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Friday, March 26, 2010

I'm feeling much better!

Well thanks to my three day weekend and having time to just take it easy. Although I still forced myself to get out and do things in town such as go for a couple hikes, go shopping, eat at bakeries, take a drive up the road to a smaller town than Garmisch called Mittenwald, clean and organize my room, and do my laundry to wash all the snot out of things. That sounds like a lot I realize now, but I did have three whole days off and compared to last weekend when I visited 3 countries in 3 days this felt very relaxing.

I do not have time to continue telling of last weeks trip, but I promise I will, not only for you, but so I have a written record of it. :)

I thought though I would show you something Ryan and I have been up to that I have not mentioned much about yet. My Dad sent me a very nice email concerned about me being sick. He encouraged me to drink lots of fluids to flush out the virus, which Dad don't worry I was already doing. I drank nearly an entire container of orange juice yesterday along with a ton of beer.... just kidding I meant water. He also asked if I have been eating a balanced diet over here to stay healthy, which he was questioning because of how much I write about bakeries. Yes Ryan and I do eat at A LOT of bakeries mostly on our days off I would say, it is not a daily outing. Although it is fairly common when we are in town on days off to go to an average of 3 bakeries in a day. :) I am very aware that the white flour they use in their pretzels is really not all that nutritious for us, but I want to also have everyone note that when we go to bakeries we do eat our fair share or pretzels, or other breads such as these great loaves with olives (mmmmmmmm). It is not all sugary sweets that we are indulging in. Of course we are eating those too.

So to show my Dad and the rest of you that we are actually eating quite well here I am posting pictures of some of our most well thought out and put together meals, none of which have been all that time consuming of labor intensive, but have turned out very well. I've been meaning to post these for awhile and thought this was a great opportunity.

Shrimp fajitas with homemade guacamole

Bruchetta with spinach pasta and marinara

Ryan made pizza dough from scratch (he has done this several times here) My half is cheeseless with broccoli, green beans, and peppers on pesto sauce. His half was pesto chicken with lots of cheese.

Orange sesame tofu with brown rice. I got this recipe from my Mom, but doctored it up by adding water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and broccoli.

At the gym we workout at they had a fitness challenge that some people took part in and posted recipes every month that were healthy. I got this one from the gym. It is basically aztsuki beans with shitake mushrooms white mushrooms, some veggies, and a pretty spicy sauce. We hate it over brown rice with salad and bread from a german bakery.

We actually just made this last night. It is spatzel, a German noodle (we did buy the noodle at the German grocery and did not make it from scratch). Green beans, mushrooms in the center, and hiding under the little pile of mushrooms is an alfredo sauce I made without using an animal products. I've been wanting to try to do that for awhile now, even though I'm not an alfredo fan to begin with. I started with olive oil and flour for the roux and then used soy milk. I seasoned it with all kinds of things but ended up accidentally getting too much white pepper in it and felt like it tasted like a white pepper sauce, but Ryan thought it was great so I still felt okay about it.

This was my favorite meal that we've made. Well not to brag, but I made this one on my own. :) It was sea bass with a port wine reduction with a side of steamed broccoli and green beans. It was SO good!

So there! We are eating well and having a good time cooking together.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I am sick :(

I am sick with a gross cold. I've been told since I got here that everyone constantly gets sick because we live in such close quarters and it just circles around. I've had 2 months virus free, but now that it has hit it is definitely not any fun. Good or bad I am on the first day of my three day weekend. Good that I do not have to miss work, but bad that I feel crummy on my weekend. Anyway I did not feel up to writing about more of my trip yesterday or today because of this and just wanted to let everyone know that I am not slacking I'm just focusing on getting better right now.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Directly from work on Tuesday (a little after 14,00) we hit the road for Amsterdam. We refers to Zack, Reneé, Ryan, and myself.

A side note: in Europe hours use the comma instead of the colon and money uses a comma instead of a decimal however for anything in the thousands they use a period instead of a comma. On my blog I try to throw in what we see here so that you at home can experience things a little like we do. Back to the story.

The drive took us about 8 hours just like it was supposed to with no hitches. That is until we reached the city. Our directions seem to usually do us well until we get into the confines of our destination. Amsterdam is a big place and we drove in circles and circles for at least an hour. Eventually we found a parking place in an area near the train station, so we thought we could find our hostel easier on foot. As we stood outside looking lost holding luggage a nice man with a bike came and offered to show us to the hostel, which he did, of course he also told us how he was homeless and asked for money. We gave him a small amount, but with the knowledge of what Amsterdam is known for we did not want to be a part of any habits he may have. For those who may not know Amsterdam has a very large and very legal Red Light District, which I will talk about later. Amsterdam is also well known for the amount of marijuana consumed in their city. This however is NOT legal. We learned on a tour we went on that Amsterdam is the 7th highest city for the amount of pot consumed and (although I have a feeling many locals do take part) that tourists are the ones who consume the most. If you are ever in Amsterdam you should be aware that there is a distinct difference between a Café and a Coffeehouse. Which would you assume you could get coffee and which would you go to for your weed? Partially a trick question. Both serve coffee, but anywhere labeled "Coffeehouse" will also sell special menu items. It is interesting however that if someone where to come from one of these Coffeehouses and run to a police officer declaring what was being sold he would say that the tattle tail was crazy because that is illegal and they would not sell that. In one way or another the cop would deny it could be true and ignore the information. Not being a consumer of drugs myself I forget the numbers here, but it is a very high weight that someone could legally carry and if caught with would not be punished. Our tour guide, who was Irish, said that in Ireland he would be in HUGE trouble if caught with the amount that is legal to carry in Amsterdam.

