Friday, August 12, 2011

History not found in a book...

James 'Großmutter, als "Mamaw" oder "Sommersprossen" bekannt ist, aus Deutschland. Sie traf ihren Mann, Ron, oder "Papaya", als sie 17 Jahre alt war, heiratete ihn zwei Jahre später, hatte ihr erstes Kind und zog in die Staaten......

Unless you speak German, that's exactly how we felt - "Huh?!?"
*And maybe even if you do speak German because I used Google translate which does not always translate 100% accurate, hah!*

Anyway, James' grandmother kept forgetting to switch back to English when talking to us and it was very entertaining at times!

So, let's try this again...

James' grandmother, known as "Mamaw" or "Freckles," is from Germany. She met her husband, Ron, or "Papaw" when she was 17 years old. The couple got married, had their first kid and moved to the states within the next two years. There they lived in Kentucky, had five more kids- and the rest is history. Since Papaw passed a few years ago, Mamaw tries to visit her family in Germany at least once a year. This year we decided to drop in for a visit while she was there. This trip was very special and not like any other touristy trip we have taken while in Europe.

Day 1:
We flew into Munich International Airport on Saturday morning and drove 15 minutes to the cute little town of Freising, where Mamaw was raised. We stayed at Mamaw's sister's house, Chrysantha (Cyntha for short).

Cyntha's daughter, Anita, and her husband, Willy,
also live there. Once we were settled in, we ate th
e typical Munich meal of white sausage (weisswurst) with soft pretzels and sweet mustard. I think I've decided that is my favorite German meal!
*Our friend Laura made this for us when we were in Köln in honor of James' roots, so I thought that was pretty neat that we were having it with his family this time*

After lunch we stopped by the graveyard where James' great grandmother and great grandfather are buried- James' middle name is Kaspar, named after him. The graveyards there are like nothing I've seen before. First of all, several people are buried in one plot, so they start the first one very deep so that they'll have room to fit more caskets on top later- and the head stone lists all the people buried there. Then, you have a little rectangle area of land above the grave that the family of the deceased can put whatever flowers, pics, candles, etc that they want, but it's up to them to maintain the area and water the flowers. It was actually quite beautiful. Mamaw was telling us that they have to go every other day to water the flowers- unless it rains.

Next we headed downtown, and on our way we stopped by Mamaw's sister Hela (short for Helena)'s apartment to say hello (and "nice to meet you"). She lives in a cute little second story apartment right by the downtown area that she's lived in for forty years! She didn't speak English, and James and I don't speak German, so "Hallo" is about as far as our conversation went, the rest was smiling, nodding and looking around. After a little bit of chatting (between the sisters) we headed downtown. Along the walk Mamaw told us a little about what it used to look like, and showed us where she lived as a kid.

Downtown is basically just a shopping strip, so we just shopped a little and got some ice cream. The coolest part was seeing the shop where Mamaw's wedding ring came from. The same ring she still wears today.
Mamaw said Papaw paid 10 marks for her ring, which is the equivalent to $2!

On our walk home, we passed by the church Mamaw was married in- it was sweet.
She said the outside is the same, but the inside is completely renovated and modernized- which she was not thrilled about at all!
Mamaw said that Papaw didn't understand German, so the priest nodded at him when it was time to say "I do."
*Mamaw shared several memories with us. It was so sweet!*

Afterwards we hung out at the house in the backyard and chatted for a few hours over coffee. Everyday around 4:00pm they have coffee and cake. I very much enjoyed this part of the day until I realized it made it harder for me to go to bed at night, so the last few nights we skipped the coffee. We did a lot of "hanging out" this trip, but it was cool just to be with the family. It also rained a lot so unfortunately we had to revolve our schedule around that.

