Thursday, December 29, 2016

Predjama Castle and Postojnska Cave

Our first stop today was the police station.  We had to register as visitors to Slovenia.  This happens all the time when traveling internationally but generally your hotel takes care of it, but since we are staying with a friend, we all went to the station today to register.  It was really easy and we were in and out in about 30 minutes.  We handed over ids and passports, the officer recorded it in his book and off we went.

We were going to spend the day in Ljubljana but we decided to change our plans and out of city since the registration process hadn't taken too long.  Ben woke me up at 5:30 so I ended up sleeping through the drive, but we ended up at Predjama Castle.  It is a castle built into a cave.  It had several levels and was built right into the side of the mountain and into the cave behind it.  We felt first hand how miserable it would have been to live there.  It was cold while we were there and most of the kids were not impressed.  It was really a neat building though.  A nice Robin Hood-style story always makes things more interesting too.

Cave and Castle as one!

After the castle we went to Postojnska Cave.  I like caves but wasn't expecting much above and beyond what we've seen in the states.  There is a train ride involved so I have been talking this up to the kids to get them excited.  Well, this was quite the experience.  To start us off, we ate our squished pb & j sandwiches in the cafeteria.  It was nice to be warm.  Then we walked up to the cave entrance and found a little bit of Christmas still hanging about.  There were market stalls selling handcrafted wares, various musical groups sharing their talents and best of all, a large fire in the middle of it all.

The fire is in front of the kids.  So toasty warm!

We had wait a bit before our tickets were called and the kids admired some sheep penned just outside the cave entrance.  We boarded our train and started our journey into the bowels of the cave.  5 kilometers are open for touring.  3.5 kilometers are viewed by train and the remaining 1.5 are walked.  The train isn't the kid train at the amusement park.  It's basically benches secured to a moving flatbed and moving at about 12 mph through the cave.  The cave was well lit so we were able to see a lot.  Hyrum was able to get some awesome cave pictures.

This week there is also a Live Nativity going on for a couple hours everyday.  We decided to do that tour and I am so glad we did.  They did an excellent job, demonstrating scenes like Zacharias being told of John's birth, the Angel visiting Joseph and telling him to marry Mary.   There was music and light throughout the cave.  The last scene was of the birth of Christ.  It was beautiful.  There was a women dressed as an angel who sang Silent Night in Slovenian as well as English.  It was a special event and I am glad we were able to make it work.  All of our kids really enjoyed it as well, even the ones who aren't into caves.  

We decided to head to Italy for some dinner.  I asked the kids what kind of dinner we should have and it was unanimous "Pizza".  So off we went.  Thankfully Italy was only about 45 minutes away.  That brings our country count up to 10.  We also started playing the license plate game with European countries.  We're up to 23.  It's been a couple of good days.  The kids were almost begging for bed tonight.  Tomorrow we are going to check out Ljubljana.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Munich--Slovenia Road Trip

We left Munich today and headed to Slovenia.  We rented a car to maximize our mobility on this leg of our journey.  As we rolled down to the train station this morning to pick up the car and shoved everything in to our car, we were really glad that on this road trip we are only unpacking once.

We drove through Austria and into Slovenia which took us through the Alps.  After a little bit of drama getting our rental set up back at least an hour, we opted for the scenic but faster route through the tunnels in the Alps.  We still had plenty of beauty to take in but it was an hour shorter drive.  The mountains were gorgeous.  Some of them looked freshly snowed on.

Hohenwerfen Castle or Schloss Adler from "Where Eagles Dare"

The trunk on the first car didn't close securely so the kids and I waited
in the parking garage while Hyurm went back to sign the forms
 for the new car.  We were a bit cold but it was the perfect time to eat lunch.

I'm looking forward to seeing Ljubljana tomorrow in the light as it dusk and dark when we crossed the border and arrived at our destination.  We're staying with the 80 year old mother of one of Hyrum's professional colleagues.  We are up for the adventure and so is she.  Tomorrow, we'll go register at the local police station.

This is just a picture of our bedroom as I got everything packed.
 I'm glad it was much larger than our other rooms so I could spread things out a bit.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

Our time this holiday season has been filled but not hectic, rich but not expensive, simple but not lacking.  We have spent time together but not at the expense of sleep or other needful things.  It has been the most Christmas-y I've felt in a long time.

The song "Silver Bells" has new meaning with the "busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style".  We've had fun enjoying window displays and lights lining the shops and vegetable stands.  The Christmas markets brought a spirit of giving as we thought about things to share with loved ones back home.

