Garmisch Partenkirchen

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Can you ever have too many photos of mountains? I doubt it.

On Monday, we checked the Bavarian Alps off our list of places to see, taking the train to Garmisch Partenkirchen, a resort town in the shadow of the tallest peak in Germany, Zugspitze. Particularly after the weather ended our hopes to go up the tallest mountain in Salzburg, I was really wanting to see some Alpine views. Originally, we thought we would just go explore the town, but after doing some more research, I discovered there was a more toddler-accessible trip we could take. So we braved the peaks and even a trail from one cable car to another. We asked a lot of them, and the children rose to the occasion and did wonderfully, even in moments of exhaustion and a little weeping.

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To begin the trip, I kicked four college-age girls out of the children’s space, telling them I had two small children and asking if we could have this spot. It was so nice to have a lower table, chairs closer to the floor, and a little space next to the table for JH to do his typical up-and-down and to walk around a little, as the sleepier he gets, the more wiggly.

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From the train station, we took the Zugspitzbahn, the cog railway that takes tourists to the base of a few different mountains. The countryside is so picturesque, with low barns scattered throughout the fields and cows and goats dotting the grass.

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From the ground, we took a cable car to Osterfelderkopf (6,749 feet), a summit that lies right below the summit of Alpspitze (8,622 feet). The kids were very pleased about the cable car; much more pleased than the adults! When it started Edith said, “It’s like a hot air balloon!” and then a few minutes later, “It’s like we’re in a big airplane!” The view was, of course, spectacular, but the ride is not for the faint of heart.

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At the top, we enjoyed the views of mountain peaks, green valleys, and paragliders while eating our lunch at the restaurant.

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After lunch, we did some walking around at the summit. The kids love climbing the rocks, I loved the Alpine flowers, and EA braved the observation deck that juts off the mountainside.

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From Osterfelderkopf, we took another, shorter cable car ride to Hochalm. From that station, we had about a 30-minute walk on a gravel trail to the cable car that would take us back down to the bottom of the mountain. The lady at the info desk told me it was stroller and toddler-friendly, and while we managed and enjoyed some spectacular scenery, the path was perhaps not as friendly for a *double stroller* with two 27+ pound toddlers in it. We made them walk a few times, and at this point in the day, they were both completely exhausted and did not appreciate time on their feet. Grumpiness and some crying aside, I am glad we did it, and we even kept to the ideal time table so that we could make the 4 p.m. train back to Munich!

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Here is the view looking back up the mountain towards Alpspitze, where we departed on the cable car.

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One of the first scenes on the hike was these cows that were wearing huge bells around their necks. You could hear the sound from far off, and it was such a quintessential (stereotypical?) Alpine view.

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The ride back down the mountain was in smaller, round cars, or “baby cable cars,” as Edith called them. We made a hurried walk to the train from the car so that we could make it down to the town of Garmisch with an hour to explore and grab an ice cream cone. One day, I would like to go back and see more of the town, as it is quite lovely. I did get to see a few of the painted houses I had seen in photos.

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I am so glad our mountain adventure was such a success, and that we decided to do it. There is nothing like some Alpine air and gorgeous views, and getting out of the hot city was just what I needed to make it through another week in 90 degree heat and no air conditioning!

 

A Sunday afternoon at the museum

On Sunday morning, when I asked EA what she wanted to do, she said, “Go to the museum with you.” I couldn’t say no (which I was likely to do, thanks to exhaustion and sore feet) and we decided to bring Edith along for a special “girls’ trip,” as she kept saying. Edith was absolutely delighted to be included, particularly to be skipping her nap. It was so cute to watch her skipping up to the museum, excited about every little thing like the “spinny doors” at the entrance.

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We went to the Neue Pinakothek, the modern art museum in Munich, as I was particularly wanting to see Van Gogh’s famous sunflowers.

After lunch, we headed to the art. Edith did a wonderful job in the museum, whispering the whole time, answering my question “what do you see?” with sweet little observations, and generally leading the charge (too quickly for EA!) through the museum.

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Here are a few Van Gogh favorites.

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And Monet waterlilies.

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Augsburg

On Saturday, EA and I had the special treat of meeting our great aunt, the famed Aunt Pennie the German opera singer who we learned of growing up but had never before met. After a highly-successful career in opera, she is now retired in Augsburg, a city just north of Munich. It was very special for us to meet her and to get a little taste of her life and her city.

