Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cross Country Skiing

Today we rented some skis, and went cross country skiing. We all had a fantastic time, and certainly would do it again. The skis have hinges on the toes, so that you can walk better. The poles were mostly for balance; although I liked to push myself along with them. the skis were only about 4cm across, but they were fairly long. The air was incredibly cold, but I didn't even feel it until the end, because I was working so hard.

Julia fell down a lot, especially when we were going down, up, or strait. Dad was the only one that didn't fall. Mom fell in the same place I did, which was at least a 45° slope downward for 2 metres. The slightest change was either a slippery ascend, or a speedy descend.

Near the beginning, mom lost her camera in a fall. She didn't notice until later when she was going to take a picture. we had to wait while dad went to get her camera. Near the end, her batteries died when she was about to take a picture. Also near the end, my stomach started to hurt when I fell on nothing, and I didn't know why. I was trying to get over the side of the road, which was a big pile of snow.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Haircut

Well, after four months it was apparent to me that the natural blonde illusion was wearing off. What to do? What to do? The German stylists must have lots of experience with the whole “natural” blonde thing but the English stylists will speak English. I opted for the more challenging route, naturally.

I talked to our host and she recommended a little salon around the corner in the basement of someone’s house. I think it is the ONLY salon in Hopferau but that isn’t important... or is it? She told me to ask for Daniela. I found Daniela at the salon early on Wednesday morning and made an appointment for Friday. I discovered Daniela spoke very little English but had a good sense of humour.

Today when I arrived at the salon the chairs were full and a lively German conversation was in full swing. Daniela leapt up with a smile to welcome me and the entire shop paused in their discussion to witness the newcomer. Obviously everyone there knew each other and did not know me. A friendly silence hung in the air and everyone kept their eyes averted as I stripped off my outside clothes, donned the familiar black salon wrap and settled into the chair. I was now a member of the party but no one knew quite what to make of me.

Daniela got out her German/English dictionary and flipped it open to “at the hairdresser”. She pointed to “highlights/lowlights” and I nodded and agreed, demonstrating with my hands how the highlights might go in. She quickly changed from her dictionary to her “colours of hair” book and we perused the colours together. Another lady who had been sitting in the “waiting” chairs joined us to add her understanding into the discussion. The other stylist and ladies having their hair done added their own German understanding from time to time and soon I was using my sign language to assist as well.

After some time, we all agreed on “not too much hell”. I wasn’t completely sure what we were talking about but it seemed appropriate that I shouldn’t have too much “hell” in my hair. Daniela began the foil process and I sat looking at German magazines trying to think of short sentences I could say to share about myself. A man came in to have his hair cut and all the German ladies spoke rapidly. I recognized “English” and “Canada” so I knew they were talking about me. I looked at the new gentleman and he smiled broadly and spoke rapid German. I nodded and smiled back and everyone smiled and spoke German, laughing periodically while looking at me as if to share the humour. I have no idea what we were all laughing about but we had a great time.

People came and went. It takes a long time to have hair highlighted. Each time we all laughed and there was lots of German discussion. At one point the German stopped and I realized everyone was looking at me. I looked around and saw the woman who had just spoken looking at me questioningly. We all waited for my reply. I had no idea what we were talking about. Eventually, the man in the back translated “Do you live here?” I knew enough words to recognize the word for “live” and answered in halting German. Everyone accepted this and seemed to understand and this launched a series of basic classroom German sentences between us. “Ich habe ein mann, ein sohne und eine tochter. Meine tochter ist zwolf und mein sohne ist funfzehn.” I have no idea if I spelled that correctly. It says I have a husband, a son and a daughter. My daughter is 12 and my son is 15. It may not even be correct but Daniela understood and told me about her family as well.

As Daniela was finishing my hair, I asked her if she knew what “hell” meant in English. She didn’t so I explained as best I could. She laughed and spoke rapid German to the rest of the room. They all looked mystified and slowly I caught on that they didn’t know the English translation for the German word “hell”. One lady said, “brown is dark and blonde is ?” I filled in “light” and everyone relaxed and repeated the word a few times. Daniela said, “not too much light in your hair”. I nodded and said that I actually preferred “not too much hell” and she thought that was just as funny as I did. My hair looks heavenly.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bavarian Germany is a great place to be in the winter. Probably all of Germany is but this is where we are right now. We have a nice German car; we are staying in a nice German house in a small town called Hopferau. Getting around the curvy country roads is quite easy. Even though it has snowed almost every day the roads are clear and salted. I hate the use of salt but since it is not my car this is OK right now. Our Audi has a GPS navigation system. This is the first time I have relied on one to get us to our sightseeing destinations. It is a very civilized way to travel in foreign lands.

