Sunday, September 12, 2010

Castles and Cathedrals

Yesterday we did more exploring with the girls. We went to the old part of Bamberg to visit Bamberger Dom (the cathedral) and the rose garden.

The roses were beautiful, and Ellie and I had a nice time wandering through and stopping to smell the roses.

In the cathedral Ellie took me on a tour and lit some candles. She made sure to tell me several times that we needed to be very quiet because we were in a church. :)

I loved seeing the old buildings with the traditional medieval woodwork. I could imagine the people who have lived and worked there over the ages. It's strange that we now drive cars around on the cobble stone streets where monks lived or knights rode their horses.

After Peyton's nap, we visited Altenburg, an old castle on the highest hill in Bamberg. The view from the tower was beautiful, and the buildings were even older than those at the cathedral we visited earlier in the day. We saw a strange cage where apparently the Bamberg Bear used to live. You could see where the moat used to be, and there was a dungeon and a drawbridge. There was even a man singing midieval songs just past the portcullis. It was great fun.

After a visit to the store, we drove home and took a short walk down the street to visit a carnival that had been set up because of some small holiday being celebrated here. We thought it would be a fun spot for the girls to play games and get some treats, but it ended up being a pretty lame little setup. Ha ha. There were only about three stands, the game ended up being a BB gun shooting game (not too great for little kids), and the people operating the games were puffing away on their cigarettes. But, there was at least a little merry-go-round and chocolate covered strawberries that made the girls happy.

Today we attended church, took naps, and went for a walk through the forrest. The girls put on a dance concert, then climbed and jumped all over the furniture, each other, and me! They are super cute and super exhausting! :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Neuschwanstein Castle

On Monday Casey had the day off, so he stayed home with Peyton and Brittney, Ellie, and I took a trip down to Neuschwanstein Castle. It was an all-day event since it took about 3 1/2 hours to drive there. It was a rainy and cold day, but the area around Neuschwanstein was still beautiful. The neighboring town was a ski town with steep, dramatic mountains and amazing lakes. It took us an hour after our arrival to actually get on a bus that took us up to the castle that sits on the mountain side, but it was amazing and worth the wait.

Neuschwanstein castle is famous for being the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty castle. Because of this, Ellie refers to it as Aurora's House. :) It was built for King Ludwig II of Bavaria who was a bit eccentric. He loved the operas composed by the German composer Wagner, and each room in the castle was decorated to represent one of the operas. The detail in the decoration is unbelievable. The detailed wood carvings, paintings, and furnishings must have taken countless man hours to complete. In Ludwig's bedroom, for example, his bed has detailed wood carvings of multiple Bavarian churches, the walls are painted with scenes from "Tristin and Isolde", his faucet is a sculpture of a swan with running water from a natural spring utilizing gravity for natural water pressure, and his toilet is designed as a throne! (I guess that's why we call the toilet the throne...) Between the study and the singing hall, Ludwig had an artificial cave built so he could reenact the grotto scene from another of Wagner's operas.

Interestingly, Ludwig only lived in his castle for a short time before his death. It was rumored that Ludwig was crazy, so men showed up at the castle with a psychiatrist to take him away to another castle for care and treatment. The day after he was taken away from Neuschwanstein, he and his psychiatrist were found dead in a lake. No one knows for sure whether it was suicide, an accident, or murder, but Brittney and I are convinced it was murder. Other Bavarian leaders who were tired of him spending so much money on the construction of the castle would have wanted his reign to be over. It wouldn't have taken a lot to convince people of Ludwig's insanity, considering his obsession with the building of his castle. Our guess is they convinced everyone Ludwig was nuts, then had him killed.

Because of his early death, Neuschwanstein castle was never completed. Despite that, the castle and the surrounding mountains are beautiful. We had a great visit.

Ellie was a trooper through our trip, and although she got a little tired from the hiking to and from the castle and the shuttle bus, she hung in there. She was great in the car. In fact, she kept Brittney and me entertained part of the time with her singing. We were all singing along to Disney songs (partly because we were trying to keep her awake until we got home and could get her to be at the correct hour). All of a sudden, at the climax of one of the songs, Ellie belted out in the loudest singing voice I've ever heard from her! She even hit the right notes in her belt voice! It was so unexpected and so hilarious that Britt and I were dying laughing! Ellie got a big kick out of her joke too, and we all laughed together. It was a fun day.

Friday, September 10, 2010


It's been pretty cloudy and rainy here the last couple of days. We've just been hanging out, playing with the girls, and running errands. It's been a challenge to get the girls on a normal sleeping schedule here, too. They're trying, but wake up several times in the middle of the night as their bodies adjust to the new time zone. Today was partly sunny though, and we took advantage of the better weather. We were able to head to the mall this afternoon where Casey had an appearance with the basketball team. Ellie and I came along and got Peyton's new mini basketball signed by all of Daddy's teammates. Then we went to the toy store and slid down the giant slide they have over and over again until Casey was finished.

We then wandered around Bamberg city center a bit. We strolled through an old church and through a street market where flowers and fruits and vegetables were being sold. Brittney and Peyton joined us for dinner and crepes by the river. It was a very nice evening.

We finished up the day outside playing basketball, sliding down the new slide we got at Toys R Us, and playing in the newly refilled sandbox. Ellie played with her long-lost neighborhood friends while Brittney and I investigated the overgrown garden. We discovered giant, disgusting, orange slugs eating all the plants! So gross! Brittney salted them to try to save the fruits and veggies. Yuck!

Tomorrow the forecast is more sunny weather, so we plan to wander around the old part of Bamberg and visit the cathedral.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Willkommen in Bamberg

My sister and her family are spending another year living in Bamberg, Germany. Since her husband, Casey, arrived in Germany three weeks ago, Brittney asked if I would help her and her two girls with the trip overseas. We arrived in Bamberg last night after 24 hours of traveling. All things considered, the flight wasn't bad. It was a definitely a different experience than flying with adults, but the girls were very good. I played with Ellie for half the flight, then kept on eye on Peyton for the second half. The hardest part of the trip was actually the airport in Paris. The transportation workers in France are on strike, which meant we waited and extra hour to get on our plane (sweating to death because it was so hot!) then sat at the gate for 2 more hours all because they didn't have enough workers to fill the plane with fuel. Apparently we are lucky our flight wasn't just canceled. It ended up being a long trip, but we made it.

As soon as I arrived, the driver that picked us up from the airport gave me a ride to Casey's first preseason basketball game. It was the only game I'll be here for, so I decided to go even though I was exhausted and dirty. We made it there at halftime. It was packed! The game was held at a practice arena, which was just like a small high school gym with stands only on one side of the floor. It was so crowded that when Lindsay, the wife of another player, found and led me inside, we had to squeeze in on the floor a foot away from the court to watch the rest of the game. It was still fun to be there, even though my feet were falling asleep from sitting Indian-style on the hardwood.

Today we played, saw some of the neighbor kids (Ellie was a little shy and hesitant to speak German to them again), ran some errands, picked up the loaner car, visited with friends from the team, and went to dinner. The girls are trying to adjust to the time change, so that makes things interesting. :) I'm adjusting to the time change a little too and fighting against a sore throat, but so far doing well. I'm looking forward to exploring Bamberg and some surrounding areas this week!