Monday, March 9, 2009

Week 2: Finding Religion, Disney's Inspiration and Almost a Thermal Spa

Vivian started school at a bilingual school. She’s in a class of 14, and she is the oldest and tallest of the lot, so feeling very good about the whole thing, despite some language challenges. They do all activities in both German and English, and most of the children have a German and an English speaking parent at home. Miles started Tuesday and is adjusting OK, although he's been melting down around lunch and so I've gone to pick him up a little early. Hopefully next week will be better for him as he gets more comfortable. The great news though is that my knee feels good and I'm braving snow, sleet, hail, wind and balmy 34 degree temps daily on my Van Bike - with the Xtracycle - to tote me and the kids about town on Munich's fantastic bike trails. Happy to say they border the sidewalks and NOT the street / traffic side. And with kids, no one cares if I'm on the sidewalk anyway. Sehr gut! Hopefully all this cycling around will counteract the brats, bier, and schnitzel. Oi.

Last weekend we were feeling a bit more rested and ambitions and took on Andechs Monastery and Neuschwanstein Castle, “mad” King Ludwig’s castle and Walt Disney's inspiration for Disneyland's Cinderella Castle. The castle is relatively new (1886) and his eccentric taste pops up now and then in the design, like when you walk through this fairly gaudy and elegant throne room and suddenly the hallway is like the inside of a dripping cave. Guess all of this is inspired by and a tribute to Wagner (composer). Their relationship seems a little “close” and confusing. :) Our tour guide was outrageous -- had a very high voice with a strong accent and dramatically slow but severe hand gestures. Anyway, it was REALLY hard not to lose it. Prince Miles also fell during the Sprockets-style film about Ludwig and bit entirely through his upper lip. It looked “clean” so we let it go-- not sure what else we could have done out there without our own suture kit!

Sunday was Andechs Monastery . I guess most monasteries have a specialty / job at hand, and Andechs monks (since the Middle Ages) devote themselves to God and making the best beer in Germany. Andechs is in a beautiful area about ½ hour south of Munich and the weather was unexpectedly gorgeous. I didn’t hear any other English there besides us—there were at least 3 bus loads of fully decked out Bavarians though.

This weekend we went to the Gastein area in Austria, about 2 ½ hours south. Gorgeous area, panoramic Alps horizon, honestly reminded me of the Methow but bigger, taller, wider. Stayed at Urlaub im Familien-Bauernhof Zittrauerhof in Bad Hofgastein --- a working farm and guest house. Katharina was our hostess and there were at least a couple brothers and a couple grandfathers working there taking care of about 30 cows, 10 calves (3 being born within the week!), a few horses, sheep, a goat and some rabbits. V and M got to follow around Katharina’s daughter (Johanna, 3) who showed them how to feed the cows and give milk to the calves.

The next day we started out with grand plans of sledding in the morning then spending the afternoon in one of their super-popular “thermal spas.” So we went to Angersol, a ski resort area, rented a couple toboggans and got a few runs in, then a couple in NY sweatshirts with a 2 year old came by. 6 hours later, we’re still in the Feldinghütte with Becky, Christoff and Jessie (their 2 year old), who were actually from the UK (not NY). Chris' father lives in the area and appeared from up-slope via his Bosnian driver on a SkiDoo -- Miles thought this was especially two-thumbs-up and somehow the whole family but me got a ride. Anyway, it turned into one of those “legendary” evenings. Becky and Chris were tons of fun and now evidently our closest (and only) friends in London.

Monday we did the rounds at the farm again and got to visit the baby calf born the day before. It was snowing hard, so Vivian named him "Schneetag" (snow day). We’ll definitely be back to visit the Family Schwaiger and their cows at the Zittrauerhof in the spring and the summer. Seems like a good idea.... and our crazy UK friends will likely come down again too. But next time, we will not be persuaded from thermal spa!

So many good pictures, it was hard to just pick a few- but here's a link to the Best-Of Week 2 - 3.