Okay I have side tracked from our trips order. We arrived at our hostel, which was only a couple blocks from the Red Light District. That does not in any way mean it was not safe and in fact it would be difficult to find a place to stay very far away from the Red Light District. Our hostel was SO cheap and we soon discovered there was a reason. We were in a dorm with 20 people and at least one of those people smelled SO GROSS! But after we dropped our belongings off, it was at least midnight by this time, we headed back to the car to take it to a parking garage we got a coupon for at the front desk of our hostel, which also happened to be the bar on the ground floor. It again took us quite awhile to find the garage, but we eventually did with our super star driver, Ryan (he really is a great driver and did an excellent job the whole trip). And by 2am we were in our beds in the smelly room. I was so tired I slept quite sound until I woke up to the sound of bells in the morning and the sun shining in the window. It was actually wonderful, although it was odd to open my eyes look across the room from my top bunk and see a penis, yes that is right, painted in purple on the wall across from me. Poor Reneé only had 25 minutes of sleep all night due to the snoring (not even from Ryan) and other sounds I will not go into detail about. The good news was when we woke up we were checking out. And for sleeping there from 2am until 8am I think it was okay and we only paid 9,00 euro a piece and you can't find a hostel cheaper than that.

In the morning we headed straight for the car, not to leave, to drop our bags off. On the way we stopped an a Bakery we had seen the night before. The others all had some type of savory item they liked a lot along with a sweet. I had a apple turnover. I thought it was fine, but did not live up to the Bavarian bakeries I continue to rave about.

After we dropped our bags we followed our map to the Anne Frank House. This was something I have wanted to do for a long time. I read "The Diary of Anne Frank" in middle school I believe and although I didn't even love the book I just wanted to see the actual place it was written. I have also heard from a number of people that they were disappointed by their visit. I think sometimes it does help to go into something we no or low expectations and maybe that is what did it for me, but I loved (as odd as that is to say of something of this nature) the entire experience. Anne Frank for anyone who does not know was born in 1929 in Germany and then migrated to Amsterdam with her family where she grew up and then went into hiding from the Nazis during WWII. She and her family were rated our by an unknown person to this day and all taken to concentration camps. Anne, her sister, her mother, and three others that were hiding with them all died before the end of the war. Her father was the only survivor and he published her Diary and turned their hiding place into a museum for people to visit. I think all four of us were very moved to be walking on the stairs that Anne and her family climbed and walking across the floors where they spent hours every day sitting as still as possible for fear that any noise might give them away. The hiding place was actually fairly large compared to what you may imagine. They had a bathroom, a kitchen, a couple bedrooms, and an attic (Anne's haven) but the difficult part for Anne was one not being allowed to move until late at night and most of all that she could not go outside and breath the air and run and play as a girl is meant to do at her age. It was sad, but it was wonderful to be that close to such a large piece of history.

After we left The Anne Frank House we realized that not one of us had any other agenda for our day in Amsterdam. On a map we got at our hostel there was an advertisement for a free tour that began in a central square at 11:15, so we thought free was the right price (of course it was made clear from the beginning that tips were appreciated) and since we didn't know much about the city it would be a good investment of our time. On the way to the tour we stopped at a Café (I almost said coffeeshop and then remembered I already explained the difference and it was most definitely not the definition of a coffeeshop). This place was called "Bagels and Beans." It was perfect! We all loved it. They had fresh squeezed juice, which I have been craving. I haven't found anywhere in Bavaria, or anywhere else for that matter, where I can get fresh juice or a smoothy. Ryan, Reneé and I all had a glass of the mix of all their juices I think pineapple, strawberry, orange, and a couple others. Zack just had strawberry. Having stopped at the bakery for breakfast I wasn't hungry for a bagel, but I probably shoudl have taken one to go because both Ryan's and Reneé's were so good, yes I tried them both. Ryan had an everythign bagel with truffle cream cheese and Reneé had a plain bagel with goat cheese, honey, walnuts, and thyme. Then to add to that Reneé and I each got coffee to go. I love coffee at home both at Neil's in Oregon and Avelino and Adagio in Bellingham, but I think that this was the best coffee I've ever had. Maybe it was because I haven't had good coffee since I've been here, but it was really really good. And on top of it all they had soy milk. I usually am a fan of Americanos, but I could not waste the opportunity to have soy milk, so I ordered a cappuccino. Have I mentioned how good it was yet?

