Tag Archives: history

Thomas Family Greek Vacation

8 May

Hello, y’all! First of all, thanks to all of you who have made the switch with me over to Treats, Travels and Truths! It’s so exciting for me to really get things rolling over there. But like I said, I want to keep this space as somewhere to continue sharing our personal pictures- the stuff that we want to share with our family and friends. And that’s just what I’m doing today. John’s brother, sister-in-law, niece and sister have all been here for the past couple of weeks and we decided to use a week of their visit to take on our latest adventure, Greece! What a wonderful place and what a fun, fun time we had exploring its capital, Athens, as well as two of its islands, Mykonos and Santorini. Over the next week or so, I’ll have several posts up on TT&T all about each of these spots and how we spent our time there so please be sure to stop by there to read up if you’re interested. But in the meantime, here’s our adventure as described by pretty pictures ❤

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First up, Athens…

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Library…

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Top of the Acropolis

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Erechtheion Temple- next to the Parthenon and smaller, but much better preserved…

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The Parthenon

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Temple Erechtheion- right next to the Parthenon and much smaller, but much better preserved…

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Parthenon on the left, Erechtheion on the right…

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View of the south from the Acropolis

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Erechtheion

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The original theatre where Plato and Socrates both spoke…

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Mt. Lycabettus

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Legend has it that Poseidon (brother of Zeus) and Athena (daughter of Zeus) were fighting over the city when Athena cast her spear down and where it sparked, an olive tree grew. As a result, she won the city (thus its name) and Poseidon was given a smaller village nearby…This is the original olive tree from Athena’s spear…

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A girl and her espresso…

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When in Greece, eat….pasta! Ha!

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GYROS!

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On to Mykonos…

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First morning on our balcony…

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The walk to lunch…

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Chocolate faces!

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When you’re not sure if you’re on a road or someone’s (poorly maintained) driveway! Ha! *It’s a road!*

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Mom, see the fava beans?

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Siblings ❤

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Mykonos Town

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(Neve’s first crush…On our waiter…Raphael…Who played along beautifully…In case any of us were wondering how she’d react her first time ‘in love’ and planning to ‘marry him…’ ❤ ❤ <3)

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And finally, to Santorini…

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Taken from our balcony…These blue domes are some of the most photographed items in the world…

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From our balcony…

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Our front door…

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Grape Vineyards…They have to keep them cut very short or they can’t withstand the high winds…Wine is a staple industry on Santorini…

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Castle Ruins…

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Black Sand Beach…About 5 min before she was naked and in the water!

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Downtown Fira…

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Red Sand Beach…

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Only brewery in the Greek Isles, on Santorini…

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I really can’t say enough good things about our time in Greece. Athens was terrific, the islands were terrific, the sunshine and the (mostly) warm temperatures were terrific, the food was terrific, the people were (mostly) terrific…Time most definitely flies when you’re having fun! Can’t wait to share more over on TreatsTravelsandTruths.com!

Thanks for following along!

I Blinked…

22 May

…and time zoomed past me! You know it’s a good sign when you haven’t posted anything in a week- it usually means that you’ve been busy! And busy we have been! My mom was only here for 12 days this time, which meant that we had alot to fit into a short amount of time! But y’all, it was the best two weeks. Seriously. We had the best time doing a whole lotta nothin’ and there couldn’t have been anything more perfect for my soul. Needless to say, I’ve been in a bit of a funk since she left yesterday, so what better time to sit down and look through pictures- and share our memories with all of you!

So, we decided before she even got here that we didn’t want any big plans during the two weeks. I wanted the company and she wanted to be part of our everyday life, so those were our goals. We walked Neve to and from school, we cooked dinners, we walked (a TON), we shopped (yes, for both groceries and clothes 😉 ) and we played tourists a bit here in Stuttgart. I kid you not- it was just like having a vacation, but with all the good stuff (relaxation, fun, doing new things) and none of the bad (packing, traveling, spending all your money!) Ha! I totally recommend it! ❤

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An old shot, but you can see the TV Tower from our yard- that’s it jutting into the clouds at the end of the crane arm.

When we lived here for a minute back in 2010, I’d done my own little excursion to Stuttgart’s landmark, the Fernsehturm, aka the TV Tower. It’s visible from just about everywhere in the city and is in every skyline photo you’ll ever see. Well, apparently they closed it back in 2012 for a three-year-long renovation and it just reopened a few months ago. Neve absolutely loves it (she tells folks we live right next to it, although we’re actually about 10 miles away at least, but yes, it feels pretty close when you look out of our windows- see pic above!), so I knew I needed to time my next visit so she could go with me. And what d’ya know, she had a day out of school while Mom was here, so it was the perfect day to visit!