On the spiritual side of things, we've tried hard to talk a lot about the Savior, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas-time.  We've tried in our ways to follow the Light the World Advent Calendar.  As we've worked on this with our family, our children have responded with a greater interest in family history and a better eye for those in need.

Last night we shared a nice meal with new friends who were also alone and far from home.  We learned about their cultural traditions and shared a little nativity skit.  We felt the Spirit of the Lord as we sang the songs of the nativity.  I felt the love of the Savior as I embraced our new friend and she expressed her gratitude for the invitation. After the kids were in bed, Hyrum and I reflected on the blessings we've seen these past months and the way the Lord's hand has been in our lives.  For the first time in years, there was no tv or music last night to detract from the Christmas Spirit.

Hannah as the Angel, Charlotte, Rachel and Spencer as shepherds.

This morning, after a brief disturbance at 2:30 am, the kids dumped out their boxes and exclaimed over the treasures they found.  The church bells nearby rang at 8:00, as we were getting ready for church.  I thought about the song "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day".  The verse "Then rang the bells more loud and deep; God is not dead, nor does he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail ; With peace on earth, good will to men" ran through my head.  I truly believe this. 

Our Christmas boxes, instead of stockings, this year.

Our tree with the best of presents underneath, heartfelt notes of love and gratitude.

We went to church and enjoyed the Christmas story found in Luke and Matthew and Christmas Hymns.  I love Christmas Sundays. 

I hope the love of God shines in your hearts today and forever.  May we be the Lord's hands and be His bringers of peace and hope to this world. 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Playing Catch Up

The past couple of weeks have flown by in preparation for Christmas, trying to get in the last few things we wanted to do here in Munich and hanging out with friends.

On the 15th, the kids and I met friends at another Christmas market during the day.  We weren't even there for a couple of hours since it got really cold.  We did enjoy some wurst--the kids liked the bratwurst, I really liked the Rote Wurst (red sausage)--Pommes frites (french fries), roasted nuts and kinderpunsch.  The wares were pretty similar to what we had seen at other places but they had an section with animatronic characters.  There was a moose, Hansel and Gretel, and several Santa Clauses.  They sang or told stories.  There was also a large sleigh.  All of the kids wanted to sit on the reindeer, of course.  We had a good time with friends that day.

The next night,  Hyrum and I found a babysitter and went on a date, the first time since leaving the states.   It was nice to spend an evening together.  It was only a couple of hours but it was nice to have someone else put the kids to bed and we could enjoy a dinner without worry about who was going to spill their water.  We wandered about a bit and just enjoyed an evening in the city.

Christmas has been on everyone's minds.  We didn't bring any decorations from home so we've made a lot.  One thing I wanted to get while we were here was a nativity set.  I've been looking for the past 11 years and haven't found one I loved.  The Marienplatz Christmas market has a section that is just nativity supplies.  We went there and I found a beautiful nativity.  It's plain, simple but I love it. I'll build a stable when we get home but this will do for now.

We put that up and then the other thing we lacked were stockings.  At home, we have boots that go under the tree.  We weren't sure what to do this year so Hyrum gave Hannah the responsibility of devising something for Santa to put gifts in.  We ended up decorating cereal boxes.  The kids had a blast doing that.

We also had some friends over to make Christmas cookies.  I didn't get any pictures of that since I was up to my elbows in dough and sugar most of the time, but my friend shared hers.  It was a bit chaotic with seven kids running around "helping" us make cookies but after the friends left, I realized how grateful I was for them.  It's been lonely these past months and it was nice to share some of our life with some new friends.

I finished the blanket I was crocheting.  I love finishing projects, especially when they are so useful!

This is our mug collection from the Christmas markets we attended.  A fun souvenir from our time here, this holiday season.

Wednesday this past week we went ice skating at the Olympic park.  It was so fun.  I love ice skating.  We were there for nearly two hours.  Hannah, Jonathan and Charlotte spent almost the entire time on the ice while Hyrum and i switched on and off with the little boys who were happy to watch and wander around the seats in the rink.  There was a group of high school students there with us but it wasn't too bad.  It was great day together as a family doing something fun.

Outside the ice rink.  It was really foggy and cold.  In places, the cobblestones were icy as we
walked to the rink.  It would be a great place to explore in warmer weather though..

That afternoon Hyrum and I finished Christmas shopping.  I tried on some dirndls and we had one last mug of kinderpunsch.