So we reached the tour and there was a ton of people there. Thankfully they split us into several groups. They had a German tour, a Spanish tour, and two English tours. As I mentioned our guide was actually Irish. We liked him a lot, his name was Bernard. He had been living in Amsterdam for 6 months. After he graduated college in Mechanical Engineering he decided he just wanted to go experience something different for a change even after being heavily recruited in his field. I say good for him!

There was a lot of history he gave us that I wish I could repeat, but my memory for that type of thing is just not so good. And since the tour took 3 hours that might out run all my other blog entries thus far. One of the first places we walked was through part of the Red Light District. I wasn't expecting it and all of a sudden we rounded a corner and there was a young woman posing in her underwear. Having never been in a Red Light District before in my life my first thought wasn't, she's advertising herself, it was it this some kind of model in a lingerie store front, which still would have been a bit risque. We proceeded to see a row of window fronts with girls posing very scantily clad. Then there was one standing in her booth on her cell phone smoking a cigarette. We learned that they rent these spaces from 70-150 euros per 8 hour shift, so they need to make at least what they put into it back. All prostitutes own themselves by law, so they can say yes or no to anyone who approaches them and can negotiate their price. We were told the size of women go down in the evening when a new shift comes in and we did see some very large women and some were much older than you might expect, which I would assume would also be attributed to the time of day it was. We stopped at the end of the street in front of a church. Here is some history that discussed me and therefore I remember it. A long time ago sailors would come into Amsterdam on their boats and "enjoy" their time in the Red Light District along with all the other sins Amsterdam has to offer. The next day they would come to the church and confess to the Priest everything in detail as the Priest wrote it down and put numbers next to each thing. Then he would add up the amounts and charge the sailor that much for a card. I am forgetting what they called the card, but basically it said okay your sins are erased. Then they began to offer these cards before the sailors even went out. They could come to the church say what they wanted to do and were planning to do, buy the card in the same manner, go out partake in these sinful activities, and then wake up the next morning with this card already purchased to feel clean knowing they'd already taken care of everything from the night before. Thankfully this system is no longer in place.

We saw many building on our tour that were leaning forward and sideways. I forget why they were leaning, but I do remember that instead of leveling the house they would level the floors inside, so the house is still crooked but inside things are all right. We saw a hidden church. It is on the top floor a house and is where 400 Catholics came to meet a long time ago when it was forbidden. The only thing was that they also built the largest organ in the city, in the world, I forget, but it was big, so every Sunday they heard 400 people singing along with this Organ. Sort of an odd way to hide your service.

We did not walk down it but we saw the Jewish Street where all the Jews lived back in the day. After they were all taken or in hiding people went in and completely ransacked the neighborhood so much so that in the end it looked at thought a bomb were dropped on it. The winter of 1944 (I think it was) was colder than any winter previous so people were looting wood to burn just to stay warm. Now many of the buildings on this street that have been rebuilt look very different from the rest of Amsterdam. The painter Rembrandt's house might have been down this road as well. Once again my memory is foggy. Not because I was smoking while I was there though. :)

We saw the narrowest house in Amsterdam. I'll see if I can get a picture up that does it justice. It was so tiny.

A new piece of history that is still unfolding is that the city is actually cracking down on all the "bad" things that go on in it. They are trying to scale the Red Light District back to only one street, which would drastically down size it. And also they are trying to slowly close the coffeeshops and reduce the amount of marijuana that is sold and consumed. Currently they have both a museum about pot as well as a university dedicated to learning about it and these may go away making them a thing of the past. We did not visit these sites, but it makes me interested to see what they are about since one day possibly soon they could be gone making the Amsterdam that has become so famous only a thing of the past. Reneé and I were talking that it is odd to stop and think about the things we see and have or are living through that will someday be in history books or possibly stories that people talk about from back in the day. But someday back in the day will be our current day... so bizarre for people as young as us. Amsterdam has already made mushrooms (the drug) illegal. The only bad part of this is that they did not take inventory of what people had when they made them illegal and said you could sell what you had but not restock to keep selling. So people are still selling the same stock they had supposedly, but we all know they are just restocking. I think it had cut down on the problem of mushrooms though.

We walked into a beautiful courtyard in the middle of matching houses where we learned you can live for free if you are a woman, you can prove how devout you are in your faith, and are willing to stay celibate. We then moved on to an area where squatters live. In Amsterdam you are able to live for free if you can find a building that has been abandoned for at least 12 months. Then you must let the city know you are claiming it. You can contact the head of the squatters (it is a community and a lifestyle) and they will arrange to get an electrician, a plumber, and a lawyer to make necessary arrangements for the place. You also much have something like a table and chairs and a bed.