That night, while we were hanging out, Anita showed us her scrapbook of her trip to the states 18 years ago. It was cool to see all the things she did. I especially liked the DC ones because they reminded me of home! She also had pics of the family... so we took pictures of her pictures:

Seven year old James:

Nine eyear old DJ (James' brother):

Some of the cousins:

Patty, James' Mom- probably up to no good ;-)

Day 2:
On Sunday's everything is pretty much shut down, so this day was mostly just a day of relaxing at the house. And it was raining, so there's not much you want to do when it's raining out. However, when the rain let up a little Mamaw took us to a beautiful church up on the hill (in Freising) where her and Papaw went to church once for midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

Mamaw said because Papaw didn't speak German, at the end of any service they attended together he would ask her what they taught about. So as usual, that night papaw asked her what they taught about and she said "Well, I don't know. They were speaking in Latin!" To that Papaw replied, "You mean I sat through all that and you didn't even understand!"

She also told us that this church is the same as she remembers it and is much like what the one she was married in looked like at the time she got married.

View of Freising from the church:

Then it started raining again so we headed home for dinner.
I realized I didn't have any pics of myself yet!

Another big thing in Germany is Beer, both alcoholic and non, so when the rain let up again after dinner, we went to a local brewery. It's the biggest and oldest in the area. It's been around since 1040. There was tons of beer... In kegs and bottles.
There was much more but I could only capture so much in one pic...

There's also a huge agricultural college up there, so we walked around and enjoyed their beautiful work:

and another view of Freising from a hill:

On the way home Anita drove us past what used to be the base where Papaw was stationed when he met Mamaw. They are tearing it down now, but James caught a little picture in passing of what used to be the barracks. It looks like it was a cute base once upon a time- and in such a cute city!

At least it was there for enough time for Mamaw and Papaw to meet!

Mamaw told us that the night that she met Papaw, he first saw her singing at a bar (she wasn't paid to sing, but anyone could sing for fun, so I'm guessing it was like Karaoke- she said it's just what they did there.) and he told his Air Force buddies that she was the girl he was going to marry. They teased him because he hadn't even met her yet, but it was fate! Of course he didn't tell Mamaw this until after they were married! How sweet!

Day 3:
This day's activity was shopping at a German department store with Mamaw's youngest sister, also with the name Anita. It seems like a lot of European countries have huge department stores, and that's how they shop, not really malls like we have all over every city in the states. (execpt maybe Italy where I can't seem to find a department store anywhere!) Every year Anita takes Mamaw shopping here and buys her something for her birthday. How cute!
After about 30 minutes of looking around James and I realized that we had to be the youngest people in the store. That was entertaining. But none the less, I found two adorable shirts and he found a pair of pants that fit him nicely- and weren't the tight ones you find in Italy! After shopping we met upstairs in the department store's restaurant for lunch. I had a chef's salad with a yogurt base dressing - delicious! ...And a cappuccino, of course. James had Schnitzle (kind of a thin breaded pork chop) with potatoes, and he drank a "spezi."
*Spezi is half coke and half orange Fanta, and it's actually listed on their menus in that part of Germany.

On the way home we stopped by the train station where Anita showed us how much of a bike city Freising is. Apparently most people ride their bikes to the train, and then take the train where they need to go. We saw a lot of bikes out, and people of all ages riding, but it was crazy to see all these bikes parked in one spot. I don't even think I've ever seen a place that could house so many bikes!
I know I parked my bike somewhere in here...

Day 4:
This was the last full day of our trip, so of course we had to see Munich. We parked at the metro station and hopped on the metro for about 25 minutes.

Munich is known for it's Glockenspiel - clock tower.
It consists of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figurines.

Mamaw and "Kas" at the


The figurine "story-telling" part only happens at 1100, 1200 and 1700.
We were there for the 1100 one:
The top story is a celebration of the marriage between the local Duke Wilhem to Renata of Lorraine.
The bottom story is the coopers dance. They were said to have danced through the streets during difficult time of a plague in Munich in 1517. Their dance came to symbolize perseverance and loyalty through difficult times.
At the end (about 15 minutes later), a golden bird above these two scenes chirps three times marking the end of the show. This was James' favorite part, hah! Hey, the bird was cute!

Other than the
Glockenspiel, we just walked around, shopped, ate and had coffee.
Here is Anita (Mamaw's niece), Mamaw and James at a water fountain downtown:

KFC? That seems a little random...

After rescuing James from this cruel live-statue...

...we were on our way back to the house for our last dinner with our family in Freising.
They cooked for us every night! They were always typical German meals and always yummy... and fun!

