Saturday, January 28, 2017

Hiking Lake Eibsee, Germany

Todd and the kids went skiing on our first day down in Garmisch.  I'm a native Floridian and to be honest, I just don't like to ski!  I'm not good at it, and no matter how many times I try it, I just can't seem to get into it.  So while they went skiing (and they all love to ski!), I got to go on a hike BY MYSELF around Lake Eibsee!

Lake Eibsee is at the base of the Zugspitze, which is the tallest mountain in Germany.  It's located literally feet away from the Austrian border.  The lake itself is at 3,281 feet above sea level!

In the summer, the water is emerald green in some places.  During the warm months, you can rent boats and swim and fish for carp, bass, pike and other fresh water fish.  But it's equally as beautiful in the winter!  It's a little more than 1.5 miles long, about 2/3 of a mile wide and 107 feet deep at it's deepest point.

The hike itself isn't a difficult one, but it is very long.  The entire route is about 7 kilometers, so plan on several hours here.  It's not a bad idea to have a walking stick or two, also - especially during the winter.  The pathway is compacted down for the most part, but it does get a bit steep as you reach the western part of the lake.  I hit a few slick spots here and there, but nothing too bad.  (Until you get into the sun.... more on that in a minute).  

I relied on a great website called for my hike around Eibsee.  They suggested going counter clockwise around the Lake starting from the Eibsee Hotel parking lot, but I chose to go the other direction.  I'm glad I did because I got to enjoy the beautiful, surprisingly warm afternoon sunshine on the north side.

There are plenty of small lakes that are hydraulically connected to Eibsee.  Eibsee was formed from a massive rock slide approximately 3700 years ago.  The lake is still glacially fed, which is why the colors are so vibrant in the summertime.

Many tall pines grow on steep slopes around Eibsee.

Contrails criss-crossed the incredibly blue sky.

I only took this picture for my kids!  Someone had fun at Eibsee!  (Not me... I didn't have the proper gloves to make this!)

My new snowman friend in the shadows of the Zugspitze.

The Zugspitze makes long shadows this time of year. 

There's plenty of places around the Lake Eibsee trail to stop and take pictures, or even enjoy a few quiet minutes on a bench (bring some snacks and have a little picnic!)  Here I am coming around the west side of the lake, with the northern-facing mountains coming into view.

There's several small trickling streams that form slight waterfalls along the path.  I'm sure these are really nice in the summer.  I really liked turning off the music on my phone for a few minutes and enjoy the quiet.  I've got two kids. I don't get a lot of quiet!

As you come around the north side of Lake Eibsee, you emerge out of the shadow of the Zugspitze.  This means SUN!!!!!

Sun, trees and shadows on the north side of Eibsee.  I'm well over halfway done with my hike at this point.

There's one little spot in particular that provides the most spectacular views of Zugspitze and friends. On this particular day, I was able to grab a seat in the little covered bench and enjoy the amazingly warm sun on my face!  It was so warm, I had to take off my coat!  Of course, the hike itself warmed me up - so my recommendation as always is... layers!

While I was there, a nice lady from Frankfurt sporting a fur coat (!!) sat down next to me and we had a little discussion about the current state of affairs in the world.  We talked Brexit (she wasn't a fan) and Trump (DEFINITELY not a fan) and skiing (she used to ski more often before her career took off) and Italy (it's her favorite) and France (she speaks fluent French and English!) and how she was 70 years old (I would have said she was in her 50s!).  I love meeting people like her in my travels! 

Alas, I couldn't sit and chat with her for very long, since I had to finish my hike and go pick up the family from the slopes.  Here's some more snowman action on the trail!

The lake was frozen, and many people were walking across it or pulling sleds.  My new friend and I agreed - NO THANK YOU. 

I began my hike at the Eibsee Hotel, so you can see here I'm coming around the lake and I'm almost to the finish line!

One last look at the Zugspitze from the bridge between Eibsee and the Untersee.

The Untersee, facing north.

I probably could have stayed a bit longer at Eibsee since the kids wanted to keep skiing after their lessons were over, but I was starving so I went back to the hotel.  Mmmm, hummus and a Warsteiner are a nice post-hike treat! 

