.  It's just about a forty-five minute drive from our house.  We walked around the ramps leading up to the castle and arrived at an area with a beautiful view right before you enter the castle courtyard.  Kyle had his camera ready, and I had the iPhone ready to start recording when John started playing the songs he had written for Erin on his mandolin.  Then John had a neat video for Erin to watch on his phone featuring video clips from friends and family back home.  After the video, John got down on one knee and proposed!!  First with a ring pop, then with a beautiful ring with Celtic knots around the band.  It was such a special moment, in a beautiful location, with sun and blue skies (which was very unexpected of Germany in the winter!)  It was so nice, and Kyle and I were so glad to be able to see it!  After the proposal, Erin and John toured the castle (although I'm sure they had trouble concentrating) while Kyle and I had some cake and coffee in the restaurant.

On our way home from the castle we stopped in our favorite local town, Tübingen.  If you're a guest of ours, you will end up there at one point or another!  We enjoyed the sites around town before heading to eat at our favorite brewery, only to find out that they were closed for a few weeks!  We were all starving, so we weren't very happy about that.  We went to check out another restaurant I had wanted to try, but they didn't open for another 15 minutes.  We walked around the block a couple of times, and were standing there when they unlocked the door.  It was early, but we didn't have a real lunch so we didn't care!  The food was very good, and it was a cool atmosphere with stone vaulted ceilings.  It was nice trying something new!

Erin and John were heading to Munich by train the next day, which was Christmas Eve.  I dropped them off at the train station early in the morning, then headed home and took a nap before doing a bunch of cooking.  They had a nice time in Munich taking in the sites and enjoying hearty German fare at the famous Hofbrauhaus.  Kyle picked them up from the train station, and I had our Christmas Eve dinner ready when they got back.  It was a great dinner of Hoosier holiday comfort food.  We had glazed ham, twice baked potatoes, broccoli casserole, glazed carrots, and salad.  Right after dinner we headed out for a late Christmas Eve mass at a church on base.  It was a really nice Christmas Eve!

Christmas Day was a day of relaxation!  We slept in before enjoying our Christmas brunch.  We had homemade cinnamon rolls, egg casserole, bacon, fruit salad and mimosas.  Delish!  We opened presents after brunch, and then Kyle had to take a nap before going into work that evening.  Luckily he was able to spend part of the day with us!  We spent the rest of the day laying around, relaxing, eating cheese ball, chocolate fondue, and watching a movie.  We tried to Skype with our family, but I think the site was overcrowded with tons of people doing the same thing, so it crashed about every minute.  We had a really nice Christmas, but it was still weird not being home for the holidays!

On Erin and John's last full day here in Germany, we went to walk up the Birkenkopf, or Rubble Hill.  It's the highest point in Stuttgart, made from piled up rubble from damage during WWII.  It was rainy, but it kind of added to the gloomy vibe from the visible rubble.  On our way home we stopped at Meilenwerk, which is pretty much a showroom for any amazing car.  None of us are very into cars, but it's still a neat place to visit, especially on a rainy day.  That evening we headed to Triberg in the Black Forest.  It's a beautiful drive there, and as we got higher in elevation there was even a bit of snow.  Triberg is a cute little town in the Forest that has neat shops full of works by master wood carvers and cuckoo clocks.  We did some browsing in town before heading to the waterfall, where they had a special Christmas/New Year market and light show set up.  The market was small, but I think the neatest part was all of the Christmas lights they had lit up around the forest.  It looked beautiful, even in the rain!  They do a fire and light show at the waterfall that has some music, laser lights, fire and such.  I had heard good things about it, but honestly I wasn't too impressed.  I think it's a great idea, but it could've been taken much further.  Oh well.  Live and learn.  We still had a really nice time in Triberg!  (Thanks for the pics, Erin!)

The next day Erin and John were heading out for Switzerland!  They took a bus to Zurich, then a train to Interlaken where they spent a few days before heading to Lauterbrunnen.  After seeing their pics, it's definitely a place that we will be visiting!  After they left, Kyle and I had a couple of days to get ready for our trip to the US!  We had an awesome time with Erin and John.  They were wonderful (and tidy!) guests that we hope can come back for another visit when it's warm!  We are so happy for their engagement, and I'm crossing my fingers for cheap airfare for their big day on July 26!

Indy trip post will be coming soon!!  I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!

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