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We started at the Golden Hall in Augsburg’s town hall and then walked around the city a bit, where we stopped at the market for lunch. Aunt Pennie is the youngest sister of our beloved late grandmother and Pennie has some of our grandma’s mannerisms and ways of saying things. We loved getting a glimpse of Grandma in her.

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After lunch, we toured St. Anne’s church, a medieval church that was originally part of a Carmelite monastery built in 1321. Martin Luther stayed there while he was being questioned by Cardinal Cajetan. The church later became Lutheran.

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These are the famous Luther steps, the steps Luther walked up and down from his room in the monastery. A very interesting place.

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From the city center, we went back to Aunt Pennie’s apartment where we admired her beautiful balcony garden and learned more about her life, her opera career, and family history.

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We are very glad we got to make the trip and meet another part of our mom’s side of the family. Hopefully one day we can return!

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Catching up: last week

We are in the last days of our adventure, and I am determined not to fail the blog entirely. With EA here, we have been packing our days full and trying to use every moment we have to either explore…or nap.

The end of last week was less than ideal, as it found John Henry and I in a children’s hospital for a nasty cut on the back of his head.

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After our big Nuremberg day on Wednesday, we decided Thursday would be the ideal day for a slow morning, a grocery store run, and some nice long naps in the afternoon. We had some especially sweet sibling views that morning.

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Ironically, it was this moment, Edith comforting John Henry after he pulled the stroller over on himself (the boy is so impulsive) that turned into them falling over backwards and John Henry cutting the back of his head on the bottom window ledge. The blood was shocking enough and I felt uncertain enough of what he needed that I let the grocery store employees call the paramedics, who suggested I take him to the clinic to get it cleaned and taken care of. So I consented to a European ambulance ride and felt so grateful to have EA there to take Edith and my stroller and my groceries home.

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John Henry was so brave and a complete trooper through the whole experience. Here he is, delighted by both the ambulance and the medical glove elephant. As we only have service on our phones when we have an internet connection, I was not yet able to get a hold of Travis and had to make these decisions on my own. I discovered through this experience just how much of a teammate he feels to me; I don’t need him to make decisions for me, but I rely on him to be with me in decisions like the ones I had to make for our child.

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The medics had told me it would be about two hours total, but JH and I ended up waiting six plus hours before a doctor saw us. Upon arriving, they assessed his head and determined it didn’t need immediate attention. So we registered and then went to the waiting area. Thankfully European children’s areas are usually pretty great, and this one delighted John Henry and kept him busy for most of the time we waited.

Surprisingly, the hospital did not have public wifi, which I had been counting on, so I wasn’t able to keep in touch with EA or contact Travis. This was okay for the first hour or two, but in the late afternoon when I went to check on our place in line and the receptionist informed me that there were still eight people in front of us, I burst into tears and asked if there was any way I could get some internet so that I could contact my husband who didn’t know where we were or how his son was doing. The very kind receptionist took pity on me and offered me the use of her personal phone.

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By about 5:00, they finally saw John Henry, cleaned his head up, and glued the cut closed. He didn’t cry all day besides the initial bump and I was very proud of him taking this whole day like a champ. I suppose stitches and large cuts and trips to the ER are inevitable with him considering how he lives his life, but I am hoping the next incidents occur where I can call my husband and speak the language.

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Friday morning we decided to check off the final church in the old city on EA’s list of places to see and then grab a sausage at the “Wurstlkönig,” the “sausage king.” We entered the old city through a new to both of us gate, my favorite of all of them. Sadly, the church was closed for cleaning and John Henry must have been still suffering a bit from the day yesterday and was a total, weeping grump, so we called off our plans, sent EA to the museum, and headed home for rest and shade.

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That night, we took advantage of our live-in babysitter and Travis and I went out to celebrate our five year anniversary, a little early.

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I had read that Munich is a great place for Turkish food, and Travis happened to have a classmate from Turkey in his language course. He asked her where we could find some authentic Turkish food, and she directed us to this place, which serves manti, a special kind of Turkish dumpling. They drench the dumplings, filled with beef, with tomato sauce, yogurt sauce with garlic, and a butter paprika sauce. There are then different topping options, and I went with pastrami (recommended by the waiter) and olives. The food was absolutely delicious, and it seemed appropriate to celebrate with Turkish food, as Turkey is the place that began this whole adventure in the first place.

