Sunday, April 19, 2015

Part Two: Erlangen & Nürnberg

Next we hopped on the train for Nürnberg to visit with my host parents. For those who don't know, I student taught at an international school in Erlangen for part of my student teaching semester.  I actually almost stayed on and worked at the school, since my cooperating teacher was going to be leaving for maternity leave. They were my second set of host parents after the first set didn't work out. They are wonderful people, extremely generous and kind, witty and clever. It was so fun to get to see them again and share my little family with them!
Even though it's been more than six years, it was very comfortable to fall back in to spending time together. I have very fond memories of dinners in their living room, going to watch a rugby game at the local pub, and exploring the Christmas markets with them in Erlangen.

They welcomed us with such loving arms the second go-around, too. Jim, Ian, and I all felt so welcome and relaxed in their company. Both Mark and Meg spent loads of time reading and playing with Ian. It was really fun to see.
Almost as soon as we arrived, we went outside for a walk with their puppy, Emma. Meg brought bread crumbs to feed the ducks. It was Ian's first time doing this and he dropped them from the bridge, allowing them to float downstream to the ducks.

 I'd never gotten to meet their children and so it was neat to meet Rachel (between Mark and Meg) their daughter, who was hope for a break from her medical studies. We also met Lisa, who is their son's girlfriend. Rob wasn't there since he's still in the States for a few more months.

Our first night there we had a Swiss raclette. It was absolutely delicious!! Meg and Mark are British, but have lived in Switzerland and Germany most recently. Their children are fluent in German and Rachel is even studying medicine in German!! Meg and Mark can speak German well, too.

Ian enjoyed having strawberries almost every night as his dessert. Here he is reaching into the bowl for another slice.

 Meg and Mark were both quick to entertain or watch Ian and would implore us to relax. Mark could often be found on the floor with Ian or playing outside. Meg saved many of her childrens' toys and books from childhood, the pack-n-play, and other items that came in handy during Ian's stay!!

He particularly enjoyed the doll below named "Buddy." He pushed him around in a stroller, put him in the high chair, and carried him almost everywhere. Apparently this boy needs a baby doll at home, too! He was fascinated by the thing.

 We went on many walks in the woods near their home to stretch our own legs and to tire out their sweet dog, Emma. After living with them for four days, I am convinced that a Golden Doodle is the next dog for me. Having a dog that doesn't shed is pretty darn ideal!!

Anyway, the woods were really beautiful and pleasant. There was a spiderweb of trails that they knew really well and we never went the same way twice. It was really nice.

Ian "walking" Emma.

 One day I slept in a bit and it was glorious.

The following picture is actually from Easter morning. I love the light in this room. A beautiful place to start Easter morning. Even though I struggle with getting up in the morning, I do actually really enjoy morning time. A fresh start. Ian's normally rearing to go, content and babbling as he eats his breakfast and plays with his toys. These are mornings I can never get back; just me and my dude.
Germans really know how to enjoy breakfast. In the states we grab a granola bar, some fruit, and run out the door. A true German breakfast frowns at the notion. Almost everywhere you go, there's a bakery down the street with loads of fresh bread rolls, danishes, pretzels, you name it. Twice while with the Rouses we had such a delightful breakfast. The jams were made by Meg and were out of this world.

One day we went with Mark for a walk around Erlangen. It was incredible how many sights looked familiar and brought back vivid memories of my time there six and a half years ago.

First we went to the botanical garden, but it closed minutes after we entered, so we only got to see a small portion. It was really well done, dividing the garden into different types of landscapes. It was kind of neat to be there right as all of the flowers were starting to bloom and sprout. I'm sure it is spectacular now, a couple of weeks later.

Then we walked by the Schloss (castle) to downtown Erlangen.
And since it was Easter weekend, there was an Easter Market right where the Christmas market was when I was there last time. How fun!
Here's the church that had a smaller, medieval Christmas market the last time I was there. The weekend we went six years ago was very special to me. Mark and Meg took me under their wing when I was weary, made me feel like family, and I drank my first ever feuerzangenbowle while standing next to this church.
Some sights in downtown...

We stopped for cake and coffee at Cafe Mengin.
I was reprimanded for taking this picture. Oops!!

Rum Cake & a Latte Macchiato 
I tell you, after this trip, I am just obsessed with shutters and doors. One day we'll be able to design/choose our own for our own homes. Until then... I dream in pictures.

This might be my favorite picture of Ian from our entire trip!!

This is exactly how I'll remember him from his European adventure. Constantly in motion, contentedly exploring, and actively interacting with the environment around him.

As a mama, I couldn't be more thrilled with how well he did over the course of our trip. We stayed many different places, with many different people, and he did a phenomenal job. Eighteen months is an active, busy, and testing age and he rolled with his crazy parents across Europe.

