Sunday, December 30, 2012

Carolina Cider Company

Driving home on I 95 from our Florida Christmas today was very frustrating.  Not only was there a ton of cars on the road, but we were at a standstill in several places. The silver lining in all of this was an impromtu visit to Carolina Cider Company.  We had seen this company's products in the Charleston Farmers Market and around the state, but we had never felt the need to detour our trip.

The place was full of ciders, jams, sauces, grits, pies, and pickled items. John kept asking me to make a decision on a cider but all I could do was look around. We did end up with half gallons of strawberry and peach ciders in hopes of delicious beers to come.

I managed to snap a few blurry photos with my phone:

Friday, December 28, 2012

Another beachy Christmas

After a German start to winter, it was very nice to feel the warm Florida sun on my face.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The second snow

Our last week in Oberweissenbrunn was insanely short due to the amount of travelling we did.  We felt we merely came home to sleep and wash clothes, all to turn around and pack again.

We did, however, experience the region's second snowfall this season, in all its beauty.  We found as we were taking the bus towards the train that would eventually lead us to a plane back home that we would greatly miss the beauty of the place.  Yes, it was really far from the train, and there was no grocery store within our town's limits, and we spent so many days under a foggy cloud cover, but it was a lovely place.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A train ride through the Alps

Ok, I know, it's been forever, but I'm not sorry.

Our last week of European travel was just that: travel.  We went to Leipzig and back, Munich to Graz and back, to Amsterdam and back, and then we flew home, which was journey enough in it's own right.  To get from Oberweissenbrunn to Columbia, SC, we had to take a bus, two trains, three planes, and a taxi to our apartment well after midnight.  All in all, about 20 hours of travelling in one day.  Needless to say, we have spent a week straight lounging around the house, leaving only for food gathering and light Christmas shopping.

After many loads of laundry, and tending to the kitty who needs to show how much she missed us at every moment she can, I have finally gotten around to emptying my memory card.  Good thing I took two 16GB cards . . .

So back to the topic at hand: The Alps!  As a native Floridian, mountains aren't really something I grew up with.  At all.  Even the rolling hills of the Midlands here get me excited, so imagine my being glued to the window of the train as we rode through some of the most majestic mountains I have ever seen.  And then it started snowing.

We watched the mountains at a distance at first, fast approaching.  Then we were alongside next to them.  Then we plunged into yet another tunnel, only this time when we came out, we were in the mountains!  I will never forget the feeling of being so small amongst them.  John and I agreed, Strauss's Alpine Symphony made a lot more sense now.  He hummed along as we snaked our way through.

Listen to this as you view the rest: Alpine Symphony- At the Summit. I promise it's worth it.

We ate our train picnic (beer and a Bavarian sandwich) with this magnificent backdrop.  Unreal.

Oh look, there's a castle on that mountain top.  How could they possibly have built that there?!

In all seriousness, I would fly back over there just to do this train ride again.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Doors of Brugge

Such a great town!

More from Brugge to come, but for now, we are still travelling!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hiking through Freezing Fog

We have been experiencing quite a bit of frost this past week.  Not only are we already up in the clouds at this elevation, but the colder temperatures have pushed the moisture down towards the earth.  The result has been freezing fog, which leaves a beautiful icy layer over everything.  Oh, and it's very cold.

John and I have enjoyed hiking around in this countryside.  We hike to sight-see, exercise, and often, to gather our groceries.  You've never felt so connected to your food as when you hike a mile and a half to get it and then carry it all back.  It leads you to buy little and often.  Food is also a lot less expensive here than in the states.  It has been a great way of life thus far and keeps us from over buying, which we often do in the states.  I'm currently imagining our pantry full of food back home, completely untouched for two months.

This particular hike took us to Gersfeld, about 7 km away from our town of Oberweissenbrunn.  It was a new hike for us and proved to be quite beautiful.  However, it was pretty far and quite cold, so we ended up taking the bus back rather than hiking another 7 km through the freezing fog.  It just didn't sound like fun once we got a beer in us.  Sometime soon, once my arthritis calms down in my right foot, we will plan to hike there and back, all 14 km in total.

Is it not so beautiful, still, and lovely?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Kloster Kreuzberg

This is perhaps my favorite photo of this trip so far.  It's so still and peaceful with a wonderful balance of white and black.  If you can believe it, this picture is in full color.  There are no black and white tricks or settings.  I have not even edited it; it's straight out of the camera.

This scene is from our trip to Kreuzberg, which is a pilgrimage destination for Catholics in the Rhön region.  Kloster Kreuzberg is an old Franciscan monastery that was owned by the Bishop of Würzburg.  It is also one of the highest ridges and is great for skiing.  We caught it on it's last open day for the season, and also on a snowy day, making it a perfect day to visit it's beautiful area.

Today's pilgrimages are more for the sights, skiing, and beer than the monastery itself.  It's brewery is a great example of how monasteries and monks supported the colony with beer brewing, as the monks actively brewed beer until 1992. Currently, the monks supervise a layperson as the Braumeister.

Kloster bier is sold throughout the Bischofsheim region today.  I've had it.  It's good.

However, it was a super cold and blustery day.  The kind of cold that froze my fingers as I tried to work my camera to take pictures of snowfall.  The kind of cold that this Southern girl does not know how to deal with.  So I snapped a few more pictures and then drank a warm cup of hot chocolate!  Good for the soul, that is!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kühl ist der Wald

John and I have been enjoying our hikes immensely.  It's been cold, and layering has been tricky, but it makes for such an invigorating hike through old trails throughout the mountainside.

Most of the panoramic pictures of mine lately have been foggy and hazy.  As a matter of fact. we have had rain, drizzle, or just straight cloud for about a week straight.  Perhaps that is the hazard of being at 1200 ft in elevation.

Perhaps my favorite part of the German countryside thus far is the amount of mushrooms that are rampant in the undergrowth.  Not only do I think they are really cute, but they make excellent photo subjects as well.  Thankfully John is patient enough with me as I run off the trail and bend low to the ground to photograph these beauties.  Also, I am taking full advantage of my new found Adobe Photoshop skills in collage making. I hope it looks a bit more professional, as that may end up being the eventual goal.  Who knows?

I love these.

And in other news, I'm singing again.  I have had two short coachings in the past four days, which is more coaching than I have had in about a year and a half.  It takes so much bravery on my part to admit that I had quit for awhile.  It takes even more bravery, I think, to coach with one of the best the first time out of the gate here.  Either way, I'm in a better place.  And the beer is good too!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Rothenburg ob die Tauber

We had John's mother and sister with us for a week and a half over here in Germany.  It was a good excuse to do all of the tourist-y things that John and I might not otherwise have gotten to do.  Armed with a black Opel car with suicide doors, we braved the autobahn for a trip down "Castle Road" to the Medieval city of Rothenburg.

It was much more tourist laden than I would have thought.  Tourism here increases your chances of English speaking, so we found communication a little easier than in our tiny mountain village.

Their regional specialty pastry is called the Schneeball, or snowball.  It consists of pastry strips rolled up into the shape of a ball around a chocolate mousse, then covered in a flavored frosting.  We found it hard, and therefore, not that great.  But whatever floats their boat.

We stumbles upon a fabulous Christmas Shoppe full of so many wonders.  It was so big it even had it's own museum (which we did not warrant paying admission for more shopping).  I'm talking about a multi-layered, jaw-dropping, maze-like display of the finest craftsmanship of the area.  It was really quite mesmerizing, making you feel like a kid all over again.
As beautiful as it was, Rothenburg is definitely just a day trip.  So we got our Schneeballs and drove on back to the Rhön.