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Pretty neat to see our building from that far away!

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We were boneheads, though, and didn’t factor in elevation and wind when we chose not to take our jackets to the top! BURR!

Remember how I was just writing about how neat it was celebrating two birthdays (mine and John’s brother, Mark’s) in less than a week? Well now we got to have our third one in about a month! What better place for Mom to ring in 39 than Germany, right?! Look at this Birthday Girl, complete with a Dunkelweissen and Veal Saltimbucco! Then back to the house for my latest healthy, vegan creation, Pineapple Dream Pie 🙂

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Another thing that I’ve been wanting to do since we got here was a tour of downtown Stuttgart. Y’all can probably tell by now that I’m a closet history buff, that I love the stories that places tell, and that I spend alot of time researching stuff just for shits and giggles. 😉 And that’s definitely been the case here, but there’s only so much I can teach myself- and only so much German I can translate! Ha! Well, a few weeks ago, I came across a walking tour…that happens to be given by an American! Sarah is a fellow history buff originally from California, but has been here since early 2011 with her husband who is a civilian engineer just like John. She offers private and group tours, either for downtown, a few of the suburbs and the surrounding wine vineyards. Mom and I had the best walking tour with her, learning all kinds of neat facts about the city, its history, its buildings, etc…Awesome!

For starters, Stuttgart is actually one of the younger cities in Germany and it wasn’t until a few hundred years ago that it grew to be a significant player whatsoever in terms of power, economy, etc. In the beginning, it was nothing more than a walled farming town. Specifically, it had a booming horse breeding market, thus it’s name which translates to ‘Stud Farm.’ Neat, right?

Stiftskirche

Stiftskirche- the first church in Stuttgart. It was completely destroyed during WWII and rebuilt in 1955. The outside was done to match the original. Today it’s a Lutheran church with a large, active congregation.

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The inside was done in a very modern style. The organ is known as one of the best in the world. It was installed in 2006.

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The building to the right of the church is the Fruchtkasten (Fruit Box), one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city, first mentioned in 1393. It was used to store and process grapes for wine- wooden ramps were put from the ground to the arched windows to roll barrels. Stuttgart is one of the only cities in Germany to drink more wine than beer. In fact, wine used to be in such abundance that this building used it in the mortar instead of water! 

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The famous Paternoster, the never-ending and never-stopping elevator, in Stuttgart’s Rathaus (Town Hall). These used to be very common- until people realized how dangerous they can be! They were banned decades ago, but the citizens came together and filed to get this one registered as a national landmark. And here it is. The right side goes down, the left side up, and the whole thing is in constant circular motion, so you just hop on and off whenever you need to. And yes, we rode it 😉

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There’s more to this square than what meets the eye. Below the cobblestones is an old WWII military bunker. After the war, many people lived in these bunkers temporarily as they rebuilt their destroyed homes. After this period, the bunker was turned into The Bunker Hotel and operated as such, with 100 beds, until 1985 when it became structurally unsafe. Today, the city offers one night a year, The Long Night of Museums, where visitors can go into the hotel that is still decorated in its 1970s splendor, letting time do its thing…And yes, we will most definitely be on one of those tours before we leave here!

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The old jail, built into the outer city wall. Today, a fancy restaurant.

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Probably my favorite thing learned on the tour. These are bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalk. We walk by them- over them- all the time. They’re all over the city. But we never knew their significance. In the 1960s, there was an artist who discovered that the house he was living in was previously the home of a Jewish couple who had been taken violently in the night to a concentration camp. He hated that he had never known that and thought that other people may feel the same way. So he set out on what would be his lifetime’s project- locating these houses all over the city and creating plaques of acknowledgement. Each plaque has the names of the people who lived in the homes, along with the date they were deported, to which concentration camps they were sent, and the dates they were murdered. So for example, the house we were standing in front of belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Leiter. They were taken in 1942 to Theresienstadt Camp and were murdered in the camp on September 29, 1942. The artist chose to put the plaques on the ground (as opposed to on the houses) because he felt that people would have to bow their heads to read them, a sign of respect. Foot traffic also helps to keep them polished. Since it began over 50 years ago, artists all over Europe have continued the project and today, there are hundreds of thousands of plaques all over Europe.