Until next time, Eibsee! 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

German Dishwashers and the Importance of SALT!

I've had this large box of Spezial Salz in my pantry for a while.  I've long known that I needed to use salt in the dishwasher because the water is so incredibly hard here in Germany, that the calcium build up happens very quickly.  You notice it everywhere.  On the shower heads, in the sink, and even on your face and in your hair.  I've had constant break outs on my face since we moved here.

Oh Spezial Salz... why can't I put you in my shower head!?  (Note:  You can purchase shower head filters on the internet and have them shipped over here. Make sure you know whether you need to purchase a wall mounted filtered shower head or a hand held one.  Trust me. I'm speaking from experience on this one.)

It's particularly important to make sure that your dishwasher has this special salt formula so that you don't get a terrible build up on your dishes and glasses, and you want to ensure that your dishwasher continues to run properly!  But WHERE do you put this stuff?  I wasn't sure if it went in with the dishwasher soap or some other spot.  It turns out it goes in that circular looking object on the left side of the above picture (the one that looks like it has small spikes around it).  You just untwist it, pour nearly an ENTIRE box of Spezial Salz in there, and recap it. When you pour it in, there will likely be a lot of water already in there, but that's ok.  Just keep pouring!  It should be done about every 6 months.  Now that I had that in, I needed to check the filter.  (That is located where the circle of water is in the middle of the photo above).

Ewwww.  That's nasty.

The filter was absolutely covered in calcium deposits.  In order to get rid of this, I washed off (and picked off) the larger chunks with my hand in the sink.  Also notice in the picture above you can even see a white film on my sink (near the drain).  Even the smallest amount of water leaves a residue over here.

Then I put it in a mixture of vinegar and water for several hours.  After a good soaking, I took a toothbrush to it.  It doesn't clean the whole thing up perfectly, but it's certainly better than it was before.  The moral of the story is... don't forget to periodically check your salt levels in your dishwasher and add salt as necessary to keep your dishwasher running smoothly and to keep those dishes and glasses looking clean!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Dresden, Germany

I have some choice words for Dresden's residents, but I'll save those for myself.  The city itself is lovely though! 

Funny story on our way TO Dresden that is totally unlike us... MUCH LIKE LAST YEAR, we totally forget that all of Europe shuts down on New Year's Eve.  In the states, things tend to stay open for at least some part of the day.  But not here.  We planned to go to Colditz to see the castle and the former Nazi jail.  It was an easy drive until FOUR (seriously... FOUR!) massive deer ran out in front of my car.  If you're a follower of this blog, you'll know that my dear husband has hit TWO deer in his 15 months in Germany, in which one totaled our first rental car only days after we moved here.  This was crazy because deer tend not to be active during the day time, but these four fellas were prancing across the street right in front of my car.  Thankfully, I missed them.  OK, at this point, I'm already ready for a drink.  So we pull up to Colditz Castle and guess what?  It's New Year's Eve and of course... they are closed. 

So it's off to Dresden we go.  We drove to where our AirBnB was and we see this.  Perhaps we should have taken this as a sign.  Yeah, hopefully that one is just a BB gun....  Sheesh.  Kids these days!

We can't check into our AirBnb until after 3, so we decided to leave our stuff in my car, take the tram into the city and go check out the scene.  We purchased tickets for that evenings downtown Dresden's Silvester (or New Year's) party.  It takes place in front of the Semper Opera House in the Theaterplatz.  Here you see some of the food trucks ready in front of the Residenzschloss.

One of the most well known sites in Dresden is the Zwinger.   It was built during the rule of Augustus the Strong as Prince Electorate, the word "Zwinger" translates to the no man's land between the inner and outer walls of a city, which is exactly where it was built.  Because the Zwinger is currently ALL museums, we naturally skipped it.  Here you can visit the Porcelain Collection, the Old Masters Picture Gallery, and the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical (Physics?) Instruments.  Instead, we went into the courtyard area which is really beautiful.

Facing this direction (west) is the Orangery where Augustus the Strong used to store his plants and orange trees in the early 1700s.  It is now the mathematical and physics instruments museum.