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After dinner, we headed over to a favorite Italian spot for gelato. The walk through the center of the old city was quite lovely, and as it was only the second or third time I have seen the city at night, I especially enjoyed it.

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Travis’ words when the waiter placed these in front of us: “The best part is that I get to eat all of this myself.” Truer words have never been spoken. I’m glad that at year five, we have two little vultures who eat our ice cream, but I am also glad I didn’t have to share this with anyone.

Wednesday: Nürnberg

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I had been thinking about going to Nuremberg all summer, but the trip was just long enough and the city just large enough that I didn’t think I wanted to brave it on my own. Thankfully, EA’s wholehearted approval of the idea found us in the second-largest city in Bavaria on Wednesday. It was hot as blazes and we walked literally all day, but I am so glad we made the trip.

The journey began on the ICE train, the German high-speed train, and Edith was elated at the chance to ride one, as she has seen them many times at the train station and asked about them. Here she is, ready with all a girl could need for a trip: her caterpillar and her muffin and a look of excitement on her face (plus her attempts at a smile for a photo…she still doesn’t get it).

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While Munich feels very European, not much of it feels old, a quality I have discovered is one of my favorite things about European towns. With a medieval wall surrounding the old city and countless old buildings and a castle at the top of the hill, Nuremberg feels positively old and is not lacking in magic.

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We didn’t make many plans for the day, deciding to simply make a loop around the old town, starting and ending at the train station. Our first little stop was at the handcraft market right inside the city walls. It was much smaller than I expected, but gave us our first taste of the medieval German views we found throughout the city.

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The beginning of our loop brought us down one of the main pedestrian walkways in the old city. This brought us first to St. Clare’s Church, Nuremberg’s first church built in a predominantly Gothic style. It is small and quite simple, but the simplicity brings attention to the lovely altar pieces on either side of the church.

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Next was St. Lawrence, one of Nuremberg’s towering medieval churches, dating back to the early 1400’s. As is true of most of Nuremberg’s churches, it was badly damaged during the war and later restored. I especially enjoyed the stain-glass windows and the light coming through them.

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All of the churches also had remnants of older paintings and frescoes on the walls, something I know little about but found fascinating. I am sure EA learned about them from all of her thorough reading.

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Hanging above the altar was my favorite piece of art in all of the churches I have seen this summer. It is called Angelic Salutations and is a wooden sculpture of the Annunciation, created in 1518. The colors, the details, and the uniqueness of the piece really make it stand out in an already-impressive building.

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From St. Lawrence, we crossed the river and then stopped in Frauenkirche, a smaller but equally beautiful church.

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While EA spent more time exploring the art and history of the place, the kids and I sat on the steps and ate our packed lunch. They had the chance to run around a bit in the square outside the church, and sitting on the steps, eating grapes with them, is one of my favorite memories from the whole day.

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The forecasted high for the day was 87, and it was certainly that by the middle of the day, so of course that was the perfect time to climb the hill to the top of the city, and then to climb the very steep hill up to the very top of the castle that sits above everything else. The kids were amazing and trekked up the steep hill on their own two feet while EA and I took turns pushing the stroller.

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The view, of course, was worth the trek.

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On the way back down the hill, Edith wanted a picture with John Henry and his rejection totally cracks me up. My little boy is a very sweaty little boy, and his cheeks get flushed very quickly in the slightest heat. I pushed a lot of water on them and they survived the heat like troopers, but even people passing by would comment on his bright red cheeks.

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Just around the corner from the castle is the Albrect Dürer house, the place where the artist was born. It is one corner of a beautiful little square at the top of the hill.

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The downhill part of our city loop was a bit quieter and more relaxed, and thankfully mostly in the shade.

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St. Sebaldus, a counterpart to St. Laurence, is on that side of the old city, so we stopped in for a quick look.

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Further down the hill, we were lured in by the beautiful displays of a pastry shop, and the children learned that Aunt EA is always good for a macaron.