Just look at that smile.

Oh, how I love that kid.

I'm so grateful to each of our hosts for loving Ian and us so well, as we traveled as a family. We were incredibly blessed and fortunate to spend time with each of you.

After exploring the town, we hopped in the car and drove past the Rouses' old home, where I had lived with them. This was the driveway I walked often as I headed to and from school.
Ready to zone-out, snack, and take a nap after our exploration. Haha!
The next day we headed into Nürnberg with Meg and Mark! It's such a beautiful city and we had a gorgeous day to explore it. Hello sun!

Lo' and behold there was another Easter (Oster) Market!!! Again, it was in the same place as the Kristkindlesmarkets were when I was here before Christmas.

We arrived just in time for the clock to chime.

The Burg  (Castle!)

The view of Nürnberg from the Burg.

Witches' house.

In Germany, community gardens are very popular. People who live in apartments or places that don't have yards or green places to grow things have the option of renting or owning a small lot. Some of these garden plots are decked out with small sheds that look like small cottages, hammocks, tree houses, and the like. We thought this was a particularly nice place to have one, hidden within the castle walls.

We stopped to have lunch at this beautiful little restaurant, spending almost the entire time adoring the beautiful beams inside. We ordered Nürnberger sausages with sauerkraut and schnitzel and, of course, some German beer. Oh, so good.

The sausages were cooked over this open stove right next to us. Ian enjoyed watching from behind the safety glass. But, let's be honest, we surely enjoyed watching the cook, too!

Next we headed back to the car and Mark and Meg dropped us off in front of the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände Museum. They then took Ian home with them while we learned about how Hitler came to power. It's an incredibly well-done, powerful museum and located where the Nazi party had their rally grounds.

The names of each person killed were on each card; a powerful and haunting visual.

Life in the Rouse house: Ian playing with toys; beautiful and sunny daffodils signifying spring, warm weather; Emma; and our room.

On our last full day with the Rouses, we went with Meg to explore little villages. We didn't have a clear plan, just to see what we would see as we drove. As we passed through Effeltrich, we noticed that there were many people in costumes or ceremonial garb. We decided something must be up and stopped to see.

As we approached the center of town, we saw this very tall, very thin tree. Meg told us that every village in the area has one every year. On a certain day, the tree has to be protected by the villagers, otherwise a neighboring village may come and steal it or cut it down. Jim was very into this! What a fun tradition.

Can you imagine trying to bring this into the center of town? I'd love to be there for the search for the perfect tree, the removal of it from the forest, and then the resurrection within the town.

It looks so silly at first, but once you hear the story it's quite marvelous.

The tree in the following pictures is over eight hundred years old. It's a lime tree that they've kept standing and alive by many desperate measures. Every bolting and propping system they could imagine was used to keep this tree standing. It's right in the center of town and obviously a prized specimen.

We stood next to the tree while we waited for the event to start. It was obvious that we were in the right spot because more and more people lined the streets soon after we arrived.

Happy guys.
Soon we heard singing broken by a man praying intermittently over a loud speaker. Then people emerged and kept coming in a parade!!

It was St. Georg's church and therefore there were many symbols and statues representing St. George and the dragon.

After the fun happenstance of running into the parade, we hopped in the car and headed to Forchheim. It is a much bigger town, with gorgeous buildings. One day after Easter, the fountains were still decorated. This is a tradition in the local towns.
It appeared that perhaps local school children had decorated each of the eggs around this fountain.

Once again, we happened upon something neat. We came across an Easter market with crafters who focus on decorating the shells of eggs. All of the egg yolks & whites were blown out and then the shells were decorated exquisitely. We didn't snap any photos, but you can trust that they were incredible.

Here's a table full of many different kinds of eggs with labels. Our favorite was the turquoise emu egg on the far side of the table. Jim may never forgive me for discouraging him from buying one, since they were for sale. How could an egg have made the trek to Switzerland and back to the States without squishing??

I love the combination of stone, beams and windows in this building. The different angles and shapes are so unique and interesting.
We spent one more night with the Rouses before hitting the tracks (Get it? Ha!) for Bern, Switzerland. They were/are truly wonderful hosts. It was sad to say goodbye, but I look forward to connecting with them again one day. Thank goodness for the internet and snail mail.

Thank you so much for having us. We truly loved spending time with you and your family!! Love to you both.

On the first leg of our trip to Switzerland we didn't have a seat for Jim, it was so busy. But eventually the train thinned out and we were able to find a room all to ourselves. That's the best. We were able to throw a ball around and sing songs unencumbered.
On to Switzerland!!!

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