February 29, 2008

Neuschwanstein Castle

Posted in Journal tagged , , , , , , at 7:53 am by Jenn

neuschwanstein-castle.jpgOn day four of my trip I visited Neuschwanstein Castle a little over an hour away from Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  The castle was probably my favorite part of my trip to Germany.  The castle was very impressive sitting high up on the hill.  They say that this is the castle that Disney modeled his Sleeping Beauty castle after.

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King Ludwig II was a very interesting man.  I’m looking forward to doing some reading about his life.  He was a handsome man about 6’4 with black hair and blue eyes.  He was adored by princesses from all around and when he was 18 was known as “Prince Charming”.   When he was in his late 20′s they called him “The Fairy Tale King”.  You see, King Ludwig was a fan of the opera’s by Richard Wagner and dedicated his Neuschwanstein Castle totally to him.  The walls and interior pay tribute to Wagner’s operas.

Ludwig became King in 1845 and built 3 castles, but only one was totally finished.   He spent all his money on his castles and had no loves.  By the time he was in his 40′s he was known as “The Crazy King”. 

In fact, he was told that he was not mentally fit to be King and taken to Berg Palace (which I’m assuming is an institution) in Munich.  The very next day he (along with the psychiatrist who committed him were found dead in Lake Starnberg.  There was evidence of a struggle but the details/cause of Ludwig’s death to this day remain a mystery.  Was it suicide?  Was it a heart attack?  No one knows.

We weren’t able to take pictures inside of the castle, but it was truly something to see.  His living quarters, especially the bedroom were MAGNIFICENT!  The woodwork alone took 4 years.  The bed was unbelievable, though I’d hate to be the one who had to dust that thing.  Around his room were paintings of various scenes from Tristan and Isolde.  Having never been married this leads me to believe the rumors about Ludwig and his cousin Sissy were true.  Apparently they were inseparable as children and had secret meetings as adults.  They even had “pet-names” for each other.  Hers for him “Eagle” for he was King of the Mountain – fitting with all his castles and his for her, “Seagull” for her love of the water.  Their meeting place was known as Island of the Roses and it is rumored that they would sit here and gaze at the stars.

Ludwig’s favorite bird, the swan is displayed all over the castle.  Neuschwanstein Castle remains unfinished.  There were plans to build another tower, but all construction in the castle stopped after Ludwig’s death. 

Ironically, Ludwig built these castles to escape Munich and the hectic life there.  He enjoyed the solitude.  When he was pronounced mentally unfit he was taken to Munich and is buried there.   Six weeks after his death the castles were opened to the public for touring and now the places where he went to be alone are seen by millions of visitors each year.

As a tourist I was very lucky.  The weather was warm enough the day I visited that the shuttle buses were running up to the Marienbrücke (Marie’s Bridge).  The views of the castle are the best from this bridge.  The bridge is steel and is located over the Pollät Gorge. 

Hohenschwangau, the family castle is also visible off in the near distance. 

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This castle itself is very impressive and this is where Ludwig spent much time in his youth.

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After the tour we had a little over an hour before the bus left. We walked down from the castle and through the little town. I had the most wonderful donut type things with powdered sugar on them. We (Mirna and Jody – other spouses from the MSG program) had lunch at a little cafe. It was a beautiful day so we ate outside with our coats off. I had a yummy potato soup and Applestrudel for dessert.

On the way back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen we traveled on the Romantic Road and stopped at The Church in the Meadow (Wieskirche) which has an interesting history.

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The church took 9 years (1745-1754) to build and was built in the Bavarian Rococo style with lots of shell ornation. There are 360 angels in the church.   From the outside it doesn’t really look like much, just an old church, but on the inside it is truly breathtaking.  We were lucky that there were no services in session so we were able to take pictures.

There are two churches on the property, the smaller is the original church which was built in 1740 to house the statue of the crying Jesus. 

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This church was quickly outgrown and the new church was constructed.  They say that this statue of Jesus cries real tears.  This church is a very popular pilgrim destination. 

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After leaving the church we stopped by a woodcarvers shop so that we could purchase souvenirs/handcrafted items. 

February 24, 2008

Greetings from Germany

Posted in Journal, Purls of Wisdom tagged , , , , , at 11:07 pm by Jenn

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Germany is BEAUTIFUL!  I love it here.  I can’t imagine that Europe can get much better than this.  We arrived at night on Monday so I really couldn’t see what I was in store for, but I swore I could see a mountain right outside of our room.  The next morning when I opened the curtains, sure enough, there it was…THE ZUGSPITZE!

