Friday, November 30, 2012

wine country, reisling style.

A few weeks ago we had the privilege to help pick grapes at a (semi) local vineyard.  Our region here, Rhineland Phalz, is part of wine country and particularly known for Riesling wine.  It was a fun experience and a great way for kids to help and get energy out.

After we helped pick a lot of grapes for the family that owns the vineyard, we got to learn and see more of the wine making process.  Another neat experience to hang onto for our family.  They also fed us a generous german meal for helping, delish!
Up and down the rows and grapes... yummmm :)
The girls were such great helpers!
The batch our group picked which equals out to over 1,000 bottles of wine!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Thanks to wonderful grandparents we got away for a night in Luxembourg.  It was a quick trip but it was so much fun.  We walked and explored and took a lot of time to sleep and read good books!  Thanks Chuck & Karen for giving us a break and time alone.  We just keep falling more in love with each other and time alone reminds us that we are so blessed to have one another.

We took a full day to explore Luxembourg and spent the night away.  Luxembourg was a really unique city with it's own language and style even though it's the smallest country in Europe (with the highest income per capita). Most of the locals speak at least three languages, pretty amazing.
A random beautiful door.
In the city there is a massive ancient fortress that protected the city in medieval times.  The city of Luxembourg was taken over by many different countries through the years and the forts were modified to fit the wars going on. We took a walk through part of the underground fort and it was huge.  From the picture above (and below), the biggest fortress is on the left wall and goes deep into the earth and even under the river.
Notre Dame.
Always a backerei to be found in Europe, and beautiful too.
My namesake.

On the way home we visited the Luxembourge American Cemetery and Memorial.  It was a sobering remember of the ugly past in this beautiful country.  As General (later President) Eisenhower said and is quoted here, "All who shall hereafter live in freedom will be here reminded that to these men and their comrades we owe a debt to be paid with grateful remembrance of their sacrifice and with the high resolve that the cause for which they died shall live eternally."
One of two maps of the Battle of the Bulge offensive.
This silences anyone, beautifully sad.
General Patton's grave.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

visitors & berlin.

Chuck & Karen were able to visit us again and bless us with their company and give us a night from the girls.  It's so nice to get a break for a day here and there.  Since they've been here before it was fun to explore a few new things with them.  We generally got out and about and then relaxed and then started that cycle again--it was great!
Evelyn is so comfortable in her skin these days and trying new things often.  She even let Grandpa jump with her on the trampoline at the park!  She's so brave.
Norah is brave too -- always ready to try the newest items at the park here. She's totally into the zip line here.

We took the train to Berlin and "only" had to transfer 6 times!  It was a beautiful city with (again) so much (recent) history.  Seeing the Berlin Wall and learning more about the history was really fascinating.  The first day there we did a hop on hop off bus tour with 20 stops.  Anytime you wanted during the tour (it was also audio guided) you could hop off and explore and another bus would come every 15 min. Great concept for touring in a big city.  We hopped off a few times to explore some sights. Berlin offered beautiful architecture that is fairly new (since majority of the buildings were destroyed in the war) and unique outdoor "museums" for tourist to read personal stories about the Wall and what people as well as soldiers were going through during those years of separation.

The second day we went back to highlights from the day before to see more detail and get a better feel for the city.  We were blessed to have rented a very relaxing apartment for our time there and took the train to get places in-between.  I would highly suggest Berlin to anyone who is thinking of going - lots of beautiful new architecture and again history!
A great family photo infront of Brandenburg Gate - although our camera stopped working on the way to Berlin so it's a little grainy due to an emailed photo.
Behind where we're resting is part of a free museum where parts of the Wall still stands.  In front of the wall there are frames of stories and how the Berlin Wall came about and how it came down.
The whole gang :)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

battle of the bulge.

It goes without saying that one of the great benefits of living in Germany is the vast amounts of WWII history nearby.  The closest city to us, Kaiserslautern, was heavily bombed in 1944---nearly 60% of the city was destroyed.  In fact, just a few months ago, engineers found an un-defused bomb downtown while doing construction and 3,000 people had to be evacuated.

I recently had the unique opportunity to do a day trip to Bastogne, Belgium (and the surrounding areas) with a group from work.  One of the attorneys here is a WWII history buff and acted as our guide.  We followed the route of a German advance through Marnach, Clervaux, Longvilly, Margeret, Neffe, and Bastogne.  Actually seeing the sights was a fantastic way to learn of the stiff US resistance along the way that ultimately turned the tide of the Battle of the Bulge.  We were also able to see the 101st AB command post in Bastogne where Gen McAuliffe famously made his one-word reply to the German's call for surrender: "Nuts!" We also had the privilege to meet a veteran that was back in Europe for the first time since the war---a NGO from Belguim paid his way to come over for a tour of the command post and other sights.

I'm a huge Band of Brothers fan, so it was a solemn experience to be able to see the foxholes where Easy Company spent their winter of 1944/45 (and ultimately made their way into Foy).
One of 23 sherman tanks that helped defend the castle in Clervaux, Luxembourg
 Battle of the Bulge Memorial (Bastogne, Belguim)
We are constantly reminded of the sacrafices of the brave men and women who died in WWII for the betterment of the human race.  This is the grave of the nurse from the Band of Brothers epidode "Bastogne."  She was killed in a German bomb raid on Christmas Eve.  While she was non-fictional, her aid station didn't serve the 101st Airborne.
Gen McAuliffe's office 
 The Ardennes forest where Easy Company (from Band of Brothers) fought.  The foxholes are still recognizable.  


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