Today we made two stops. One at the Wieskirche, church in the field, it is a baroque church in the middle of nowhere. Very impressive trompe d’oil fresco on the ceiling and some very ornate wooden pews. It amazes me the cigarette burns on the pews. First that someone would damage such precious wood carvings; second that people were allowed to smoke in church. The church was so cold inside that you could see your breath. I am guessing 5’C inside. You could buy a candle to light for 50 Euro cents; this was the main heating system.

We then traveled to King Ludwig’s Linderhof Palace for our second stop. It was his main residence. He lived half the year there, half a month at a time. It is very small by Ludwig’s standards, Holly called it his bachelor pad and I guess that is what it was. Ludwig was an odd duck, he was so shy and private that he never received any guests at the palace but the place had all the show and pomp of a regal residence anyway. The king loved Rococo style and had the money to do it. The workmanship is so impressive and over the top that you go “Wow” involuntarily with every room you enter. Even though they eventually commited him I think he was more genius than mad. How many other kings are still cellibrated so many years after their deaths? Sure he was hell bent on spending every Bavarian penny on his own pleasure but that is big government isn't it? At least he had something to show for it. The tour lasted 20 minutes and we were fortunate that it was in English, no Germans on the tour at our lucky timeslot. The grounds are supposedly just as impressive but since it was all covered in snow we could only look at the postcards. It has really bugged me that all these impressive palaces do not allow pictures inside. I am guessing it is so you will but more books and guides. It worked on us at Neuschwanstein, we bought the book.

All little grocery shopping on the way home and call it a day. We are trying to eat at home a lot to save money. It seems that we overspent our budget for the first time in November. Holly and I agreed that cutting the kids food budget was the right area for cuts.

Car ride

So yesterday we met canadian peoples. They said alot, but one of the things my mom said we should do was go to the church if the feild. So today we got up (ugh) and got in the car and went to the curch in the field. I'm starting to really soak in to the whole beauty thing, because during our car ride i looked out side and though 'wow'. The snow is just awsome it's sooo pretty, makes everything is so... pretty. So i took lots of pictures.

The church was honestly amazing. And that's coming from me it was so ornate and cold. Yes, cold (i spent my time warming by the holy candles.) Every little bit of church was covered with gold design and pictures or paintings. This was a church about as good as WestMinster Abby! It was awsome. This was a church in the middle of nowhere we all just thought why is this in the middle of nowhere?

After that my toes were freezing. I bought, not ugly,no, i was told the boots were good for hiking and they would be warm and dry. I agreed to them because my feet were cold and they were water proof, so i thought. It turns out they are most likely not water proof, so my feet are squished up in wet boots all day. Anyway we went to a kings bachlor bad. My dad said it looked feminine.

I thought it was pretty. We went up the stairs (yes only two floors in here) And saw a bunch of his rooms. He went there 2 weeks every MONTH! The was a beuatiful blue bedroom and alot of diamonds or paintings of the gods. Well, it was cool not very big though, and i would of thought Ludwig would have made it big :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Wanderin'

We spent another quiet day at home. Tom wasn’t feeling well and the kids became engrossed in their schoolwork. Okay, maybe that is a bit of a stretch but Rhys did spend his entire day reading a novel. I found myself needing to get out even though the weather was grey and the snow continued to fall.

I bundled up, showed Tom my planned route, kissed him goodbye and trundled out into the cold. Tom told me he loved me before pushing me out the door. The children remained affectionately uncaring of my impending adventure.

I had a map of cross-country ski trails and an idea that the trails would have sign posts. Tom was less sure, thinking that the way to follow a ski trail is by looking at the tracks and since this was only their first week of snow I was unlikely to see many tracks. It made the challenge all the sweeter.