The Glockenspiel Pavilion is on the east side of the courtyard.  They had a very unique chiming of the bells when it turned 1 pm (the time at which we were here).  The bells are made of Meissen porcelain (locally made) which give it its unique sound.

Big boy's favorite pastime.  Chasing pigeons.

Since Augustus the Strong was also the King of Poland, he put the Polish crown on top of the Crown Gate which is on the south side of the courtyard.

Back out in the Theaterplatz, which is adjacent to the Zwinger, you can see the Statue of King Johann, who ruled for almost 20 years in the mid 1800s.  It was being protected by tarp for the Silvester festivities.

We next went down Augustusstrasse, to see the famous Procession of Princes.  The Procession of Princes was painted in the 1870s and depicts the 35 rulers of Saxony (and some of their pals) who ruled between Conrad the Great whose reign began in 1127 and Friedrich Augustus III whose reign ended in 1918.

Augustusstrasse drops you off in the square in front of the Frauenkirche, one of the most famous churches in Dresden.   Much to our surprise, we ran into a Christmas market!  The Dresden Christmas markets are supposed to be some of the finest in Germany, but most of them were over by the time we got there on the 31st.  However, this one was still in full swing.  It was really chilly out this day, and many people were already enjoying their Gluhwein for lunch!

The Dresden Frauenkirche (or, Church of Our Lady) was destroyed in the World War II bombing of Dresden.  The bombing itself was VERY significant.  Between February 13-15, 1945, the Allies bombed Dresden four times with over 3,900 tons of explosives (estimated about 650,000 bombs), resulting in an intense firestorm that destroyed a large amount of the city due to the 1,000 degree Fahrenheit heat.  Some say that Dresden was chosen due to it being a major transportation hub  and communications center for the Nazi's, but with little military importance.  It was estimated that between 25,000-35,000 people were killed over those couple of days, although some reports are much higher.  It's impossible to get an accurate figure because so many refugees fled the city in the aftermath. After most of the downtown Dresden Altstadt (90%!) was bombed and destroyed on February 14th, the Frauenkirche stood like a Phoenix rising out of the ashes, only to finally succumb on February 15th. 

Interestingly, the church wasn't rebuilt until AFTER the reunification!  Using the original plans from the 1720s, reconstruction started in the mid 1990s. It was finally finished in 2005 (WHAT?) and as much of the original stones as possible (about 8,500 of them) were used, which is why you see a difference in the color of the stones on the façade of the church.

This bronze statue of Martin Luther survived the war and still stands in front of the Frauenkirche.  But do you see the golden cross on top?  According to Wikipedia, "The new gilded orb and cross on top of the dome was forged by Grant Macdonald Silversmiths in London using the original 18th-century techniques as much as possible. It was constructed by Alan Smith, a British goldsmith from London whose father, Frank, was a member of one of the aircrews who took part in the bombing of Dresden. Before travelling to Dresden, the cross was exhibited for five years in churches across the United Kingdom including Coventry Cathedral, Liverpool Cathedral, St. Giles Cathedral (in Edinburg) and St. Paul's Cathedral in London. In February 2000, the cross was ceremonially handed over by The Duke of Kent, to be placed on the top of the dome a few days after the 60th commemoration of D-Day on 22 June 2004.  The external structure of the Frauenkirche was completed."  A fascinating story. 

Martin Luther, as we all know headed the Reformation across German in the early 1500s.  While he wasn't wildly popular in Dresden, he did visit here between 1516-1518.  Saxony, however, was the only state in which he was protected against a certain death.  Frederick III (the Prince Electorate between 1486-1525) defended Luther's reformation and when the Pope called for Martin Luther's head (literally!), Frederick pretended to abduct Martin Luther, all the while hiding him at Wartburg Castle.

Walking back to the Theaterplatz, you can see the size of the Procession of Princes.  It's larger than a football field!  (American style!)

The Residenzschloss of Dresden was the home of the Prince Electorates of Saxony between the mid 1500s to the early 1800s. In 1806, Napoleon said, "Hey, if you provide military support to me, I'll change your electorate into a kingdom... and you, my friend Frederick Augustus III will become KING Frederick Augustus I of Saxony!"  A deal was made. Throughout F.A. I's reign, the Kingdom of Saxony grew much smaller but the kingdom was intact until the start of World War I in 1918.