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We ended the day stopping in a toy store and the kids spent a very happy 20 minutes playing while EA and I tried and failed to exercise self control. We got a few of the most beautiful wooden toys, treasures that I am sure will last for many years!

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Of course, to end the day, ice cream, and then a bit of a confusing time getting back on a train to Munich, as the ICE train wasn’t running and we had to figure out which train we were supposed to get on. Thankfully, we made it home again as smoothly as could be hoped, and EA is already talking about how she would live in Nuremberg, if she could. I am glad we made the trip, although I am pretty certain we are all still recovering from the heat and exhaustion, two days later.

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Tuesday: coffee and French food

After our big day on Monday, we decided to let the kids sleep in, have a slow morning, and enjoy another area of Munich that I had discovered and wanted to show EA.

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We played at the playground, drank coffee, and then dropped EA off at the museum for the afternoon while the kids and I returned home to nap and rest.

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In the evening, EA and I treated ourselves to a lovely French dinner at Colette, a French brasserie-style restaurant by Michelin-star chef Tim Raue. I learned about him from my dedicated watching of The Chef’s Table, a documentary series on Netflix about different chefs around the world. His main restaurant is an Asian restaurant in Berlin, but he has a few of these French restaurants open now in Germany and I was eager to try it. It did not disappoint, and we went all out. One of my favorite moments was when they brought an entire, large jar of pickles to the table after we ordered, and our night ended outside on the terrace with the perfect tarte tatin: perfect because the taste was just that, and perfect because it reminds me of Christmases when my mom made ones for dessert.

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Monday church tour

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We have been busy this week enjoying Munich with Aunt EA and helping her check the sights off of her to-see list. (Which also means dropping her off at places like museums that she gets to enjoy sans-toddlers.)

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Monday was for a walking tour of some of the Munich churches in the center of the old city. First, Bürgersaalkirche, built in 1710. Church tours with Aunt EA usually look like the children and I make a quick circle around the building, hopefully pause to enjoy one or two pieces of art or a side chapel, and then exit before anyone is too loud or too whiny. We wait outside for five-twentyish minutes for Aunt EA who enjoys every word and every brush stroke or piece of historical art in the building. At our first church, we waited outside for her so long that I was worried we lost her (the family knows that very real fear), but as it turns out she was being too polite, allowing a Spaniard to talk to her for a very long time.

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While we waited for EA, Edith and John Henry enjoyed the street musicians and danced around the busy Karlsplatz.

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Next, St. Michael’s Kirche, built in the early 1590’s and one of my favorites in Munich. Both of these churches are set into the buildings along a busy shopping street, so it’s almost surprising to come upon them after passing an H&M or a tourist shop.

Frauenkirche next, Munich’s cathedral, and one of the iconic places in the city. The church was originally 12th century and was heavily damaged by bombing in World War II. It lost most of its interior to the war, and feels a bit more bare and unadorned than the others. Sadly for us, there is also scaffolding covering one of the towers.

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Last on this trip, Heiliggeist Kirche, the Church of the Holy Spirit. This is much smaller, but has many similarities to St. Michael’s, and St. Peter’s across the way. I had not been in this one yet, so I was glad to have finally gone in.

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After our tour, we had lunch at a café beside the church. We sat on the second-story terrace and had a lovely view of the city around us.

Edith has been very into The Very Hungry Caterpillar this summer and was absolutely delighted to receive this plush one. It has been her greatest treasure this summer, but we left it at a coffee shop a few days earlier and she had been missing it. Thankfully, it was still there a few days later and they were reunited this morning. Hence the caterpillar in most photos.

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The plan was to then return home for naps and a grocery store run, but then I discovered I had locked my set of keys in our apartment (thankfully I discovered that right after lunchtime, not once we had already returned home) and we would have to go get Travis’ set. The language institute is further out from our apartment than we already were, so we made an afternoon of it, stopping to pick up the keys, swinging by the grocery store, and then stopping at the Isar River for the babies to enjoy the water, something I have been wanting to do for a while. They were absolutely delighted, as throwing rocks into water is their favorite pastime. It quickly became a diapers-only outing, and they were so pleased.

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Of course Aunt EA was egging them on, trying to get them to lie on their backs in the river. JH took her up on it completely, Edith almost.

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After an unexpected napless day, full of walking, everyone was exhausted and ready to sleep. A good day, all around.