This past week, I/we have tried to do something Christmas related every night with the kids.  Monday and Tuesday, we watched the First Presidency Christmas.  I am grateful for President Eyring's remarks and reminders about peace.  Wednesday, we sent postcards to some widowed and single women in our ward at home.  We had the kids each write one postcard.  Mostly they drew pictures and the older kids wrote a sentence.  Thursday, we watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and then Friday, we worked on a Christmas present for Hyrum's sister.

And then it was  . . . CHRISTMAS!!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Nuremberg or Nürnberg

When we first arrived in Munich I read and heard things about Nürnberg Lebkuchen (gingerbread).  In looking at different things I understood that it was north of Munich and near Nuremberg.  Well recently I finally realized not only was it near Nuremberg, it was Nuremberg.  Sometimes I forget that even place names are different in a different language.  I know Munich is München but it hadn't dawned on me that Nürnberg was the same as Nuremberg.   Anyway, after almost losing Charlotte at the crazy packed Friday-night Marienplatz Christmas, we decided that we should visit the Nürnberg market during the week to limit the crowds.  Nürnberg hosts the most famous Christmas Market in Germany.  

The castle has a city wall that extends around the Old Town.
Closer to the castle there were some interesting older looking buildings.  One even said 1648 on it.
At the very least it was a really charming section of the city.  

I wanted to visit the courthouse used during the Nuremberg Trials following WWII but we had to save that for next time.  Instead we visited the castle that looks out over the city.  It was a rainy and dreary day but we enjoyed walking through the castle.  It was really well done.

This was in the private chapel used by the Emperor or ruler depending on the time.

This two headed eagle was a motif we saw a lot of.
It is a symbol Empire and was used by the Holy Roman Empire.

After that we headed to see the Deep Well.   It is a well that is over 50 meters deep.   On the hour and half hour they have a demonstration.  We attended and it was really interesting.  The guide told us a bit of the history and then he lowered four candles into the well just above the water depth.  There was a camera attached to them so we could see the shaft walls and the candles as they descended.

This is a picture of the candles at the bottom of the well.

The stairs up Sinwell Tower.

After seeing the depths of the bedrock of the castle in the well we climbed up Sinwell tower.  The name means "extremely round" in High German.  It was a good climb.  This tower was one of two structures not damaged at all during WWII.  It was an interesting representation of a Germanic castle.  It was a stopping place for the court of the Holy Roman Emperor to preside over legal matters in the area.

Exterior of Saint Sebaldus Church.

After the castle, we visited Saint Sebaldus Church.  It was another great church to walk around in.  We enjoyed looking at the stained glass windows and reflecting on the Savior.  Ben is getting really good at picking our representations of Jesus where ever we are.

Then it was time for the Christmas Market.  We browsed a bit and bought a few souvenirs.  We laughed at the Prune People for which the Nürnberg market is famous.  Hyrum enjoyed a Nürnberg sausage sandwich and we shared our traditional Kinderpunsch and roasted almonds.  We slowly wandered back tot eh train station as it started to get dark.  We enjoyed the sights and sounds of Christmas and just  enjoyed being together.

Charlotte was taking in all of the different Prune People.

I love these wood carved scenes. These are a German decoration.
They are historically lit by candles but now they were all wired for electric lights.

The kids enjoyed this Playmobil display.  We couldn't tear Ben away!

There are hundreds of stalls each with something a little different.

We stopped at several store windows on our walk to catch the train.

After our awesome dinner at Burger King, We couldn't find seats on the train so we hung
out in an open section and provided entertainment for everyone stuck beck there with us!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Schwabing and Chinese Turm Christmas Markets

Friday we decided to head over to the Schwabing Christmas Market.   It has a reputation as an artsy market and it did not disappoint on that front.  We walked into the market on steps and a ramp flanked by a sculpture garden featuring sculptures of animals and other things for sale.  Some of them were really cool.

The sculptures and the market lights!

Hyrum gets up close and personal with this peacock sculpture.

There were a lot of these garden ornaments stuck in the planters around the market.

Every market has knit and woolen wear.  These stalls are so colorful and fun to look at.

Woolen cap stall

We saw a lot of jewelry, pottery, carvings and other interesting handmade crafts.  

I like these people.

Saturday, we decided to head over to the Chinese Turm at the Englischer Garten to check out that Christmas Market.  It was a beautiful day, much warmer than the previous weekend.  We saw several Santa Clauses and they were handing out chocolates to the kids.  Again, we enjoyed checking out the stalls, drinking kinderpunsch and enjoyed some pretzels.

The kids loved looking at the little ornaments.

After the Christmas Market, the kids floated sticks and leaves in the stream until our bus came. 

Poor Ben was so tired.  After I unbuckled the Ergo he slept like this
for several minutes until the other kids woke him up.