I forgot to say that outside of that church I talked about already what a bronze breast with a hand on it in the brick on the ground. Someone, again back in the day, came and put it there in the middle of the night. The city had it removed and the whole town protested to have it back, so they put it back eventually. They feel like because it isn't saying this is right or this is wrong it really does show what a part of Amsterdam is and lets you decide what you think of it for yourself.

Another old tale Bernard shared with us was of a man who took communion and then threw it up and tried to burn it to clean it up. But the host floated up because it could not be burned. It ended up in box and it was the miracle of Amsterdam, but then at some point someone broke in an stole the box not knowing what it was and threw the host in the water. And that was the last time it was seen. I think other things happened to it as well and it always survived. That is a very bad job of me relaying the miracle of Amsterdam, but it sounded something like that and I'm sure you could find the whole story on the internet if you wish.

The tour was great. And we definitely thought our guide was worth a nice tip. Not to mention it was St. Patrick's day and we got to spend it with an Irishman wearing lots of green. :) At the end of the tour a group of us followed Bernard to a restaurant that served Dutch food. It looked gross to me. A pile of mashed potatoes with bacon in them topped with a nasty sausage all covered in a gravy. The four of us just opted to get a beer. Heineken is from Amsterdam, so we wanted a pint before we left, but as it turns out Heineken is no better in Amsterdam than it is in the States. The best part of joining in at the restaurant is we met Parker. Who is Parker you ask? Our new best friend and favorite travel companion! He was on our tour and we got to talking to him at the restaurant and he was tired of Amsterdam after being their for nearly five days and was thinking of heading to Brugge, Belgium... well how perfect because we were heading there also. So I offered him a ride and after being very humble we convinced him to join us. So we agreed to meet at our parking garage at 5:30. In the mean time we stopped at a souvenir shop. I thought it would be so cute to get Elisa and Sadie wooden clogs from Holland, but sorry girls those shoes cost an arm and a leg. Some day you'll understand it is the thought that counts. Then we decided to eat at a falafel joint that was just a hole in the wall. For 4 euro we got a pita with falafel (a ball of ground garbanzo beans with herbs that is fried) and lettuce and then unlimited "salad bar" which was olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, spicy carrots, many sauces, tabouleh, and more I can't think of. So we would load up the pita with this stuff, eat a bit and then go back and top it with more. It was so good and we were stuffed when we left. Oh and we got sides of fries because Belgium is known for their fries and Amsterdam copies Belgium on a lot of their food. They double fry them so they are extra crunchy and yes they are better that way. They also have numerous dipping sauces. We chose curry and it was once again fantastic! This is just the beginning of what all I ate on this trip.

On the way back to the car we saw a market that was starting to be taken down, so we walked through. I actually liked that everyone was preoccupied cleaning up so we could look at things without being hassled.

As we were crossing the street to the road where the parking garage was there popped up Parker. Perfect timing. What was even more perfect was that he lost the map we had drawn direction on for him to meet us, so it was just by chance and the grace of God that he found us.

We had a very enjoyable drive to Brussels even though Reneé, Parker, and I were crammed into the back seat. It wasn't so bad for only two hours. As usual we got lost and did not know where the south station was we were supposed to drop Zack off at for his friend to pick him up, so we just left him at a park near the Arch de Triumph in Brussels (apparently arches are everywhere not just in Paris) and his friend said he could meet him there. After we left we were lost for at least an hour if not two trying to get out of the city to head to Brugge, which is toward the coast. After getting on the autobahn the wrong direction we stopped at a gas station for directions and were pointed the right way. From there it was okay until we reached the city of Brugge. Again we could not find our way to the hostel for at least an hour, but eventually we made it.

As seems to be a reoccurring theme it is late and I need to go to bed so I can function tomorrow at work. I still have a lot more I can't wait to write about so stay tuned for the rest of the story.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Afternoon in Grainau

Yesterday, Friday, but Ryan and my Monday we showed up at work at 8:30 as we do every day. This morning however they were still assigning sections instead of having them ready to hand out. I watched as they sent a couple German's home. As always though they were speaking only German and we had no idea what was going on. Ryan, Zack and I were standing there saying to each other "they better not send us home." For one they have already been sending us home at 13,00 nearly every day drastically cutting our hours with no explanation. And for another thing it is aggravating to come to work on your Monday just to get sent home because if we had known that we could have had a three day weekend. Eventually our Supervisor did turn to us and ask if we wanted to go home. She explained that the day before we had 150 check outs (half the hotel), but nearly no check ins. This left us with so many vacancies that they did not have enough rooms for the number of housekeepers scheduled. Later one of our leaders told us that in the five years she has worked here she has only seen this happen one other time. They did not even seem to know what to do. But the three of us expressed we would prefer to stay and work. So they asked the next German who showed up if he wanted the day off and he gladly accepted. So they gave Ryan and I his section to split and told us to go home at noon. They gave Zack four rooms scattered throughout the hotel and told him to leave when he was done.

