15 August 2018

Europe Trip: Day 6 (Hallstatt and Lofer)

Without a doubt, our most beautiful day in Europe was spent in Hallstatt, Austria. It's just stunningly gorgeous, and it's one of the places that I'd love to visit again one day.

I loved wandering around the Catholic cemetery. Plus it had a cat.

We also went into the Catholic church, and of course it was lovely. I really loved admiring the art depicting the stations of the cross in all the churches. It took me a while to figure out why every church had the same stories depicted, and finally one of them had them numbered, and it clicked.

The Lutheran church was not as ornate as the Catholic. I had read most of Eric Metaxas's Martin Luther before our trip (and finished it after), so I have a special place in my heart for the great reformer. When we first popped into the church, Eric's parents were behind us a ways. I mentioned to Eric that I wanted to sing a hymn to more fully appreciate the acoustics of the church. When other tourists had cleared out and we had the space to ourselves, we began singing "Abide With Me," which is one of our go-to hymns because Eric knows the bass part really well. We stopped singing when more visitors came in because we didn't want to make a spectacle of ourselves.

We wound our way back to Eric's parents, and then re-entered the chapel. In that second entry we paid more attention to the painting above the altar and realized it was Jesus on the road to Emmaus, which is what "Abide With Me" is all about. I asked Gordon to translate the words over the altar, and he said they effectively meant "Jesus Christ yesterday and today and the same in eternity. Lord stay with us."

We also enjoyed views of the lake and the mountains and the town. The mountains rise straight up out of the lake.

Eric basically belongs on boats.

After our boat ride, we rode the funicular to the top of a mountain. You can see the rails of the funicular in the below picture.

The views were amazing.

After Hallstatt we parted ways with Eric's parents and headed to our AirBNB in Lofer, Austria. Eric had hoped to visit Berchtesgaden, but we didn't have enough time. We saw a little lake on our way to Austria, and went for a walk. We saw teensy tiny frogs and a magnificently fat beaver. And we got ice cream.

14 August 2018

Europe Trip: Day 5 (Salzburg)

We spent that Monday in Salzburg. We saw the main sites, including some of the places where The Sound of Music was filmed. Although I liked Salzburg, there were other cities I enjoyed more on the trip, so my memories of Salzburg are already a bit fuzzy.

This is one of the more "iconic" photos with the bridge with all the locks, the big green-domed cathedral behind, and the "festung" up on top. (Apparently "festung" means fortress, or something. If I haven't mentioned already, I don't speak German.)

We went to the cathedral, and it was gorgeous, of course. I think by this time on our trip (a whopping five days in), we were already beginning to experience the law of diminishing returns. All the cathedrals are amazing, so seeing one more amazing cathedral becomes a little less amazing each time.

This cathedral is particularly beautiful because of how bright it is inside. Much of it is made with white stone, and there were several windows in the domes that allow a lot of light in. In addition to the main organ, there were four smaller organs. I would love to hear all of them playing together.

We also went up to the festung. I was not blown away by that experience, but the men loved it. The festung includes a museum devoted to this particular miltary unit through the centuries. Eric would probably love to tell you about it, but I spent much of that time looking for benches, which were scarce.

But at the end, they had one of these things, so that was awesome.

And then when we finished the museum, we had pretzels while we looked over the city.

That evening we went to a really cool dinner concert. The dinner was the best meal I had in Europe. All the music was composed by Mozart. A string quartet accompanied two singers, and they performed several pieces from various operas. It was lovely. While we waited for that to start, we popped over to the church right next door. Yet again, it was a beautiful church. But I loved the cemetery more.

That night we returned to our hotel in Germany.

13 August 2018

Europe Trip: Day 4 (Ancestral Towns of Walldorf and Wasungen)

I just got back from a nearly 5,000 mile road trip, so I'm ready to pick up my Europe posts! (And obviously there will be posts about our road trip as well.)

On Sunday we went to church at an LDS branch in a town called Jena. The branch was a little difficult to find because it meets on the second floor of a city building. I found it, though. And I am still immensely pleased with myself for being the one to spot some LDS type-setting and know that we had arrived at the right location. (If we had stood around on the street long enough we would have seen people who we suspected to be LDS headed into the building, but we were there a bit early.) Also, mine and Eric's headsets didn't work, and I didn't want to bother anyone to get different ones, so I spent my sacrament hour looking through the German hymnal identifying which hymns corresponded with their English versions, and which had no English versions at all. Eric was better at this game than I was, but he also had studied German for a few years in school.