I began my journey with light snow falling around me and spent several minutes at the end of my street looking at the sign posts. They did show cross-country ski trails and they did seem to line up with the red lines on my map but it was unclear how to ski through the large sawmill at the end of the street. I decided to walk between the buildings and on the other side came across a set of footprints in the snow leading across the white landscape.

The snow was thankfully not overtop of my low boots and their claim to be waterproof must be true as my feet stayed toasty and warm the entire trek. After plowing through the snow following the tracks I came to a bench with a grave marker. It seemed to be in the middle of nowhere but I paused to gaze back across the hills. The footprints led further away so off I went.

My whole trip lasted about an hour and a half. I gave up trying to follow the map. The white of the snow was blinding but there were enough signposts to follow that I always felt confidant about where I was and that I could get back easily. I followed human tracks and animals tracks. I walked through wooded areas, across wide open hills, down roads, through little groups of houses and did not see even one other person walking the entire time. I saw a few cars and a few people climbing into cars but I guess the grey of the day discouraged others from coming out with me.

After about half an hour, I decided to follow signs that said Hopferau to try to get back to the village. The signs were well spaced and led me in a circle right back to the top of the hill where I started. It was a lovely walk and rather symbolic of our lives right now.

Let it Snow!

We are in a little town called Hopferau in Germany. It is in Bavaria and is very close to the ski resort of Garmisch-Partekirnen and the gorgeous castles Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. You are doing well if you can read that last sentence out loud.

It began snowing a few days ago and with the temperature below zero the snow has stayed. It is the beginning of their ski season. The area is beautiful. The air is crisp and clean. The buildings are all chalets and the white rolling hills are surrounded by high mountain crags. Dotted around the countryside are little lakes which will be frozen for skating in a few weeks I am sure. This is the perfect winter resort area.

We spent our first day inside, listening to the wind howl and watching the snow come down in thick flakes. We baked cookies, played board games and surfed the internet feeling cozy and happy in our top floor chalet apartment. Baking was an experience as they don’t have baking soda here. They have something called potash which sounds suspiciously like a chemical belonging in a lab somewhere. It tastes about that good, too, as it refused to blend in to the cookies and so is hidden in nasty little lumps of sour surprise. We ate the cookies anyway. We miss chocolate chip cookies.

Yesterday the day dawned clear and sunny. We visited the two spectacular castles. I don’t think I can do justice to how beautiful Neuschwanstein is as a castle. I love castles and I am a romantic at heart. This was everything my romantic heart could desire. The Bavarians claimed King Ludwig II was crazy and he almost bankrupted Bavaria building the castle but after touring the place, I think he and I would have gotten on quite well. This is a castle from your dreams, with high turret towers that Rapunzel would have recognized and a setting almost surreal in its beauty. I think they used this castle in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. If they didn’t, then this was the model for it.

I had no idea the inside was so fantastic. I knew the story about Mad King Ludwig building the castle. He died before it was finished and so construction stopped and it was never completed. I figured if it hadn’t been finished, it couldn’t be that great inside and really, how could you possibly make the inside as fabulous as the outside? Somehow, he managed just that. Some of the floors were not finished but the floors that were completed are a fantasy.

While all of the rooms were splendid, some of them were mind-blowing. Almost every finished room had walls covered in paintings. The paintings were scenes from Richard Wagner’s operas because Ludwig really liked Wagner. Many rooms and hallways had huge chandeliers that looked like giant gem studded crowns. The King’s bedroom had taken fourteen woodcarvers four years to complete. The woodwork is amazing. Ludwig had also built a cave grotto into his rooms. The whole area looks like a giant cave and has a window out onto the most amazing view. I believe Ludwig and Disney would have enjoyed each other’s company.

Hohenschwangau is very close to Neuschwanstein. You can walk between the castles. Hohenschwangau was Ludwig’s childhood home. His parents used the castle as a retreat from court life. It is kind of like the cabin at Shuswap…kind of. The castle of Hohenschwangau is beautiful but pales in comparison to Neuschwanstein. My favourite part of Hohenschwangau was the room with the billiard table. It just made the castle seem more like a home and the royalty seem more human. Of course, the bedroom Ludwig slept in had a ceiling painted with a starry sky. The stars were translucent and could be lit from the floor above. Ya gotta love him.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday Grandma Jean