It was another beautiful day out and after we got off we had so much daylight left that Ryan and I decided to explore. We headed to Grainau an outskirt of Garmisch. This is where the true base of the Zugspitz is and we found where the Bahn heads up the mountain to the other ski area. It is also out where the Eibsee is. The Eibsee is a fair size lake that we cannot wait to take advantage of this summer. They have lots of non motorized lake activities, but Ryan and I still want to find somewhere nearish that we can try to wake board this summer. This is a side note, but we recently heard that in Austria they have some lakes with a rope tow type apparatus that pulls you on a wake board and is actually fun. We'll have to see about that this summer. Right now the Eibsee is totally frozen over. It should solid enough to walk all over and I went out on it just a little, but it is also covered with snow and I was just too nervous of what you see on the movies of falling through a thin spot.

It was also cool to explore this area because we saw the mountains from a new perspective. It gave the Zugspitz (the tallest mountain in Germany) so much depth. It was really really beautiful.

We also ate lunch at the cutest little cafe restaurant in Grainau that was attached to a hotel. Although it seemed that every other building was a hotel which was more a converted large home, not the type of hotel you'd imagine in the states. We must have chosen a good place because a ton of people showed up while we were there. I love the mixed salads they sometimes serve in Germany and did today. You get a little section of greens, a section of German potato salad (I love it SO much), some marinated cucumber slices, and some marinated cabbage. This makes such an interesting a delicious salad. Our meals were pretty good too and I had a rose wine that was very good. They serve wine here in a mini pitcher (it is 250mL) and then pour it into your wine glass leaving you more to pour yourself when you are ready. One more cultural thing we are getting used to. The cafe walls were all wood and it was decorated with lots of wooden ducks, garden pitchers, pillows with pictures of herbs. I would call it gardenesque. It was very nice.

On our way back through Grainau we stopped at a beautiful and small chapel. Inside it was decorated with the brightest colored murals on the walls and ceilings that I have seen yet inside a church. It was exquisite. And in tiered stairs down the hill behind the church were very ornate wooden and stone crosses marking graves. It was very picturesque. Before heading back to Garmisch we stopped at a Bakerei for dessert. Ryan had something cut from a round that was a huge triangle with a sweet cookie bottom, apples and pudding with nuts I think on top. I havd a flaky round pastry with what tasted like marionberries in teh center. It reminded me of a mini pie in texture and flavor, but in German form and oh so good. Then we also shared what I call a Palmier, which is French, but I don't know what to call in in German. It is a flaky spiraled pastry thing with a light sugar glaze on top. Oh how we love our Bakereis. :)

So that was yesterday afternoon's exploration. It was wonderful and made it worth getting off work early. But I was still very glad to have a full section today at work so I am able to get enough hours to get a decent pay check. I love to play, but real life does still exist and I do need to work to make money so I have money to spend on all my elaborate adventures such as the one coming up with weekend.

Hopefully you are enjoying all this blogging right now. I think the only thing I have left to catch up on is our trip to Innsbruck the day after we went snowboarding for the first time. But that will have to wait because I have been working on these last two posts for nearly two hours now and it is time for dinner.

It's okay to be jealous, I would be

Here in Garmish, on our world renown mountain, we had the privilege of hosting the 2010 Ski Welt Cup (World Cup). The athletes started taking training runs on Tuesday, Wednesday was the downhill competition, Thursday was the Super G and Giant Slalom, Friday was the Slalom and today finished the week with something on the schedule TE which I do not know what that is. The difference between all the races comes down to how tight the turns is and they wear different skis. That is more or less it. Maria Reisch won the downhill. She is actually from Garmisch and had huge cheers. Lindsay Vonn the favorite for the US won the Slalom and the Super G.

Guess who went snowboarding on Wednesday on the very same mountain that the best skiers in the world were competing on? Well if you guessed anyone other than Ryan and I you'd be wrong. It was so awesome to have the opportunity to watch such an event take place and it was even better to be high up on the mountain strapped into a snowboard only 100 meters from the starting gate the downhill racers shot out of.