After that, we headed to Eric's ancestral towns (through his maternal grandmother's side). First we visited Walldorf, where Martin Heiner was born. He is Eric's fourth-great-grandfather, and we visited his town on his 200th birthday. Below is the church. The original was burned down when it was stuck by lightning a few years back, and they have been slowly rebuilding it.

We happened to arrive there just as the gardeners were coming to tend the garden, and they let us come in and look around. It has been redesigned to be eco-friendly with a huge stork-nest outside, as well as nesting places for various birds and bats. It has gorgeous stained-glass windows.

Then we headed to Wasungen, where Martin's wife, Adeldunda, was born, and where Martin and Andelgunda were married. It is a beautiful church. They were Lutheran, so their churches are not as ornate as some of the larger Catholic cathedrals. Still, it was so nice to visit this place. We were there with a local historian, and he gave us a tour of the church and the crypt).

 This would be the font where Adelgunda was baptized.

Then we toured the town of Wasungen, again with our local tour guide. (He's an archivist, and he's been instrumental in helping Eric's mom and others coordinate the research in these towns. It is an area of Germany where the record-holders are notoriously difficult to work with.)

We saw the home where Adelgunda was born and raised.

We also visited a local museum for the town. I really put my father-in-law's translation skills to the test with all my questions to the archivist. I was curious about what records were used to ascertain certain data, especially for information from the pre-1500s. We just don't have those kinds of records in America. (Insert the extreme crying emoji here.)

After the ancestral towns we headed to our hotel in Bergen, Germany.

18 July 2018

Europe Trip: Day 3 (Prague, Freiberg, and Dresden)

At about 4 AM on Saturday some loud Germans in our hotel retired to their rooms, and woke us all up in the process. I never managed to fall back asleep. I let the guys sleep for a little while longer, and then we got up to spend a little more time in Prague before returning to Germany.

We wandered around and eventually found an open place to eat breakfast. Maybe because it was Saturday, maybe because it's Bohemia - I don't really know why - but there was not a lot happening in the historic district of Prague at 8 AM. After breakfast we found the Freud statue. Apparently people call the police for him quite regularly.

Then we popped into this little church. I don't want to pic favorites, but I did really love this one. I loved the paintings on the ceilings, and I loved the swirly carvings, and I loved the gold.

Then we drove back to Germany to attend a session at the Freiberg Temple. Eric's parents greeted us at the doors. It is a simple temple, built during the communist era of East Germany, but it is still beautiful inside.

After our session we met some of Eric's parents' friends, we ate lunch, and we all piled in their car to go to Dresden. I was exceptionally tired at this point, having been up since 4 AM and still not completely over the jet lag. I learned that after World War II some German cities opted to rebuild and maintain an old look, while others went more modern. Dresden took the old approach.

Their church in the heart of Dresden (the Dresden Frauenkirche) was destroyed in the war, and the Soviets officials wouldn't allow the Germans to rebuild it. The Soviets left the rubble in the square as a sign to the people of how terrible the Americans and British were. As soon as communism fell, the locals had the church rebuilt, using some of the bricks from the original church. President Uchtdorf spoke of this church in a talk in 2016. We just barely got to peak inside because there was a concert going on. On the left you can see the statue of Martin Luther; those Germans sure love him. (And I do too!)

We wandered over to the museums and the gardens. We got there too late to enter any of the museums, but it was still nice enjoying the architecture. (Except, let's be honest, I may have been a little grumpy from being so tired.)

Then we ate dinner and went back to Freiberg for a good night's rest.

I would really like to visit Dresden again. It is a beautiful city, and we just barely got a glimpse of it. (Which can be said of every place we visited on our trip!)

15 July 2018

Europe Trip: Day 2 (Nuremberg and Prague)

We woke up bright and early and much recovered from our previous day. I was amazed at how beautiful the sunrise was over our little area of Nuremberg.

We headed out, not really knowing where we were going. We bought some baked goods from a truck and started walking. We got lost because Eric was very turned around. Thankfully the first three of four people that we asked "Do you speak English?" (actually, Eric asked it in German) responded with "Of course." A lady who had worked in Hawaii for several years took us to the historic area, and then we were good to go.