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The first day I decided I would try to find the LYS (local yarn store).  The nice woman in the gift shop provided me with directions, a bus schedule and a map and off I went.  I arrived at the yarn store at 1:15pm only to discover it closed for lunch.  A few shops down I remembered seeing a pretzel sign so I decided I’d see what all the fuss is over these Bavarian pretzels.  I sat on a bench across the street from the yarn store, ate my pretzels, people watched and waited.  Just after 2pm I went back to the store, the door was now open but the shop keeper requested that I come back at 3pm.  It was a beautiful sunny day so I decided rather than sit and wait I would walk around the town, look and take some pictures. 

What a neat little town.   There were many ornate hotels, quaint little shops and interesting people.  I heard a horse, clip clopping along the cobblestone streets.  What a great sound. 

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Dogs are everywhere here with their owners and it made me sad that little Max is home holding down the fort.  I’m sure he would have loved to visit Germany.

I finally made it back to the yarn store and was very pleased when I went inside.  There were some BEAUTIFUL hand dyed yarns, lots of fun wool and an interesting cotton blend.  I don’t think I went overboard, but I do have 6 skeins to add to my stash! 

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I didn’t want to buy to much because I still have Munich to visit and there are a lot more shops there.  This shop was the only one I could find in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.   

It was time to head back to the resort so I headed for the bus stop.  On the way I saw some kids eating ice cream and decided ice cream would be much better than getting on the bus.  I ordered one scoop of chocolate and sat down in the sun and enjoyed it.  It was so nice to feel the sun on my face.  Now completely satisfied I was ready for the bus.  It is 1.30 Euro to ride (exchange rate .61 euro to the dollar).  After about 15 minutes I checked my route schedule and noticed that none of the stops were matching the route I needed to take. 

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I’d gotten on the WRONG bus (#4 instead of #2).  I decided to just sit back and enjoy the sites and ride it to the end.  What better way to see the city.  I rode to the end, paid another 1.30 euro got back on and exited where I started and waited for the right bus.  I made it back to the resort a little later than anticipated but I can’t complain, I had a great afternoon, exploring, shopping and eating. 

Day 2 – My plans were to have a massage at 11:00 am, and then hed for the Zugspitze.  I spent 45 minutes on the treadmill before my massage (I figured I’d better work off some of those pretzels and ice cream from the day before).  The massage was wonderful, Swedish with Heated Stone Therapy.  One full hour of pure relaxation.  It was wonderful.  I came back to the room, showered and changed and headed to the tour counter to get information on the Zugspitze.  I was surprised to see that the shop was closed for lunch and wouldn’t open again til 3:00pm.    Not to worry, there were information sheets with instructions, I could do this.  The information sheet said the train I needed to take was a 20 minute walk by foot, so off I went.  What the information sheet didn’t say was that this was a 20 minute walk if you were a triathlete and had hiking gear.  The train stop was 1/2 way up a mountain, no shit up a freaking mountain.  Not THE Freigin Mountain, but A freaking mountain (more on the Freigin Mountain on Day 3).  I left the resort at 1:19 pm and at 2:15 found the general train stop area. 

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Now I wasn’t walking the whole time.  I had to stop and rest, knock on a door and ask for directions, talk to a mountain man (YES, I know this wasn’t the smartest thing…talking to strangers in the mountain, but hey it’s Europe) to find which path was the one for the train and stop in a restaurant to use the bathroom (and confirm that there was in fact a train stop on this mountain).  I reach what I think is the train area, but it’s not the train area, it is the chair lift area for one of the ski slopes. 

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I found a  very nice man who spoke English and he pointed me in the direction of the train.  He also gave me a gift after asking me if I know what “condoom” is in German.  I say No and he says, “you know safe sex” and hands me a package the size of a condom.  Inside this package Gummy Bears.  He and I both laugh and he then tells me that I should wait until tomorrow to go to the Zugspitze because at this time of day I won’t make it to the top if I take the train.  I’m disappointed, but I decide it’s probably best not to take a 40 minute train ride and be disappointed so I watched the skiers for a while and then head BACK DOWN the mountain ON FOOT.  I snacked on my corn nuts and sang to myself and thought how stupid I was to be wondering in the Bavarian Alps by myself with mountain men and lord only knows what kind of animals.  That’s when the pace picked up a bit.  Thank goodness down is much easier than up.  My feet were killing me by the time I got back to the resort and I was happy to make it back in one piece.  Blisters on the feet but one piece all the same. 

Scott didn’t truly appreciate my story, but he did agree to play BINGO with me in Zuggy’s Base Camp that night.  We didn’t get BINGO, but it was nice just to sit and laugh at the absurdity of the BINGO caller’s comments and enjoy the German beer (Franzishaner’s Dunkel is my personal favorite so far).