I have been meaning to write a "catch up" post about the weekend before Ryan and I went to Venice and my goodness that was about a month ago now. The Wednesday of that weekend we went snowboarding for the first time. The first lift goes up the mountain at 8:30, but I bet we didn't drive into the parking lot until a little after 9. We didn't know we could go to the American Lodge owned by our Resort to buy lift tickets, so we wasted 15 minutes or so waiting in a super long line right at the bottom of the Hausberg Bahn (Bahn=Gondola). Once we did figure we could bypass the long line by going to the American Lodge and were ready to head up on the Bahn we joined the blob of people all pushing to get through the turnstiles. The cool thing about lift passes here is they are magnetically coded, so all you have to do is have it in your jacket pocket and it lets you through. The bad thing about the mountain is apparently German's don't believe in lines. There were no lines for the Bahn's and there were no lines for the chair lifts, but there was way too many people all crowding forwarding running their skis over my snowboard literally elbowing me out of the way. I have never been on a mountain I felt so out numbered skiers to snowboarders. After snowboarding for awhile Ryan and I decided the reason for that is because this mountain is meant for skiers. There are way too many cat tracks that are way too long. For those who don't ski cat tracks are long narrow and flat stretches that if you don't have enough speed you won't make it along the cat track without taking off your board and walking. Skiers of course have their feet separate and two poles so they are able to push along even if they don't have speed, lucky them. But on this mountain we found ourselves on cat tracks that were literally impossible to to have enough speed to ride out. There were also so many people on the mountain that some cat tracks were packed full and we had to slow down not to hit people blocking our way and ended up once again not having enough speed to finish the cat track. Ugh! Also some German, who I would not be friends with, invented somthing called a "T Bar." I have never seen anything like this in the States. At first I thought it was a rope tow. It is an upside down "T" that you pull down and two skiers can sit on either side, but snowboarders have to pull it down and straddle one side of the "T." Ryan and I missed a turn and ended up at the bottom of a run where the only way back up other than hiking was a "T" bar. So we waited to see how a snowboarder did this which took awhile since everyone coming down were skiers. So eventually I tired to do it and fell making them stop the "T Bar". Then I crawled back to an empty one and got on. A ways up I fell, but was dragged along until I was able to get up right. I rode a bit more and fell again this time seeing no chance to get upright since we were about to go up a steep hill. Thankfully a minute later it stopped and Ryan was there on the flat. I was able to crawl to him and get on for the rest of the rocky ride. Once we got to the top of this one there was another short one, except this one was not a "T" it was a disc you put between your legs. The mountain has way too many of these and I think it must just be because they are cheap. Personally I would expect a bit more out of such a "high class" mountain as this, but honestly if I was a skier I don't think I'd mind them and as I already said I think this is a skiers mountain. We boarded until about 3:30 I think and then headed in because we wanted to miss the rush at the end of the day to the parking lot. Overall we were glad we went, but definitely didn't feel compelled to buy a season pass and go up every chance we get. In fact we weren't even sure when we may go up again.

Coming back to this week. My Mom had told me that my Grandpa and my Uncle were watching Skiing on TV and saw that the World Cup was coming up in Garmisch and that they'd have to look for me on TV if I went to spectate, so it was in my mind that it was coming and maybe I could somehow watch. It was a bit expensive to go sit in the stands at the finish and watch the race on the big screen. Tuesday night Ryan and I went to Bible Study for the first time and in conversation with people there learned that if we bought a lift ticket and went snowboarding we could actually watch the very beginning of the race from the mountain, plus we'd get a full day on the mountain. So we decided the night before to do it. And we are both so glad that we did. Not only was it fantastic to watch the race so close, but it was a phenomenal day to be on the mountain. The forecast called for it to be snowing, but it ended up being sunny and bright blue skies. Lately we've had snow again though after basically thinking winter was over as everything was pretty much melted. Thankfully this meant we have a little bit of fresher snow to board on. Also this time we got to the mountain a bit before 8:30 so we were on the first lift up and got a run in before heading to watch the guys downhill which started at 9:15. Then we boarded some between the men's finish and the women beginning at 11:15. At the bottom of the Alpspitz was where the stands were set up right beside a restaurant. Ryan and I shared a glass of gluwein (hot spiced wine, mmm so good) at the restaurant and had a perfect view of the big screen set up. I don't know why anyone paid to sit in those stands when they could have just watched the way we did. It was so perfect. We stayed away from the cat track areas and stayed primarily on our favorite black run that took us back down to the bottom of the Hausberg where we started and then taking the Bahn back up. The mountain was way less crowded this week too. Talking with someone on the Bahn we learned that it was probably so crowded last time because it was right before Fausching (the festival right before lent begins, I think I may I written about it previously). Of the two parking lots one one was partially full of cars this week where as last time we were parked in the back lot and it was packed. There were so many things that went into making this day such a better day on the mountain than last time. I think it also helped that we were familiar with it this time too.

We had a GREAT day and were so glad we spent our weekend in Garmisch and were able to watch the Welt Cup and snowboard!

Nothing to report from Thursday. We went grocery shopping, I cleaned my room, and we went to several bakereis. :) We only had a treat at one. The other we had delicious pretzels. Mine had pumpkin seeds on it and Ryan's had sesame seeds on it. And at the last bakerei we just got a loaf of bread for the week. Oh and we went to the natural food store in town. I got natual peanut butter, which I am excited to try because Germany does not sell peanut butter (actually it is not a European food at all), I also found tahini to make hummus, and soy yogurt. Unfortunately they did not have some of my other favorite ingredients I get at natural food stores at home, but my Mom has been kind enough to send me some of those already. All in all we had a really good weekend.

Friday, March 12, 2010

I'm excited!!

We have decided for our next weekend we are taking a trip again. And the destination............ Belgium and Luxembourg. I basically plan to eat my way through Belgium because they are known for a random assortment of really great things including waffles (those of you who may have been on junior's abroad with me know just how much I love these), chocolate, mussles, and french fries dipped in mayonnaise (I will eat the fries, but I will not dip them in mayonnaise- gross).

