Saturday, November 21, 2015

So Behind - Christmas 2014

Wow, I can't believe it's been almost a year since I've posted on our blog.  I kept telling myself that I needed to get our blog up to date, but now it seems like a lost cause.  I'll just do a brief overview of our life for the past year and then try to be more diligent in keeping our blog up to date.  So, here it is in a nutshell....well a big nutshell.

Starting with Christmas. We spent Christmas break this year in Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Poland.  Rachel met us in Austria for our whirlwind adventure.  We were able to ski in Switzerland and Slovenia, see the place where the "Sound of Music" was filmed, the castle that inspired Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty's castle - Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, spend time with our great friends the Galicia's in Austria, Slovakia and Krakow, Poland, saw some great places and had an awesome time.

Flew to Vienna and rented this sweet ride for the next few weeks.  The Mercedes was cheaper than the chevy van....go figure.

Drove to Salzburg the next morning where we found these awesome pretzels...

Eating the most amazing pretzels - Salzburg, Austria
Spent the day touring around Salzburg before we head off to Strobl, Austria to meet the Galicia's and Woodhead's.

Locking the a lock on the Salzburg Bridge to commemorate our love

and then throwing the key in the river.

The lock that locks our love forever.

Mirabel Gardens from the Sound of Music in Salzburg, Austria.

Salzburg, Austria

Met our friends the Galicia's and Woodhead's in Strobl, Austria

Real reindeer in Strobl

Gavin's new European look, where's the yodeling?

The Galicia's always know how to show us a good time...Strobl, Austria

Merry Christmas from Strobl, Austria

Vika and the goats in Strobl

Rachel teaching Jonny Russian in our apartment in Strobl
Yeah...that's right...those are some good homemade potato chips.

St Gilgen''s all about the food in Europe.  Sausage and Brats.
Ice Cream in Austria?  No, it's a chocolate covered marshmallow on a cone.

St. Gilgen, Austria
St. Gilgen Christmas Market
Christmas Market in St. Gilgen, Austria

The gang in Wolfgangseer Advent, Austria 

Driving from Austria to Switzerland - the kids watching the Sound of Music 

Entering Switzerland from Germany.  Not much snow here...yet!
Our apartment in Alpnach, Switzerland near Lucerne

Drove to our friends, the Marti's, near Bern.  They had an amazing view of the Swiss Alps near their home.

View of the Swiss Alps

Not much snow...but it was still cold.

Snowball fight with Anna and Luis Marti.

The village where the Marti's lived with a view of the Swiss Alps.

Bern, Switzerland Temple

Making gingerbread men on Christmas Eve in Alpnach, Switzerland

Our family of gingerbread people.

Alpnach, Switzerland

Alpnach Lake

Our humble little Christmas Tree
Christmas Morning...

Bye bye gingerbread

Christmas day skiing in Switzerland.  Not much snow at the bottom but enough to ski at the top.

Getting higher but still no snow.

Where's the snow?
Vika was a little snowy at the top but still fun.

Jonny getting a little fancy.

The ski bums....

Our last full day in Switzerland was spend in Lucerne.

On the bridge over the river in Lucerne.

In the scaffolding of the roof on the bridge were painting telling the stories of Lucerne.  We think this was talking about the plague.

Street vendors were selling roasted chestnuts...I couldn't resist and had to finally try one myself.  Not quite what I expected.

The one of many attempts to get all kids on this ramp or actually it was a door way.

Finally all kids on at once.

Gingerbread house in the window of a bakery in Lucerne.
Our last morning in Alpnach, Switzerland and we woke up to snow.

Of course we couldn't leave until we had a snowball fight.

This was what we had to drive through for the next 7 hours on our way to the Bavarian Alps to see the Neuschwanstein Castle.
Good thing I had these Bacon Strip Flavour Snackers....

View from our hotel in Hohenschwangau, Germany.  We had a view of the Neuschwanstein Castle in the mountains but it was hiding in the fog.

Fussen village was just a few minutes from our hotel.  