So yeah, even though we didn’t go anywhere or do anything particularly snazzy, we definitely stayed oh-so-busy and we definitely had a fabulous time. The only bummer was how quickly the time passed- and I’m talking like ‘blink and it’s gone’ time passing. *Tear* But that’s the thing about good times and good people and good memories- that’s how you know they’re the best- because you’re so busy living and loving that you don’t have time to will time to slow down. You just savor and basque and smile. Yep, I’ll take it. ❤

Feel free to stop back by tomorrow for a lovely little Weekend Mash-Up as we have had the BEST weather and have once again, taken full advantage. Of course.

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The Lost City

26 Apr

Pompeii. The Lost City. I’m sure that you’ve heard about it before, but in case you haven’t, you’re about to learn all about it! It’s one of the most incredible, yet haunting, places I’ve ever been to. And once we decided we were heading to Rome, it was a no-brainer that we’d make the trek southward to share this amazing piece of history with our guests.

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Norah loves train rides!

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Pompeii was an ancient Roman city near present-day Naples, about 2 hours south of Rome. It was founded in the 7th century BC and grew to become a bustling, affluent city- complete with a complex water system, a gymnasium, an amphitheater and a port- with more than 20,000 citizens.Elegant houses and elaborate villas lined the paved streets. Tourists, townspeople and slaves bustled in and out of small factories and artisans’ shops, taverns and cafes, and brothels and bathhouses. People gathered in the 20,000-seat arena and lounged in the open-air squares and marketplaces.

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Mount Vesuvius, a volcano about five miles from Pompeii, is hundreds of thousands of years old and has erupted more than 50 times. Its most famous eruption took place in the year 79 AD, when the volcano buried the city under a thick carpet of volcanic ash. The dust “poured across the land” like a flood, one witness wrote, and shrouded the city in “a darkness…like the black of closed and unlighted rooms.” Around lunchtime that day, the blast sent a plume of ashes, pumice and other rocks, and scorching-hot volcanic gases 21 miles into the sky- so high that people could see it for hundreds of miles around. As it cooled, this tower of debris drifted to earth: first the fine-grained ash, then the lightweight chunks of pumice and other rocks. By nightfall, as more and more ash fell, it clogged the air, making it difficult to breathe. Buildings collapsed. Then, a “pyroclastic surge”–a 100mph surge of superheated poison gas and pulverized rock–poured down the side of the mountain and swallowed everything and everyone in its path. By the time the Vesuvius eruption sputtered to an end the next day, Pompeii was buried under millions of tons of volcanic ash. Every single person in the city perished, and Pompeii was buried for centuries.  When a group of explorers rediscovered the site in 1748, they were surprised to find that, underneath it all, Pompeii was mostly intact, just as it had been left that fateful night in 79AD.

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Factoid: Geologists categorize the next Vesuvius eruption as ‘imminent,’ claiming that it could happen any day. Just like before, there have been small earthquakes and rumblings in recent years (at the time of Pompeii, they didn’t realize these were warning signs- Vesuvius had been silent for 500 years at that time and was just considered a mountain by that point). Currently, more than 3 million people live within 20 miles of its base.

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Four year old boy, with pursed lips and wearing clothes…

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Found hiding in a corner of a house, covering his face from the ash…

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Dog on his back…

Underneath all that dust, Pompeii was almost exactly as it had been 2,000 years before. Its buildings were intact. Skeletons were frozen right where they’d fallen. Everyday objects and household goods littered the streets. Later archaeologists even uncovered jars of preserved fruit and loaves of bread!

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Ruts left on the roads from constant carriage travel…

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That’s the oven behind the pestle…

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The Villa of the Mysteries is a well-preserved Roman villa on the outskirts of Pompeii, famous for the series of frescos in one room, which are usually thought to show the initiation of a young woman into a Greco-Roman mystery cult. These are now the best known of the relatively rare survivals of Ancient Roman painting. The villa wasn’t discovered and excavated until 1909, long after much of the main city. It is now the best preserved building in the entire city.

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Villa of Mysteries with Mt. Vesuvius in the background…

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Wall paintings…

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You can’t even tell how filthy we all were by this picture! Ha!