Day 3 – The morning was spent just kind of chilling out around the resort and the commissary/exchange.  I bought some groceries and made plans to go back the next day to box them up and mail them.  Scott’s group tour was scheduled for the afternoon.  We went to the Lowenbrau (which I was surprised isn’t pronounced Lowenbrau, it’s actually Lovenbroy) brewery.  The tour was really interesting and the best part was the two hour “sampling” session.  I tried 3 dark beers all of which were really good.  One thing that” I found interesting is that German law states that beer may only be made from 4 ingredients: hops, yeast, malt and water.   This law known as the “Purity Law” dates back to the 16th century.

After the brewery tour we got back on the bus and headed for downtown Munich.  Here we had dinner reservations at the Hofbrauhaus.   Before dinner we did a walking tour of the city and followed a path that Hitler took on the way to make one of his famous speeches in 1923.  We stopped by the Marienplatz (city center) and I got to see the Glockenspiel.

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I heard it strike 7pm but did not get to see the “show” that it puts on.  I think the last one is at 5pm so I’m hoping to be able to see that on Wednesday.

Dinner was good.  Schnitzel of course.  You can’t come to Germany and not eat Schnitzel.  Besides, it was the only thing I could identify on the menu, so schnitzel it was.  By the way, if you are ever coming to Germany and want to order meatloaf, be sure you really want to eat Spam/Hotdog meat loaf because that is what you will be getting.  GROSS!  They served us this “meat” (though I question whether this is truly the correct term) at the brewery along with pretzels during our “sampling”.  I tried it, it was gross.  Several people ordered the meatloaf for dinner at Hofbrauhaus and let’s just say, they were not too happy when their meals arrived.  The rest of us though were VERY entertained!  LOL.  (This meatloaf is called Leberkäse).  Yeah, anything called “liver cheese” is bound to be disgusting!

Day 4 – Hung out around resort.  Mailed groceries back to Minsk via MPS (military postal service) for FREE!  This is one of the best benefits of living overseas.  You can mail packages APO to APO for free. 

Day 5 – Castle Tour

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Day 6 – Zugspitze

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This post is getting very long and I don’t have pictures available yet so I’m going to end here and will pick back up when I get home to Minsk.  The past two days were great tourist days with lots of pictures that I want to share.  I’ll update this post with pictures too.

Tomorrow we are planning to do some shopping.  Scott wants to buy a cuckoo clock and I think I’m going to go back to that yarn store.  We are staying here in Garmisch til Wednesday and then heading up to Munich for a day before returning to Minsk. 

We are having a great time and plan to return….maybe for the beer festivals this summer.

February 17, 2008

On Vacation

Posted in Journal, Purls of Wisdom tagged , , , , at 10:02 pm by Jenn

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We are heading out for vacation (well I’m going on vacation, Scott has to work) for a little over a week.  Think of me on the cog wheel train, going to the top of the Zugspitze and visiting the Neuschwanstein Castle (the Disney castle was modeled after this one).  I really hope to be able to make it over to Austria on this trip as well to do the Sound of Music Tour, but if not I’ve asked for a trip for my birthday (hey, he got a BOSE – that’s a fair deal).  After Scott’s conference we’ll be leaving the Garmisch, Germany area and heading to Munich!  I can’t wait to see and hear the Glockenspiel!  I also plan on making a mad YARN attack and have compiled my list of shops!  Look out Germany, hear I come and I can ship for free from APO to APO.  Gotta love the Military Postal System!

Check Yes or No!

Posted in Journal tagged , , , , , at 12:26 am by Jenn

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Maryland’s primary elections were Tuesday and I still hadn’t received my ballot.  My mom is an election official and emailed me on Wednesday with the reason…apparently I am registered as an “Unaffiliated Independent”…..WHAT? SINCE WHEN? 

The first opportunity I had to find out what the heck was going on was Friday.  I’m 7 hours ahead of the East Coast so I anxiously awaited the Prince George’s County Board of Election office opening so that I could get this all straightened out!   I got a very nice girl by the name of “Michelle”.  I gave her my name and told her that I was calling to check the status of my absentee ballot.  She looked me up in the computer and informed me that I was not able to vote in the primary election because I was registered as an Independent.  I told her that she must be mistaken.  I had registered to vote back in high school as a Republican and voted in every Primary and General election since that time.  She then told me that she had no voting history for me……WHAT?

By now I was fuming!  I insisted that I had registered to vote as a Republican and that someone had changed my affiliation without my knowledge and that I wanted someone to look in to it.  She told me that she would have to pull my original registration card and call me back.  I asked when I could expect her call and she told me in an hour.