The Taschenbergpalais was a royal palace that was built in the very early 1700s that was, naturally, destroyed in the Dresden bombings of WWII.  It was only rebuilt in the early 1990s and is now a very fancy hotel.  Oooo la la!

Creepy baby doll Paul.  I think it's super creepy he has his name on his hat.

One of the most iconic pictures of Dresden and all I can do is capture it from the bridge on the tram.  Oh well, maybe next time!

Whoa!  Cool car outside of our AirBnb apartment northwest of the inner city.  Get ready for a big surprise, kids!

We had been discussing our trip to Dresden and how there was a really neat surprise for the kids when we got there.  Well, here it is!  The AirBnB we stayed at was in the annex of a garage, and the bed was an old Trabant!  This East German car (because after all, Dresden is in East Germany!) was manufactured between 1957 and 1990.  They were known for being loud and dirty.

"This is the coolest apartment ever!"

The apartment was stacked with fun things for the kids! I particularly liked the random books above the bathroom door.  Grant liked to ride around on this little car.

Nat just fine tuning the engine of this old Trabant... no, just kidding.  The engine had (obviously) been taken out of the car and it was now being used for storage space.  There were lots of toys and games in here!

Man, I love this funky kitchen.  Red appliances, 1960s swirly rainbow pattern countertops and a magnetic wall that all of the utensils stuck to!

Schnarch Pappe means "cardboard" in German.  Having a car in the bedroom made me think of that scene in Real Genius where they put Kent's car in his dorm room! 

"Kent... you know you're not supposed to park that on campus!"

After we took a nap but before we went out for the initial Silvester festivities, the kids played a little Super Mario Brothers with dad.  Grant was in heaven, as we won't let him have any kind of gaming system yet!

Todd turning up the tunes on the radio in the Trabant so we could get a little New Year's Eve dance party going!

We eventually went down to the Theaterplatz to enjoy the kids show that they put on.  It was actually really cute!  Even though it was all in German, the words in the songs were repetitive enough that you could actually sing along without knowing any German.  They were dressed like random animals and pulled adults from the crowd to participate.

The Dresden Cathedral lit up at night.

It's a little dark and blurry (sorry) but these random characters walked around during the show (even forming a conga line at one point!)  Here's Natalie with one of them (and some kinderpunsch to keep her warm!)  

A certain little guy had a hard time seeing so daddy put him up on his shoulders.  Notice the pretty Semperoper in the background!

They started tossing out large balloons near the end of the show and I thought Grant was gonna lose his stuff if he didn't get to hit one of the balloons like his sister did. 

After the concert, they put on a VERY quick fireworks show.  The show was good, but only lasted as long as the song, "Let It Go" from the movie Frozen.  Which is what, roughly four minutes?  The kids like it but were a bit disappointed in the length. So we promised to go back for the adult fireworks at midnight, and that we would find a bridge somewhere close to our apartment so we didn't have to come all the way back to the Theaterplatz.

Pretty red explosions.

After the fireworks, we grabbed some sausage and bread for a little quick supper!

OMG this one was so tired.  Look at her in fetal position snuggling with Croco!  She didn't really even want to go at this point.  It was so past their bedtime, even though we took a nap!

I think it's safe to say Grant feels the same way!  But they both rallied and we walked down the street and hopped on the tram to go see some fireworks!

When we got there though?  Like a battle zone. We got dropped off at the far end of the Marienbrüke where we planned to watch the fireworks.  As SOON as we stepped off the tram, someone threw a lit M80 right near Grant's feet.  Todd screamed, "RUN GRANT!" and he ran toward the sidewalk.  Meanwhile, Natalie is freaking out and runs back into the middle of the street somehow as a car is coming toward her.  TOTAL. CHAOS.  The kids are both hysterically crying, all while fireworks continue to be lit haphazardly all around us.

