Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Part One: Hannover

Visiting the llamas in the Frankfurt Train
This was our first time taking Ian on a plane and so it was baptism by fire! We had a short flight from Roanoke to Charlotte to try it out and it went alright, but it was only 38 minutes!! The next flight was 9 hours, from Charlotte to Frankfurt, Germany. We were given the bulkhead seats, which was nice for the leg room, but the arm rests wouldn't fold up. We were placed next to another family with a child, which I later learned is actually illegal because there weren't enough oxygen masks for all of us. Hmm. 

Ian was restless and eager to explore the plane, but we weren't able to do that. This was hard for him because he's used to being allowed to move and explore. After entertaining him with play dough, stickers, his felt book made by Aunt Erin, and loads of snacks, he finally fell asleep while nursing in my lap. Unfortunately, he then couldn't get comfortable for about 45 minutes of tossing and turning with a few outbursts, taking turns with the other toddler next to us. BUT THEN he settled slept straight through the last five hours of the flight.

He woke up for a short period while we purchased our train tickets and waited for our train from Frankfurt to Hannover, but then passed out again quickly as soon as we boarded the train. He slept the entire train ride to Hannover, too.Our trip started in Hannover Germany, where my cousin, Marianne, lives with her husband, Christoph, and her daughter Annie. You may remember them as the cousins who lived in Alaska. They are pretty incredible people.

Two years ago they moved back to Germany for Christoph to take a new job as an expedition manager for scientific trips to Antarctica. He's lead people on trips to the North Pole and now down to the South Pole. Marianne is the craft and sewing extraordinaire, as well as a fantastic teacher. She's always been like an older sister to me, ever since I spent every summer of my childhood living at our cabin not far from her and wanting to be just like her.

They hadn't met Ian yet, so it was neat to introduce them to each other and spend some time catching up together. Annie and Ian immediately started playing and bonding over a shared love for Butch, their dog!

Traveling with a toddler and visiting family has it's perks, for sure. Ian slept on the plane and the train, but Jim and I hardly got any rest. As soon as we arrived we were fed and chatted, but then sent off to nap away the jet lag, while Ian enjoyed playing with Annie in the yard. Thank you for the rest, you guys!!

After some rest, we headed out the next day to do The Red Line Tour with Marianne. Hannover literally has a painted red line running throughout the town, highlighting the sights that should be seen while you're in Hannover. Marianne was our tour guide, reading the book to us at each stop.

With the "Sidewalk Judge"

 This church was destroyed by a bomb during the war. Instead of resurrecting it, they kept it like it was.

We went to the town hall, where they have four different models of the town spanning across the last couple centuries. It was a really great way to show just how devastating the war was for the city.
Medieval Times
Present Day
Hannover was greatly destroyed by the war and rebuilt without trying to return to the previous architectural designs. Some cities were strict about this, but not Hannover. Therefore it's not referred to as a "pretty city" by many. 

It's a great place to live for many reasons. It's incredibly family friendly and offers loads of different playgrounds, pools, and things to do outside. It's also a very green city (as is so much of Germany!!).

River Gods

 Here's one of the few streets that was safe and preserved after the war. Beautiful.

I love, love, love this classic architecture. One day perhaps our house will look similar to this picture:
I just love the way the streets look in Germany.
And I love the doors. My sister's been a world-traveler this year, while living in France and she's taken so many beautiful pictures of doors. She inspired me to seek them out and take my own pictures. I hope you don't mind, Pheebs!

"Dear Couple, Please Kiss Here."
So we did.

Traveling with family and friends certainly has its perks!! Too many to count, really. One was that each place borrowed a carseat for Ian to use and my cousin borrowed a stroller that stayed with us for the entire trip. Thank you SOOO much for the generosity!!

The first week in Hannover was filled with changing and extreme weather conditions. It was cold and rainy and windy, and then a half an hour later it was sunny. It turns out that we were there for a hurricane!! Trees came down all over the city. A really big one came down in the neighbor's backyard.

Fortunately, the borrowed stroller had this AWESOME rain and wind guard, so Ian was kept dry and safe inside. We don't mind a little cold and rain, but our days would have certainly been limited had Ian not been comfortable, dry, and warm.

Next we went to the market and got a true, Southern German meal with loads of meat, sauerkraut, and potatoes. So yummy. A German lady told us off in German for allowing Ian to hold a fork. Marianne talked to her in German and said it was okay, but the lady continued to say that we might as well give him scissors or a knife. She meant it to be caring and thoughtful. Thanks for the input!! Sheesh.

Their huge, beautiful back yard.
The next day we went to the Sea Life Center, just the three of us. Ian had fun looking at all of the fish and reptiles. It was the day of the worst wind and rain, so it was a good one to spend inside and in a place where Ian could run around and see new, interesting things. He was fascinated. I think he's definitely his father's child.

One reptile even tried to eat him!
They also had a botanical garden. Ian made his rounds!

And Papa had some fun :)

That night Jim and Christoph went to the sauna. Jim LOVED it and wanted to take me back another day.

While they were gone we had a craft night. Marianne coached me as I made a shirt with a cowl neck. I love it!! The fabrics used are to the left. Marianne is one talented sewer. She can make anything.