Day 5:
Cyntha joined us that day as we took the bus back to Freising's downtown area to wander the Wednesday Market and say bye to Anita, who works at a store downtown.
Cyntha made the sweater I was wearing. I thought it was on the professional level. So cool.

While shopping I found a 6 Euro sweater (super cheap right?), but I still couldn't decide if I really wanted it. I had already bought so much I didn't even want to spend 6 Euro if I wasn't in love with it. James is actually the one who spotted it and he loved that it was 6 Euro and cute so we took it to the register... and... it was half off the 6E! It suddenly became my new favorite sweater, hah!

After about an hour of walking around shopping we stopped by the bakery and grocery store for more soft pretzels for lunch, and we also got some goodies to take home. I found some Ecuadorian chocolate to bring home-home to my Dad. I was kind of surprised to find it in Germany. That made it double cool, hah! Then finally we got home, ate lunch and prepared to leave our awesome trip.

While at the airport with our fellow Italians, we saw some fun sights...

Like father:

Like son:

Kind of reminds me of someone else who wanted to be just like his Daddy when he was a kid:
Yes, that's a mullet, and yes, that's my James!

To all the family- you have to go with Mamaw on another trip if you can! It was an unforgettable and most memorable trip! And you'll probably see us there again if you go! *winks*

Til next time...


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Espana- SI! Portugal... Why not?!

A couple times a year James has to go TAD (Temporary Assigned Duty) to both Spain and Germany, and it was that time again. James was TAD for 10 days at the hospital on the base in Rota, Spain. They don't have an Opthalmology department there so James and his Doctor went to do surgeries and such. This worked to my benefit because I'm not working, so I hopped on a military (free of charge) plane headed to Rota! I was able to be with him for seven of his 10 days of TAD. Of course, during the day he has to work- and despite what some of you may be thinking, he does actually work while TAD. After work though, we were free to explore!

Over the weekend James' Doctor, Captain May, invited us to join him and his wife to explore Portugal. Both James and I have never had any desire to go to Portugal. I mean really- it's small, we don't know one word in Portugese (except maybe "no"), and Portugal is next to wonderful Spain (where I am actually familiar with the language!). However, now that we've been to Portugal, I want to go back... but we'll get to that.

So... Spain Day 1:
I was flying all day, so by the time I got settled and James got off work, we just went to dinner and relaxed.

Most meals start with bread and olives, which is both good and bad because I love olives and bread, but because of this I couldn't stop eating them and was pretty much full by the time our food came. Every night. I never learned. Hi... We went with Captain May to dinner at a local restaurant and for an appetizer he ordered Gazpacho. Gazpacho is a popular cold Spanish soup. It's kind of like Tomato soup (except cold) and then they give you sides to add like meat/seafood pieces, cut up veggies, boiled egg pieces, croutons, etc (depending on the restaurant). We all agreed it was best with just the veggies. *If you've ever had my dad's ceviche, it tastes very similar to a pureed version of that* I love potatoes so for an appetizer James and I got potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce. They were SO good I pretty much "ruined" what was left of my appetite on those (but I use ruined lightly). However, the meal continued and as an entree I had more potatoes, rice, veggies and meat with a creamy mushroom sauce- all so delicious!

Than we came back to the room and snuggled into our twin size bed- because that was all they had available when James made our reservation. Needless to say I was selfishly happy every morning when James had to get up for work.

Day Two:
I walked around the commissary and bought us some snacks and breakfast for the week, then I just wandered around the base until James was off.
After work and before picking up his wife, Carol, from the airport Captain May dropped us off at the "boardwalk." It was a path through woods just off the beach.

There were areas where you could go up some stairs to a look out point.

The views where great!

The beaches in Rota had different "fun stations" (the name is Heather-given), like jungle gym type areas, and my favorite- platforms to jump off and into the water. Some even had little slides on them to slide into the water.
The water wasn't very warm, so we never made it out to one of the platforms, I was a little bummed about that. Maybe next time!

Once the "boardwalk" ended, we continued to walk along a sidewalk that continued at the edge of the sand where there were loads of restaurants and cafes. It's like what we would call the boardwalk (at Ocean City, MD), except the walkway was cement, not wood boards.