It's just a few minutes to New Year's and I'm determined to see these darn fireworks.  We stopped at a spot on the bridge that seemed "quiet" but as people would walk by us, they were very nearly ALL lighting fireworks.  So they were going off in all directions, whizzing past us.  We lit a few little poppers ourselves but the kids were so traumatized at this point, we just needed to go home.

My one and only blurry shot of the Dresden New Year's fireworks.  We wanted to immediately get home, because it wasn't just unsafe on the bridge... it was everywhere.  So we managed to flag down a cab, who took us to the wrong address and then had to backtrack back to our Opa's Garage apartment.  He was literally weaving back and forth nearly the entire drive as he tried to avoid having his car (and us!) hit by flying fireworks!

The next morning, every street in Dresden looked like this.  We had to step over the remnants of many late night parties.

But we finally found the ONE (ok I might be exaggerating) restaurant that was open on New Year's Day and we ate a hearty brunch at Rauschenbach Deli. This kid likes to make a mess when he eats!  But he can plow through a plate of fruit!

One stop I wanted to make while we were in Dresden was the Kunsthofpassage.  It's a small area of building facades designed by artists and sculptures in five small inner courtyards.

The Courtyard of the Fables.  Google translate calls this the "Courtyard of Fabulous," which is pretty funny because they are fabulous fables!

The Courtyard of the Fables with it's fun creatures.

I knew I could count on the quirky Kunsthofpassage to provide us with at least one creepy baby doll head!

Natalie in the Court of Light with a new friend. 

I'm sure this is incredibly beautiful in the spring or summer when things are blooming!  The Court of Light is in the center of the Kunsthofpassage and during the warmer months, they show films and live performances.

I thought this was really funny.  I'm not sure if someone was trying to make a makeshift elevator with this chair (that could be lowered down to carry goods or um... people?) or if they were blocking off the ladder with the chair so no one got hurt! 

The Courtyard of the Elements is the most well known of the courtyards with its musical, metal (almost Rube Goldberg-esque) pipes along an ocean of blue paint.

Opposite of the "water" wall in the Courtyard of the Elements shows the "fire" or "light" with it's gold painted aluminum rectangles.

Water exits through these large pipe openings while singing a little melody for you.

These guys thought this was pretty cool.  Of course, we weren't there when it was raining (thankfully) but the entire Kunsthofpassage is an interesting art spectacle nonetheless.  Grant was just happy to have some things to jump on!

In the Courtyard of the Elements there was a small tree in the corner that still had golden Christmas ornaments hanging on it.  Todd said, "Look!  I'm being artistic!"

The River of Life is represented in the Courtyard of Fables.  I like the flying lizard/dragon guy in the top left!

I kind of wanted to take this guy home with me.

All of the fun animals and imaginative characters in the Courtyard of Fables.

After we left the Kunsthofpassage and headed back for the tram, we found this very DIFFERENT piece of art at the corner of Jordanstrasse and Forstereistrasse.  Heavy metal, indeed!

I saw this cute little fountain on the way back from the Kunsthofpassage on the tram.  It's a mama elephant and her babies trailing behind her, led by the ringmaster of the circus.  It was a monument to the Sarassani Brunnen (Brunnen means "fountain" in German).  The Sarassani Circus was located here until that fateful night of February 13, 1945 when it was bombed and burned in World War II.

Funny puppetry statue on top of the Museum of Saxon Folk Art with puppet theater collection as seen from the tram (sorry for the glare).  This might be a fun museum to go to with the kids when we come back!  It's only 5 Euros for adults and kids are free!

This little guy loves riding public transportation, especially trams!  Doesn't he look nice and warm in his new coat from Grammi and Bean?

We love living in Germany, and we love German food but... sometimes we just need a break from it.  It's very heavy and rich!  Our last evening in Dresden found us at Las Tapas... for some yummy Spanish tapas and sangria that had a sparkler in it!  It made us all want to go to Spain, immediately.

The next day, we had to head home.  This little boy was very grumpy that he had to leave his cool Trabant bed.

I'm just gonna leave this right here.  Stay classy, Dresden!  This was hanging in the bathroom above the toilet. 

Until next time, Dresden!  I promise to give you another chance, preferably in the summer! 

The Bailey Planet

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