I have Luxembourgian blood in me on my Mom's side. I asked my Grandpa and it was his Great-Grandfather who came from Luxembourg and had the last name Puetz (pronounced Pitts). I don't know anymore and I doubt I'd be lucky enough to find another statue and grave of a relative who is sort of famous like Cardinal Bettinger in Munich, but I still like traveling to where I have family roots.

If anyone reading this has been to either of these places I would love to hear your impression of them. Where should we go? What should be do?

This is the first trip we have planned well in advance, so I'm excited to see how it goes. So far I've loved our other adventures. The first to Munich, Sulzberg, and Salzburg was completely plan as we went. The second to Venice was planned the night before. And this time Zack (Ryan's roommate) and our friend Renee are coming too, so we are very excited for that.

Well I have to go to work now. Auf Wedersehen! (Good bye in Deutsch)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Glorious Creator

On Monday I was told when I arrived at work that I must be finished by 14,00 (2pm). Ryan had a longer day and had to vacuum the 2nd floor, so even if I went to the gym and worked out until Ryan was done and then waited for him to work out I would have been at the gym much longer than I wanted to be. So what did I do? I ran back to Abrams! Shocked? I was a bit shocked myself, since I have have not ran outside since sometime last summer. But lately it has been really nice outside and most of the snow has been melting and on Monday afternoon it was absolutely beautiful out. The way I ran back was mostly on a path along our little river. It was magnificent and some reason made me feel like I could run for much longer, but instead once I arrived at Abrams I went in to get my camera and then headed out for a hike. The mountain directly behind Abrams has a restaurant part way up that we call the halfway house, although I've been informed that it is more like 1/3 of the way to the top. In the summer Ryan and I plan to hike to the top. Back to the story of my hike...

It was only 5-10 minutes when I came to a large grassy field on the side of the trail and a breath taking view of Garmisch and the mountains. About 50 meters away from me and on the edge of the bluff was a memorial for fallen soldiers. There were numerous pictures hanging from a very long long time ago and on the inside, but open inside area there were beautiful flower arrangements on the ground.

As I approached the picturesque view in front of me I was overcome with emotion and tears began to flow from my eyes. I was in no way sad, but felt such awe for God's creation that was hitting me from every direction. And I felt the Holy Spirit fill me to the point of literally overflowing in the form of tears. As I listened to Phil Wickham I felt so many of his lyrics resonating deep within my heart and my soul. Looking at the view I wondered how anyone could claim there is no God. I do not believe in these mountains just appearing. I do not think the path I have taken in life to end up standing in the spot I do today is coincidence. I don't believe the emotions that were flowing through me were made up. There is always something that causes me to feel the way I do and I could not be more convicted that on this day it was a God telling me that He was there with me and that all I had to do to find Him was seek Him, which was what I was doing. As I continued on around the trail there was Jesus up on a cross as they have outside many homes in Garmisch. I fell to my knees completely astounded again in the way God could show himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all from this one place. Once again affirming that I am not worshiping a god I am worshiping THE GOD in three persons, the Holy Trinity. If you haven't thought about creation ever or for a long time I highly recommend taking a close look at the Glorious Creator that is our Father in Heaven who loves each and every one of us more than we will ever understand because I believe with my whole self that when you find life in HIM you will find more happiness, contentment and the deepest peace that you could ever imagine.

I continued up the trail, up, up, up, the trail. At times when I wondered if I was headed toward the restaurant the thing that would keep me going were the old people coming down the trail wearing jeans. :) It really is remarkable what elderly people get out and do in this town. On the nice days they are outside walking, jogging, riding bikes, and yesterday we saw them out chopping wood, stripping off the bark, and stacking it. Eventually I made it to the halfway house and once again could not believe I was actually standing with this magnificent view in front of me. From up high I could easily spot the track in town, which I think would be a great place for GFU to come do some training. If the team comes, I'll even do track workouts while they are here. And you could run some "great" hills. :) I had a radler (half beer, half lemonade) and sat outside reading my Bible until it got too cold and I decided to head down the mountain. I failed to think that as I got higher it would get colder and there would be more snow on the trail. Thankfully going down is always much quicker, so I didn't freeze and only had one mishap when I slipped smack on my bottom on some ice. I bounced back up though and don't even have a bruise.

I can't wait to take Ryan up to the halfway house hopefully for a meal. My roommate just hiked this yesterday and said they have great food and are known to have "the best" apple strudel in all of Bavaria.

I learned once upon a time that I am an introvert, which does not mean I don't like being around people. It means I get my energy from being by myself opposed to an extrovert who gets their energy from being in groups of people. This day was the perfect day for my introvert of a self to re fuel. Living in a building with 300 people and having a roommate made this a much needed time to myself. It was wonderful!

This was an incredible day from start to finish!