At one point there was a huge rock that was dock-like, so we decided that was our stopping point.

We walked down, enjoyed the view and then took a break.

We sat on a bench for a few minutes, watching the little kids playing in the shallow rocky areas:
Lots of the kids had nets so I assume little fish get caught in the little puddles.

As we were sitting there, James noticed how cute our shadows were:
Que Romantica!

After our walk we worked up quite an appetite, so we walked to a Restaurant called El Presebre. There we had bread and garlic-olives (way delicious!), fried green pimento peppers (also super delicious), and we shared (I got a little smarter) garlic chicken with potatoes. Everything was delicious. *Are we noticing a trend in my descriptions of Spanish food? Mmmmm!*

Day 3, Friday:
Nothing too exciting during the day except packing for PORTUGAL!

Before we all left for Spain, James had told Captain May that I would be joining him in Spain for part of the time. Captain May and Carol had made plans to go to Portugal over the weekend and invited us to join them. James and I had never considered visiting Portugal, mostly out of ignorance as we knew nothing about the country, but since the opportunity presented itself - we couldn't resist a new adventure! And I'm so glad we made that decision!

After James and Captain May were off work we hopped in the car and the four of us were on our way! After the six-hour drive we arrived in Lisboa (Lisbon), Portugal! The town was much like any other European downtown area- crowded, a little dirty, small side streets, with a Starbucks (that's right, good ol' Starbs!) and McDonalds just around the corner! We checked into our hotel and then walked around a little bit on our way to dinner.

On our walk, we passed this huge theater and we learned that they play movies in English with Portuguese subtitles (which is why many Portuguese people speak English so well!), and they have assigned seating and legit ushers! It was a gorgeous theater and I enjoyed passing it everyday.

We ate a cute restaurant recommend in the Rick Steve's Portugal book.
This isn't the dining room we ate in but it was so cute I had to take a pic!

Most of the walls everywhere are hand painted tiles. It's a Portugal thing- very cool! Our dining room was the first place we really got to enjoy the painted tiles up close (but I forgot to take pics!).

Apparently Codfish is the food that Portugal is known for (even though the actually fishes come from Norway, minor detail). Carol ordered it and disliked it so much that she couldn't finish it. With that James and I decided not to even try it- and the May's wouldn't recommend it anyway. They tried it a second time and weren't too pleased then either! *Maybe Portugal should rethink the dish they are known for...hmm.*

After dinner we walked back through the downtown area to get back to our hotel. We past many other restaurants and little shops where the people automatically started speaking English to us (do we really scream "American" that bad?!) and tried to get us to eat at their restaurant... and then others were simply trying to get free money from us.

Day 4 (Day 2 in Portugal):
We started the morning with breakfast pastries, and cappuccinos. Well, I had a capp, everyone else had chocolate milk! Then we headed to the Tourist information office where we picked up "LisboaCards," which would allows us free or discounted entry to many sites for the next 24 hours.

Once we purchased our tickets and picked up some pamphlets we hopped on the train headed to Sintra.

The train ride was scenic... and the graffiti was actually pretty cool too, hah.
In white it says: "This is a reggae party. All night long."
I thought it was blog-worthy, hah!

There was a Pizza Hut at the train station in Sintra.
I thought that was both cool and random.
I suggested we eat there for lunch. I don't know why everyone laughed.

On our train ride we saw lots of cork trees, and then when we got to Sintra we saw tons of things made out of cork:
Pretty neat.

Our first top was the Royal palace:

This was on our way in. The city in the background looked cool... and we forgot to take a pic of the front. Oops.

James was a little too tall for this stairwell.

After the King's daughter got married he painted this ceiling with ducks because they were her favorite and he missed her.
How cute!

Some cool painted tile walls- so you can see what the Portuguese are artisically know for:
This was in the western most room in the western most palace in Europe!
Be jealous...
If it were a clear day, this view would probably be incredible, sigh!

Um, can I have a kitchen this open please?!

I just thought this doorway was pretty:

On our way up the mountainside to our next destination I saw this Twlight-esque photo opportunity.
Part eerie, part beautiful!
"... Edward?"