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Kitchen counter in one of the wealthiest homes…

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Tile mosaic in an entryway…Considered the unofficial symbol of Pompeii. We have a tile of this that hangs at our front door in Charleston ❤

During excavation of one site, the bodies of thirteen adults and children were found huddled together, making futile attempts to shield themselves from the onslaught of volcanic dust, pumice, stone, and ash. This place, where once stood an ancient orchard, came to be known as the “Garden of the Fugitives.” (*Sorry for the glare on the pictures- since the last time we visited, they’ve put up protective glass walls around the bodies 😦 )

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Ancient signage- painted right onto the building- for a bakery…Neat fact: There were 31 bakeries in Pompeii, proving that it was a lucrative business.

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Each hole would’ve held a bowl with warm food. These ancient ‘snack bars’ were also common in most cities. Surprisingly, it was the poorer people who frequented them because their homes were less likely to have kitchens.

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Vesuvius in the distance…

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Isn’t it incredible?! And I use that word for so many different parts of Pompeii. It’s incredible how advanced people were thousands of years ago. It’s incredible that every single one of these structures was built long before Jesus was born. It’s incredible that that 20,000 people called this city home, then were completely gone in one night. It’s incredible how well it was preserved by the ash and lava from Mt. Vesuvius. It’s incredible that there’s still 1/3 of the city still buried, waiting to be excavated. And most of all, it’s incredible that we get to visit it and learn from it and feel its incredible energy today, 2000 years later. To experience Pompeii is to witness one of the most tragic, horrific, inspiring, liberating, beautiful experiences you’ll ever have. And all you can do is be present. ❤

Tomorrow will conclude our three part series on our southern Italy adventure. You won’t want to miss Sorrento and the most scenic drive in the world, the Amalfi Coast!

 

We’re liking Wiesbaden!

30 Apr

Hello again! Two days in a row- I’m on a roll! Actually, we finally managed to get our internet situation worked out a bit, so that definitely helps things! Something I’m going to start today: starting each post with a ‘Keeping It Real’ blurb. Just in our almost-week here, I’ve had so many moments and tidbits- good, funny, bad, annoying…- that are worth sharing, so I figure the best way to do this is to include one every post!

Keeping It Real, 4/30: I guess this is technically two tidbits, but I’m just going to put them both under ‘Food.’ We are LOVING the fact that Germany tends to have much higher standards when it comes to the food it sells and serves! For example, their sausages (and yes, there are ALOT of them!) can not have fillers, artificial preservatives or chemicals. I’m not an everyday sausage kind of girl (my husband is, btw), but this makes me feel better for when I do choose them! Just about every supermarket- even the ratty ones- have some, if not alot, of organic/natural/no GMO options. The second tidbit- the squash situation here. Stinks. While we’ve spotted a few pumpkin-esque kurbis (the German word for squash), there are virtually none to be found. No summer kurbis, no acorn kurbis, no spaghetti kurbis…After checking three grocery stores, the commissary on base and a huge farmers market, I finally asked one of my German friends who confirmed the worst 😦 Considering we usually eat these 3+ times a week, this is a problem.

OK, onto our little city! So, Wiesbaden is a suburb of Frankfurt, about 20 minutes to the southwest, on the north bank of the Rhine River. Check out the maps tab if you’re curious. It’s the capital of the state of Hessen and has about 300,000 residents- OK, so it’s not so little. To give some perspective, the population is about the same as Pittsburgh, PA, and Lexington, KY. The name translates to ‘meadow baths,’ which refers to its history as one of the oldest spa towns in all of Europe. At one point, it boasted 26 hot springs- today is has 14 still flowing.

We stumbled across this hot spring downtown.  It stays at a constant 150F. Many of the springs are actually still used for baths...

We stumbled across this hot spring downtown. It stays at a constant 150F. Many of the springs are actually still used for baths…

So, Wiesbaden is really old. It’s been constantly inhabited since around 6 AD when the Romans discovered it for its springs and they’re healing properties for both their soldiers and their horses, as well as red hair dye from its unique minerals. There’s still evidence of the Roman occupation ca. 376 AD in the form of ruins from their wall that went around the city and one of it’s watch towers.

By the 8th century, the Franks had taken over and established their royal palace. The city became Protestant in the mid 1500s. Wiesbaden is one of the only cities in the country not severely affected by WWII (only one allied bombing on a residential district), so much of their historical buildings and roads still remain in tact without complete restoration- that part is really cool. The oldest ‘modern’ building still remaining- and being used!- is the Old Town Hall. In addition to the baths, Wiesbaden became known for its gambling in the 1800s until it was outlawed. But since it was reinstated in 1949, it’s back to being widely known as a good gambling destination. (And I’m not talking flashy lights and slicked back hair gambling- this stuff is fancy! Tuxedos and gowns required in the main casino!) Here are two views of the Kurhaus, where the casino is housed.