That was a tense hour.  I was ranting and raving about my constitutional rights and all sorts of things.  The hour came and went and I decided to let it go an hour and a half and then call back. 

I get Michelle back on the phone and she tells me that she has my original card in front of her and that I didn’t check any party affiliation.  I told her that just couldn’t be.  I distinctly remember choosing to be a Republican in 9th grade Civics class – I remember checking in on voting day at both Primary and General Elections and seeing Republican next to my name… she and I went back and forth for a while and finally she told me that she would have to check another database to see if she could find a voting history… apparently there are 2 databases…maybe my history was in the other database.  In the meantime I told her that I would try to locate my Voter Registration Card which I clearly remember saying REP.  

I found the card and sure enough, there it was in capital letters, plain as day…REP.  Then I noticed something that made a lightbulb click….my MAIDEN name.  I had her looking under my married name.  No wonder there was no voting history, I haven’t voted since I’ve been married.  The last time I voted was in November 2004, under my married name. 

I get Michelle back on the phone and explain to her what I think is the problem and she agrees, yes….that is indeed what has happened.  My records have not been merged….why I asked?  I filled out the form at the MVA for a new drivers license due to name change and requested that the change be made to my voter registration.   She asked if I also checked the box that said for my name to be changed on the voter registration….I couldn’t remember.  She said I must not have because they created a new registration for me in my married name rather than editting the registration made in my maiden name….

 End result, because I did not check that box (allegedly) I am not able to vote in the primary election even though we have established that I indeed did meet the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot, and I am a registered Republican and therefore eligible to vote in the primary elections….why, because I failed to check some stupid box at the MVA and requested the absentee ballot in my married name and not my maiden name.  What a crock of shit!  Excuse my French!  Just one more reason why changing my name after 35 years was a bad idea.

February 16, 2008

Can You Name All 50 States?

Posted in Journal tagged , at 10:33 am by Jenn

In 8m 58s
Click here to Play

I will admit, I was down to one and started to panic!  Nothing like the pressue of a ticking clock!  Let me know how you do, comment with your time.  I’m off to find one on state capitals!

February 14, 2008

February Knitting Update

Posted in Journal, Purls of Wisdom tagged , , , , , at 9:47 pm by Jenn

I haven’t written much about my progress on my many knitting projects lately so here’s an update for those who are interested.

I have one finished object this week.  Scott’s Christmas, Birthday, Valentine’s Day afghan.  FINALLY finished.  Now he won’t have any excuses to use MY blanket.  He likes it.  I used Lion Brand Thick and Quick Chenille in Basil, Kahki, Dusty Blue and Chocolate.  He says the yarn is nice and soft and warm.  I love the colors with the exception of the Kahki – I could do without that, but he likes it so it’s fine.  Did I mention that I’ll never knit another afghan?  Yeah, I won’t be doing that again (anytime soon at least).  Here’s a picture

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I know I know, you want a couch just like that one don’t you?  I’m hoping we are going to be able to purchase new furniture for the house in the very near future.  This furniture is government issue and while I’m happy we have furniture, I would be thrilled if it were at least a solid color…anyway, there is the blanket.

Here is my work in progress….socks of course.  The yarn (Lang JaWoll) is nice and soft and knits up nicely.  I hit a knot block two days ago and have been trying to get the darned thing out.  The knot was my fault, not the yarn’s and I was determined NOT to cut it so I wouldn’t mess up the striping and any chance of knitting a matching pair.  The knot has finally been unknotted and I am back underway.  This is sock one of two.  These are my February socks for the Sock a Month 5 so I have a bit of knitting to do before they are finished.  With vacation coming up I don’t think I’ll have any problem getting them done.  Oh, and I’m knitting these on Pony Pearls which I like much better than bamboo.

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The next project to be cast on hopefully tomorrow is my partner’s bag for the HSKS4. I have decided to make Little Slip of a Thing in Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, main color Winter Night with Amber Heather as the bronze.  This is the best bronze I can find so far so I hope it works.  This project should go pretty quickly.  I love to knit bags.  If it turns out nicely I’ll knit on for myself in the colors that I didn’t use for her!

So there you have it, a fiber update from Minsk.  It is snowing “heavily” here this evening.  Funny because when I saw that on the weather sticker on my blog I looked outside and there were just flurries coming down.  About 5 minutes later there was an all out downpour and I couldn’t even see the street!  The weather here is crazy.  Here’s a picture from when I took Max out for a stroll.  He would NOT wear his boots so sorry, still no picture of that.

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