And finally the Disney-esque Palace of Pena!

The Palace of Pena was an old monastery that was ruined by the massive earthquake of 1755. In 1838 King Ferdinand II turned it into the royal family's summer home. Then after several years of vacationing, trading, selling and buying, it was finally turned into a museum in 1910.
Say "hello" to Carol in the background!

Not sure what else to say about the palace so just enjoy our pics...

(The above reminds me of Aladdin...)

After the palaces in Sintra we took the train back to Lisbon and explored the city a bit.

We visited Jeronimos Monastery which was completely paid for with spice money (from spice trades with India).

Check out the beautiful Manueline style courtyard (the artist named the style after King Manuel I):

Next the chapel:

Here you can see the tomb of Vasco Da Gama (who navigated/founded the spice trade route):

Afterwards we walked to the water directly across from Jeronimos where you could get a full view of the monastery:
It's huge... and b

Definitely gives you an idea of the loads of money they made off the Indian spices!

By the water was this cool statue with a cross...

On our walk to check out the statue I made a pit stop in Maryland
There's no place like home...
*If you can't tell, I'm standing on world map- directly on MD... and probably a little of the surrounding states, but who's measuring...


I thought the cross statue alone was cool because it was so big and right on the water but if you look at it from the side it's a ship:
The two sides are the same idea just with different people.

Close up for your viewing pleasure...
Each person symbolizes a real life (historical) person or group of people.
For more information please visit

To cross the water in and out of Lisbon there is a bridge that you might recognize:
The designers were the same ones who designed the Golden Gate Bridge... creative group they are...

At this point food was calling our names!
There's a pastry ahop by Jeronimos that is locally and nationally popular so we had to check it out... I give you- Pasteis de Belem:
This place so so busy we had to wait in a lengthy line for the to-go counter. But given the amount of people inside and out, we figured they had to be worth it!

Since there was seating we went to Starbucks (at least that was my excuse for getting an Iced Mocha...) to sit and try out these famous pastries.

DELICIOUS! We all loved them!
supposedly only three people know the exact ingredients... I wanted to go back and get more, but I didn't want to be a glutton. The tragic truth.

OH! And it was James' birthday that day, so he was blowing out his pretend birthday candle on his honorary birthday cake:

After pastries we headed back to the plaza that we started at and worked our way back. There were tons of stores with really cute clothes and I wish I had hours to shop! *Thus why I said want to go back.* And I'm not even kidding. If the opportunity re-presented itself, I'd be there!

After our walk back to the main part of town, we took a trolley to the upper part of the city and then walked our way back down to check out some more of Lisbon. And just around the time we were hungry, we ended up at a mall where we got to eat at a Brazilian steak house for 11 Euro a person... almost nothing! Everything there was so good. Although, as usual, I got pretty full off of the appetizers. Oops!

I think we managed to squeeze a weeks worth of site seeing into one day. Good thing it doesn't get dark until about 10pm here. Literally. It's great.

Day 5:
We would have to head back to Spain later that afternoon, so we just walked around and explored until we were ready to go. We walked up to the castle on the top of the hill...

but decided not to go in, because Rick Steve's said the best part is the view, which we saw elsewhere:

On our walk back down, we took some little side streets and back alleys- taking some more cool pic along the way:

For our last stop we hopped on the bus, then metro and were on our way to Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. This is an art gallery which was the personal collection of the Gulbenkian who said when he died he wanted all the art to be kept under one roof. His wish was fulfilled. He had over 5000 pieces, and to our delight, the museum was free on Sundays! There were loads of fancy plates and other ceramics, some books, paintings, bling-ed out hairpins (my favorite) and broaches.
...And James favorite:
A tapestry with cherabs- this one is peeing on the other ones head.

Finally, we ate a delicious lunch at the Gallery's cafeteria then headed back to Espana!

The rest of my three days there we just spent walking around Rota, and one afternoon at the beach. It was good to get away with my favorite person for a few days! What a blast! We were so thankful for the opportunity to go to Portugal! Who knew Portugal would be so great (and I'm not just talking about the clothes I saw, hah)!

Now back to Italy for two days...