Honestly, I already don't remember a lot of specifics of Nuremberg. It still has some of its old town wall standing.

And there is a cool church. It is St. Lorenz, or Lorenzkirche.

The stained glass windows at this one were pretty amazing.

I also loved the art in all the churches. After a while it was like "Oh, ho hum, another church," but at this point, I was still amazed by the churches since it was only my second.

Then we drove to Prague. When we got to our AirBNB we tried to check in only to learn that our apartment was under construction and our host failed to cancel the booking. We ended up staying at a hotel across the street, but the whole ordeal took extra time to sort out, and we already weren't going to be able to spend a ton of time in Prague.

I immediately loved the architecture in Prague. I really like big cities, so that appealed to me too. Rothenburg was full of tourists as well, but they seemed to be more Germans, and they skewed older. Prague had more international tourists and more young tourists. (We saw many children in Prague but very few in Rothenburg.)

The famous clock in Prague is being renovated/repaired, so it was all covered up. We considered going to the Jewish synagogue (the oldest synagogue in Europe), but we were short on time and instead went to the St. Charles Bridge and up the hill to the castle and St. Vitus Cathedral.

It was a beautiful day.

We made wishes as we touched this sculpture. (It's a thing. I don't know why.)

We went up up up the hill to the castle and cathedral. There were great views of the city.

And then the cathedral was closed early, so we had to admire it from the outside. I am still really disappointed we didn't get to go in because it is huge, and I can tell from the outside that the inside has to be amazing. One day we'll go back.

And we went on a little river cruise, which was relaxing and nice.

After that we ate goulash and returned to our hotel for sleep.

06 July 2018

Europe Trip: Day 1 (Flight and Rothenburg ob der Tauber)

Before I get into the details of the trip and the many (MANY) pictures, let's discuss the nitty gritty and the whys. Eric's parents are serving a mission at the LDS Temple in Freiberg, Germany. We went with Eric's younger brother, Andrew, to visit them and to visit other places in Europe. Eric did a six-week study abroad in Ukraine before we met, and then he traveled a bit with his parents for a few days after the study abroad ended. Andrew had been to Europe twice before, both times because his dad was leading a study-abroad, but the last time Andrew had been was 13 years ago when he was about 13. I was a newbie to Europe.

We flew in and out of Seattle because Eric's sister and her family live in Seattle and she very graciously (foolishly?) offered to take our kids for us while we were away. We drove to Seattle on a Tuesday and flew to Germany the next day.

We all thought we would sleep on the plane and arrive in Frankfurt feeling somewhat refreshed and ready to be amazing tourists. Andrew and I even wore glasses because we don't like sleeping with contacts in. Here we were, thinking this was going to be an amazing flight.

We were idiots. We sat on the very last row, and Eric got so ill that he had to use his barf bag. Getting our rental car took much longer than we expected, but we finally got on the road. Eric was the only one allowed to drive, but even as the driver he became car sick and had to pull over for a vomiting and sleeping break. Andrew and I didn't want to be around him, so we wandered on this dirt road near where we had pulled over, and we found a cherry tree and ate cherries.

After Eric had a little nap, we hit the road again headed for Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It's a medieval town that is still in really good condition, and it has a wall all around it and such things. We took pictures at the adorable house that's on two streets. We marveled at the narrow streets and the speeds the cars took on the narrow streets. We looked at little shops, checked out a church, walked along the old town walls and the other defensive buildings for the city. We watched the machine-man drink the giant beer in the clock tower, and we climbed to the top of the tower to get great views. We ate lunch and learned that we would end up spending a ridiculous amount of money on water over the course of our trip. (Do Europeans never drink tap water? This is a legitimate question.)

We were pretty tired at this point and needed to drive a couple of hours to our AirBNB in Nuremberg. Eric had mapped out a slightly longer drive that was more scenic, so we told the GPS to send us on that route, which she did. It ended up being a terrible idea because we were all so tired and didn't even care about the scenery and just wanted to go to bed as quickly as possible. We made it to our AirBNB and learned it was on the 7th floor, so then we had to lug all our stuff up there. So that was fun. I would rank that AirBNB the lowest of all the ones we stayed in during our trip, but it was still nice and we slept hard and woke up early the next day, ready to check out Nuremberg.