That's the Kurhaus in the back with the columns and domed roof.

That’s the Kurhaus in the back with the columns and domed roof.

The Kurhous is lit in the background.

The Kurhous is lit in the background.

So we have had a grand time exploring our city a bit this week. Luckily, it’s quite compact, so getting around is fairly easy. We bought a bike and carrier the second day because Neve and I wanted to experience the ‘real deal’ that comes so often with European living- using bikes and public transportation instead of a car. It feels strange not having a car (John takes it to work on one of the five bases, about 10 minutes away), but it’s important to me for us to have that experience, if that makes sense? Simply put, picture the city shaped like a half bowl (the other side of the bowl is the river). Houses and apartments tend to be all along the sides of the bowl (on the big hills) and the city itself is at the base. As you might imagine, this makes for great trips IN to the city- not so much getting back to the apartment! *huff and puff* For those of you living in- or if you’ve visited- Charleston, the layout of the streets is very similar. Some are nice square, right angles. More veer offs or tiny points or useless curves. And lots of one ways. Oh, and LOTS of ‘pedestrian only’ streets. So far, those two things have been our biggest challenges with the bike- we’re allowed on those streets, but have you ever tried riding through a sea of people? And what happens when cars are coming your way and you have nowhere to go? Um, no.

IMG_3131IMG_3132So what have we been up to so far? Well, we’ve walked a good bit in Altstadt, the Old Town, of the city. There are so many shops, cafes, restaurants…And SO many people. It’s like King Street in Charleston on a Saturday during the peak of tourist season…Every Day! Not sure where all these people come from. We’ve been to an awesome farmers market (it takes over the main plaza every Wednesday and Saturday, so that’s terrific news!) that made for a most excellent dinner last night. We’ve spent time at the huge park near our apartment feeding the ducks and playing on the playground. And we’ve been venturing further on our bike a little each day in search of new sights and new playgrounds. I think these last two are Neve’s favorite parts 🙂 The bike thing will take some time and practice, at least to feel comfortable- and safe- using it as our transportation on main thoroughfares. I’ll be honest, I’m not a whiz on a beach cruiser at home on a wide open cul-de-sac (I was never the kid who could ride with no hands, my turning radius was as wide as a minivan, I couldn’t ride anybody on my handlebars…) and some things never change, folks. I’ve spent alot of time brushing up on their bike laws (there are tons), but there seem to be still so many uncertainties that present themselves as we go along. I suppose that’s the thing about becoming a mom- you’re way more aware of this kind of stuff, way less likely to wing it (at least when it comes to safety)…And way more interested in getting it right the first time rather than trial and error!

OK, less talk, more pictures…

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As soon as you leave city limits, the countrysides are filled with these gorgeous yellow flowers. I’m sure it’s just the time of year and I’m sure they’re wild- probably weeds- but they’re just lovely. This was taken just outside of the gate on the base where John is working.

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The landmark church that anchors the city. Built in the late 1800s, its spire is the highest point in the city. You’ll see it in the background of many of our pictures, I’m sure, as it’s pretty central.

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Our favorite 'homecooked' meal so far! Everything you see is from the Farmers Market and cost 9 euro 60 cents. Go ahead and say it. Hell yeah.

This was one of our best ‘homecooked’ meals so far! Neve and I got everything that morning at the Farmers Market- four kinds of meat (can’t be sure what kinds other than that they were cured pork), two kinds of cheeses (can’t be sure- something Swiss-y and something Manchego-y) and 7 kinds of olives. Every single thing was a hit! And guess how much it all cost? 9 euro 60 cents. Go ahead and say it. Hell. Yes. And the biggest news of the night is that our pretty-much-vegetarian-not-by-our-choice-Neve discovered that she LOVES (translate: inhales) Fleischwurst. Lawd. That puts us to fish sticks, McD’s nuggets and now fancy bologna. We’ll take it! 😉
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So far, we’ve found three playgrounds. That’s one thing I remember from the last time we lived here- how much money and effort apparently goes into German parks and playgrounds. They are everywhere and are generally very well kept. That being said, you’ll only see pictures from two as the third one ended up being in the ghetto, not in fact well kept and we only did a drive by. The first is the one we have been to daily just a few blocks from the house. It’s part of a beautiful larger park that has a pond and fountain, ducks (pictured above), jogging paths and lots of green space.IMG_3134IMG_3158IMG_3161IMG_3166IMG_3163

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