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Perfect Morning

Our last day in Venice we woke up "early" and went for a walk. It was just after 7 when we left. There was a misty fog over Venice this morning. I had read online that the morning time is one of the best times to see the city because things are quieter. We experienced just that. There were not the hustle and bussel of tourists or vendors trying to lure the tourists to their stands. We just walked and walked. We saw kids going to school and adults going to work. At one point we were walking along a VERY narrow street, I would not have been able to put both arms straight out from my sides, and then we emerged on the waters edge. It gave me the feeling of freedom when I never realize I had felt trapped. Eventually we reentered the narrow streets of the city and ended up finding our way to the piazza. This is where Ryan posted a picture of the water from high tide covering the ground and we all walked on risers. After taking pictures we turned back around and decided to find a restaurant that had been recommended to us that we did not make it to. When we found it we decided our next trip to Venice would definitely include this place because it was so cute right off of a small canal at the bottom of a bridge. Just past this restaurant we came upon a busy cafe and decided to stop in. It was evident the other patrons were all locals. They would stand at the counter order their espresso, drink it, and continue on to work. It was fabulous to be a part of that. I ordered an espresso and chocolate croissant and Ryan ordered a hot chocolate and a mini cheese tart. We took our drinks and pastries to a table outside the cafe to sit and people watch.

Then we decided it was the perfect time to pull out the Bible. I asked Ryan if he felt like reading anything specific and he immediately said Psalm 34:8. This verse is on Ryan's Dad's gravestone, so it is especially meaningful. So I flipped to Psalm 34 and started reading...

I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answer me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems his servants;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.

I have read this psalm before, but not for awhile. This time it spoke to me very powerfully in a whole new way. For quite some time I have been on a plateau, stuck in a rut, and not entirely happy. I had happy times, don't get me wrong, but overall I think I have been lost for some time. Part of it may have been from fear of failure, part of it from just not knowing where my life was headed or in what direction I should even look for my path. I desperately was searching for SOMETHING to be presented to me that would direct my life, at least for now. I believe that this opportunity in Germany is exactly that. I now am able to see (hindsight is always 20/20 as they say) why things have gone the way they have over the past year. I am so thankful that God has delivered me from my rut. I am so genuinely happy here. I miss my friends and family at home, but I honestly know with 100% certainty that THIS is where I am supposed to be right now. Just as when we emerged to the waters edge from the narrow street we walked down early this morning I realized that I in my life had felt more trapped than I had even realized back at home. Coming to Germany was my emergence to the waters edge and it feels so good to have found my way to where I am.

This morning in Venice was my favorite part of our trip. Being able to be more still and quiet, to watch to locals go about their days. And to sit with Ryan and read from the scripture and be spoken to so directly was really such an amazing feeling. I couldn't have asked for anything more.

We did go back and have the same breakfast we had the day before. Then we headed out to the Academia area of Venice where we had not yet been. We accidentally walked in on the end of a funeral in a church. We felt their sorrow as we watched them say good bye to their loved one. We saw a statue of a boy holding a frog. Apparently their is no significance, but it seems to be a popular site. We found super cheap pizza and gelato, which I wrote about on our food post, on our way to get our bags. Then to the train station we went. It was sad to say goodbye, but we have every intention of heading back to Venice while we are here. I had heard it was a dirty city and that is did not live up to the expectations associated with it. I would say it exceeded my expectations. I loved every second of our time there.

Ryan mentioned that our way home took twice as long as our way to Venice. My roommate had said that when she was there a few weeks before she and her friend had gotten gas at the Aviano airforce base. Aviano is about 1 1/2 hours from Venice, but takes us away from the main autostrada (freeway) that we needed to take. So once discovering we could not get gas on the base we struggled to follow our directions back to Garmisch, which ended up leading us right over the alps. It would have been a stunning drive in the day light and possibly it would have made it worth the extra time (maybe), but since it was completely dark as we tried to find our way from tiny town to tiny town we were not thrilled with the 5 hour detour we encountered. Anyway we made it back safe and sound. I hope you have enjoyed reading of this adventure. I now need to catch you up on our weekend before Venice when we went snowboarding and traveled to Innsbruck, Austria. But I'll save it for a little later.

Yay I finally got some pictures to upload!

At the glass demonstration we watched on Murano

The fish market. I think that is a swordfish head. I just wanted to buy it all.

Some of the fabulous produce.

Boats parked along the grand canal

The Rialto Bridge

One of the few pictures I took when the sky turned blue. Take note of the tall leaning building in the background.

St. Mark’s Bascillica in the Piazza and across from the Bell Tower

A cute guy I saw and wanted to take a picture of

These masks are EVERYWHERE and a huge part of Carnival in Venice, which happens right before lent starts

A huge glass masterpiece in an open square on Murano

This wasn’t on Murano, it was actually off of the waterfront on San Marco, but I loved the blown glass balls on the railings

I loved that they had flower boxes planted in February perched on the windowsills along the canal

Both Ryan and I took a lot of canal shots

This is a water bus

This is a bus stop