The next morning it was the "girls'" turn. Marianne and I went and it was lovely. Many different saunas, saltwater pools, and aufgusses to enjoy!! An aufguss is a sort of ceremony in which the sauna employees pour water over the hot stones and do different practices, depending on the type of sauna or characteristics offered by the aufguss.

For example, my favorite aufguss "master" handed us an eye mask that was frozen, squirted an alpine mint oil into our hands to rub into our bodies, and then had three rounds of gongs and bells after each pour over the stones. It was a really neat experience.

We're both sauna converts now. My dad's always been a fan since he went to Finland and even built one in our basement. Now I understand the appeal. I wish we had a sauna like the one in Hannover nearby. I think we'd be frequent fliers.

One thing I loved about Hannover and all of Germany was the wonderful, creative playgrounds dispersed EVERYWHERE. No two playgrounds were alike. They were built out of different materials and quite eccentric. Ian played at a couple of playgrounds, but not too many due to the weather and the nature of our trip. If we lived there I would LOVE to take him on a playground tour, taking notes on my favorite features of each playground. Then, perhaps, combining all of the elements we liked into one to build at home.
After the "girls'" morning at the sauna, we headed to Steinhuder Meer, a lake-side town nearby. We took the scenic route there, driving through beautiful little villages with gorgeous barns and houses.

It was a bitter-cold day and Ian wasn't quite dressed warmly enough and it rained and rained, torrentially until we got into the car again. Then it got sunny and bright. Crazy!!

But the town itself was beautiful!! Enjoy!
We just love this construction.
And we're trying to figure out how to build our garden fence to look like this:

This is the doctor house:
This boat table was pretty neat!

We stopped to eat some smoked eel sandwiches! This was our first time eating eel and it was quite yummy! Ian was a huge fan.

It was a beautiful town with this great lake. We desperately wanted to hop in some kayaks and explore, but perhaps on a warmer day :)

Most of the buildings had blessings over the door, such as this one. I loved this.
And I also loved the beauty and simplicity of this arch over the doorway.

Germans take such care to do things right. And why shouldn't they? Our homes should withstand the ages.

Stuck in the back seat with these two. I mean, how sweet is that? :)

Life around the Kasch home:

Here's our traveling kiddo. He spent a lot of time one their curving staircase.
Here he looks so grown-up to me. Hand in his pocket and questioning why I am taking yet another picture!
I'm grateful these two enjoy spending time together. Jim really enjoys talking to Christoph; he's quite a knowledgeable and talented guy. Here they stand in front of their newly renovated kitchen. It's beautiful and open.

That night these two went out on the town together and met up with some of Christoph's friends.
Christoph made us a traditional German meal of pig knuckle! Another first for us! Wow, was it good!!! Pork knuckle, sauerkraut, and potatoes. My mouth is watering just thinking about it...

Christoph is a trained, professional chef, so every meal was just incredible. We ate VERY well the whole trip. Thank you for your labor of love, Christoph! We are so grateful for your hospitality and warmth.

Annie enjoyed helping with Ian!

The next day we met one of Marianne's friends for lunch at a neat, kid-friendly restaurant with amazing food! I wish we had more places like this in the US!
What a great place for kids and babies to play and moms to meet up with friends. I already have a business idea spinning in my head and I don't have the slightest idea how to run a business. All I know is that we need one of these in Blacksburg!
Her friend just had this adorable baby a few weeks ago. These two were smitten.

After lunch we split up and explored the city as just the three of us.

Just look at this! I love fruit and vegetable stands. The white stalks you see to the right are white asparagus (spargel), something we tried later in the trip. More to come on that!

We went to the Eilenride (comparable to Central Park) for a walk while Ian slept.
And then we walked down their main street and looked at the vendors. Check out this meat stand! I mean, c'mon! Incredible, right?

Ian enjoyed watching and waving to trains as they came and went. The sun came out and we had a nice afternoon together, enjoying the downtown, eating some sweets and drinking some coffee while Ian slept, and then taking the train home.

Marianne made Ian and Annie matching pants. How cute are these two kids? I obviously couldn't choose just one picture.

Hello sun!!
Hello Spring!!
Their home and the Easter bread Marianne made for breakfasts. YUM!

Very faint, but you can see a rainbow. 
And this was just part one of our journey. I apologize for the bizillion pictures. I've never been known to choose only a few, so why start on our trip to Europe!!??

Thank you, Marianne, Christoph, and Annie for opening your home to us!! We are VERY grateful. We love you guys so much.

This does not mark the end of our time with them, only part one of our European adventure. I had planned to get two parts done this morning, while Ian's being watched by a friend. So far, only one is done. More to come soon!


  1. Thanks for all of your pictures! I've been to most of these places, as well, including eating at the boat shaped table in Steinhude Meer. So, it's especially meaningful to me. I'm so happy that you've been able to experience this!

  2. WOW! Love all the stories and pictures. I feel like I have a better mental picture of their life in Hannover :)

  3. Wow! Even I have a better view of our life here in Hannover! :-) Love the pictures and the commentary. Thanks, Kathe!