Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Jenna’s First Eucharist and Memorial Day

Well I’ve been a big slacker lately when it comes to posting about the house. When we got back from vacation, we had a lot of maintenance to do at the house – the grass/weeds in our yard were about 2 feet high in places.

The day after we got back there was a big wind storm and one of the trees in the open space behind our house fell into our yard. In the process it crushed part of our fence – it’s a good thing that Tucker was still staying with my parents or he’d be able to escape again.

While Chris was working out in the yard he saw a big black snake hanging out in our fence. The next day he saw two snakes wound together – there will be baby snakes in our future.

Last year we planted a garden and the groundhog ate everything – we didn’t want it to happen this year. For Christmas, my parents bought us a trap so we set it up at the point in the fence that was dug under. It only took about an hour before we trapped us a groundhog!

We took the little vermin in the truck to try to find a place to release him far, far away from our house. We didn’t realize how challenging it would be to find a deserted stretch of road in the county – there is way too much building happening here! After about an hour, being followed by a lady for 15 minutes, and trying several different spots, we finally were able to relocate him to a nice wooded area where he won’t bother anybody else.

On Saturday we headed to the dump with a load of tires (the ones that were planted in our yard) and wire (from the defunct clotheslines). We dumped all of it and went to a rain barrel workshop. Hopefully soon we can set it up and our garden won’t die from the 95° heat!

In the afternoon, we walked over to Merriweather for Wine in the Woods. It was so incredibly crowded but we had a lot of fun.

The next morning, we woke up extremely early to head down to Richmond for our niece Jenna’s First Eucharist. She told me not to post any pictures so you’ll have to take my word that she looked beautiful! While we were there we also got to go to Kelli’s soccer game – they ended up in first place for the season!

This past week was more of the same – maintenance on the house. It seems like it never ends! As I write this, Chris is outside again cutting the grass.

A couple exciting things happened during the week. On was that we caught another vermin – this time it was a possum. Fortunately we didn’t have as much trouble releasing it into the wild. The second thing was that we finally put in the window air conditioning units – we’ve already had multiple 90°F days with high humidity. I think it’s about time for us to get some central air.

Over the weekend we traveled up to Pennsylvania to go camping with my family and pick up Tucker after he spent a month with my parents.

The weather was great Saturday, hot and stormy on Sunday, and hot again Monday. Luckily we were smart and took a back way through West Virginia on the way home – traffic on I-70 was ridiculous.

This week we will hopefully get to install a fence around the garden so we will actually be able to eat our own vegetables.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Europe Vacation, Part 8: Munich

We ended our vacation in Munich. We were there for three days and each day we took a side trip out of the city.

When we arrived, we headed to our hotel – it was the nicest one yet (with amazing breakfasts). Then we took a walk down to Marienplatz – it was the weekend so there were people everywhere…it was pretty hard to walk through.

We went to the beer and Oktoberfest museum – it was pretty disappointing – everything was in German. So after that disappointment, we caught a train to Herrsching and then took a nice hike over to Andechs Monastery.

The beer at Andechs was great (particularly after such a long, hot hike) and we had pretty good (but bad for us) food – pork, potato salad, sauerkraut, and apple strudel.

The next day we had a wonderful walking tour of the city with our Scottish tour guide. We got to see the glockenspiel, various churches, the new synagogue, and a lot of Third Reich points of interest.

In the afternoon, we took the train to Dachau concentration camp. Although it was not a very large camp, it was used as a model camp – the SS trained here. April 29th was Liberation Day so there were a lot of memorial flowers.

As you can expect, it was a very depressing site but it added a very personal aspect to the war and the horrors of the camps. We toured the museum, the roll call area, the bunkhouses, religious memorials, the incinerators, and the gas chambers (which were never used). We didn’t get to spend enough time at Dachau – we stayed until closing but there was so much to read – a tour is definitely recommended.

When we got back into the city, we went to St. Peter’s to climb the bell tower. The views from the top were great with a bird’s eye view of the city. We could see Olympic park and the Alps in the background. There were 306 steps to get to the top – we felt quite out of shape!

On our last day of vacation we took a guided tour of Neuschwanstein – this is the castle built by “Mad” King Ludwig that Walt Disney used as a model for Cinderella’s Castle. The tour we took was informative but we didn’t feel like we got our money’s worth.

When we arrived in Fussen, we ate lunch by the Alp Lake (with a nice view of his boyhood home) and then hiked up the hill to Mary’s Bridge for a beautiful view of the castle. After taking a lot of pictures, we finally went for a tour of the interior.

Our tour guide in the castle was incredibly odd – he was very flaky and frail – I felt like I could break him in two. Even his manner of speaking and gesturing was starting to make people feel a little weird.

Only a third of the castle was finished before the king died but each room that was complete was so ornate – it took 14 wood workers 4 years just to complete his bedroom. We’ll just say that he was a patron of the arts and didn’t like the ladies (extremely flamboyant).

After the castle tour, we hiked down the gorge trail – it was very nice and peaceful (not like the very touristy town). The train ride back was enjoyable as we talked with some of the people that went on the tour with us.

When we arrived back in Munich we had to do what everyone does in Munich – go to the beer hall. We went to the Hofbrauhaus for good beer and food. We ended up sitting right near the oompa band and got to hear some good accordion music for our last night.

The next morning we took train to the airport and after much security screening we were on our way back home. We arrived home very late after a train ride, bus ride, and brisk walk.

We had a wonderful vacation – unfortunately it’s time to go back to reality and start working on the house again.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Europe Vacation, Part 7: Innsbruck

The train ride to Innsbruck was very long and we arrived after midnight. The first hotel we stayed in was historic – Mozart and his father stayed there. The beds were very comfy! Slovenia has some lovely scenery, but the Slovenians have a lot to learn about mattresses.

The next morning (after an amazing breakfast – the best strudel!) we took a bus to the start of a hiking trail. We went on a challenging hike straight up a mountain.

There is an incredibly technical downhill single track (bike trail) under the cable car path – people would have to be very skilled or very crazy to try it! We hiked up in the same area as the trail and it took about three hours to get up to the top. The views were definitely worth it though!

There were a lot of paragliders and hang gliders in the area. They were up in the air during our entire hike. There must have been some great updrafts!

Towards the top, we chose to walk up the road – it was a much more roundabout way of getting to the top but it was less steep. We shared this route with a lot of cyclists – they must have been in great shape!

We ate our lunch near the top at the ski lodge. Surprisingly, the restaurant stays open after the ski season for cyclists, paragliders, and sightseers.

At the top of the cable car run, a lot of hang gliders were getting ready to fly. We did get to see a few of them start off – they would stand on a low wall and then run down a very steep ramp – a little intimidating!

Our hike down the mountain took about two hours. We took the gentle path which was longer but much easier on our legs.

After a nice shower, we walked around town and had a great pasta dinner. Innsbruck seemed liked a tourist hot spot that catered to shoppers, diners, and partiers. We were so tired from our hike that we went to bed early.

Up next…Munich!