Fussen, Germany
It was like a picture from a Christmas greeting card.
Neuschwanstein Castle - the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty's Castle

The castle was up the hill so we took a horse carriage up then walked back down.  It was cold but so worth it. 
Nicole modeling her latest fashion at the castle.

We left Germany heading for Slovakia via Austria and had another long day of driving in the snow.

After 8 hours of these types of road we finally arrived in Bled, Slovakia.

The church in the middle of the lake in Bled.  We were on our way to Vogel to ski.

Enjoying the beautiful scenery as we drove to Vogel Ski Resort.

We stopped and bought some apple fritters for breakfast and somebody made a mess.
Nicole at Vogel.  We were here last year at this time and loved it so much we had to come back.

Nicole and Vika getting ready to go.
It was pretty cold so we spent quite a bit of time warming up in the lodge.  Rachel enjoyed listening to the conversations because there were several Russians here and she was also able to pick up on the Slovenian language because it was very similar to Russian.

The Collins joined us for a few days in Slovenia, fun to have friends with us.
Nicole warming up....

The view from the lodge looking down at the lake.
The gang skiing at Vogel.

So nice to cuddle up with someone you love to get warm.

Rachel and Jonny letting a little boy play with the iPad.  The kids were able to talk to Rachel since the languages were so similar

The kids room at our hotel.

The roads up to the hotel were so narrow and small.

Lake Bled with the church in the middle of the lake.

One last stop at the castle and fort in Bled before heading off to Slovakia to see the Galicia's.

Jonny showing his guns on the drive to Bratislava, Slovakia
Another New Years Eve in Vienna....even better the second time around. 
Rachel wasn't with us in Vienna on New Years Eve because she was out with the big kids in Slovakia so we took her the next day.

St Stephens Cathedral in Vienna

Inside St Stephens....beautiful place.

This is not a seat made for adults....

Michaelerplatz in Vienna....cold but magical.

Hofburg Palace

Parliament Building in Vienna

Weiner Rathaus

We drove to Krakow, Poland from Bratislava with our friends the Galicia's.  Krakow is now one of my favorite places where I would like to go back and explore more.

The courtyard looking out our apartment in Krakow.

We had a two bedroom apartment that was very antique.  Made us wonder who had lived here during WWII.

Krakow city plaza.  

St. Mary's Basil in Krakow.  On the hour a trumpeter plays from the top of the taller tower but stops midway in commemoration of a trumpeter that was shot by an arrow in the throat while playing during the 15th century to warn the people of the Tartar invasion.

My dream has to always ride in a horse driven carriage through an European city.

Corpus Christi Cathedral in Krakow was built between 1335 and early 1500's.

Pipe organ in the Corpus Christi Cathedral.

Corpus Christi Cathedral

A shop we passed in Krakow...

The wall that was erected around the Jewish Ghetto in Krakow during WWII.  The tops of the wall hauntingly look like the tops of tombstones. Nearly 17,000 jews were forced to leave their homes and reside in the Jewish Ghetto.  The lucky families lived in an apartment that was shared with 3 or 4 other families, many were forced to live on the streets.
Apartments in the Ghetto

A memorial was built in the plaza in the Ghetto where the Jews were first brought when they had to leave their homes and then transported to concentration camps.

There are 70 chairs in the plaza.  Each represent 1,000 jews that were victims of the holocaust. 

This was the police station where the Jews had to present their papers and then were assigned to a concentration camp.  

Street in the Ghetto.  We were also able to visit Schindler's Factory which was only a few blocks from the Ghetto.  Many of the Jews were allowed to work in the factory.

Krakow plaza.

Awe....the food.... Pork Pork and more PORK!!!!

Stopping for hot soup to warm us up.   Why the scowls?

Lots of cold people trying to get warm.

YES....I finally got my horse drawn carriage and was even able to share it with our bestest besties the Galicia's.

Christmas time in Europe is so magical....

We stayed with the Galicia's in Bratislava and Penny was Jonny's sleeping partner each night.



We love Penny!!!!!

It was a great European Christmas!!!!!!