We had planned to go to Salzburg today - known for Sound of Music, castle on top of the hill and more. We also would have met my travel writing twitter friend @travelwriticus But it's snowing! And instead of sitting in a train and doing the cultural thing, we let the kids sleep in and are heading out with the sleds!
We wake up for an early breakfast at the train station before catching a train to Munich. Grandparents accompany us on the way. When we catch the connection to Wurgl on the German-Austrian border, we are lucky to find seats and room for our luggage. We arrive in Wurgl to have a small beer before our friends pick up up and bring us to their house in Niederau.
Today the kids stormed the mountain -- He on snowboard, she by ski. Fab fun for the parents, too, riding the gondola, walking in the crisp mountain air, hearing the crunch of snow under our boots. Higher up, the sun shone, warming us while Gluhwein (mulled wine) warmed us from within.
Santa visits the kids, bringing my daughter a camera at Opa's house and my son a video camera at the hotel. The camera turns out to be little sister's new obsession, as she photographs everything and everyone from all angles for the rest of the day. One hundred fifty photos later, I take the camera away from her. In the mean time we eat a Rouladen for Christmas dinner, hubby's favorite. Today is also Opa's birthday, so we ride into town with the train for traditional coffee and cake at one of the city's oldest cafe's. My daughter's friend and her mother, who live in Opa's building, join us. The girls have stayed in touch over the last eighteen months since our last visit via email and letters. They climb up to turn the golden ring on Schoenen Brunnen for luck. After birthday cake, the girls go outside on the patio in the cold weather to play.
Opa, hubby and son walk up the hill to the castle. My son goes for a run. We women sit over our coffee and watch the children playing outside. The cafe is warm and comfortable and there is no pressure to leave. Eventually, we say our goodbyes and invite our friends to visit us in Florida. We take our time walking to the short distance to the hotel while my daughter continues to snap photos. The evening light is fading and the Christmas lights are glowing, even though the market has closed for the season.
We were lucky to have enjoyed it for the short time we had. We have an hour to rest before hubby's childhood friend picks up to take us back to his house. During our short stay in Nuremburg, it is one brief opportunity to visit their family. A fire in the fireplace and a beautiful Christmas tree in the living room welcome us. We chat and drink and catch up on each other's lives. Their son and ours are two years apart and both are interested in soccer and video games. Their daughter is our son's age and she is happy to entertain my daughter for a while. We nosh a little on their leftover breakfast buffet and call it an early night. We still must return to the hotel to pack for an early departure to Austria. photos on Facebook
We enjoy good coffee, hot chocolate and pastry for breakfast at a bakery Der Beck. We meet friends at the Schonen Brunnen in the middle of town at the Christkindlemarkt. The weather is cold and rainy. We shop for tiny souvenir glass angels then sip mulled wine and kiddie punch in souvenir mugs. Who says being a tourist is no fun?
Later, grandpa (Opa) picks up at the hotel. We have coffee at the grandparents' house and eat Nuremburger Gingerbread and fruitcake. It's time for church. After five minutes' walk we arrive at the little chapel. It's almost filled and we get seats in the back. People continue to file in and soon its standing room only. An organ accompanies a brass choir play familiar carols and hymns with words in German. After that we have dinner of Bratwurst, potato salad and sauerkraut.
Opa produces his sixty-year-old accordion and plays a few Christmas songs. Following the tradition of 'earning your gifts' through artistic performance, my daughter sings Jingle Bells and then it's finally time to exchange gifts.
After a glass of bubbly, I take my son back to the hotel, so hubby and daughter have time alone with his folks. When she wakes on Christmas morning, Santa will have found her at Opa's house.
Nine hours is a long time to spend in an airplane when your eight-year-old doesn't fall asleep until Hour 7.5. Otherwise, the flight from Miami went smoothly and our four hour layover in Berlin was reduced to just 45 min. The quick connecting flight takes us to Munich, where we hop on a crowded train to the main station (Hauptbahnhof). At our stop, hubby and kids exit, but people standing in my way prevent me from disembarking. I get stuck on the train, so I must ride to the next stop and catch a train back. This setback turns out to be a blessing because otherwise one piece of our luggage would have been left behind. The train to Nuremburg is completely full, so we take the regional, adding 2 1/2 hours to the trip. On the bright side, the kids get a good nap on the way.
Oma and Opa meet us at the hotel and we walk through Christmas Market (Christkindlesmarkt) to eat at bratwurst restaurant established in the year 1486. The sausages are crisp and delicious. We eat dozens.
Thousands of tiny lights illuminate the Christkindlesmarkt. One hundred booths offer candy, roasted nuts, Christmas ornaments, and last minute gifts. Nativity scenes carved from wood, forged from metal, fashioned in crystal, glass, china and pottery decorate many corners. My daughter rides the Carousel with Oma.
Blue Planet's North Grade Elementary writing program meets online with our partner organizations in Mexico. Kids present their projects, sing Jingle Bells and wave at each other over a distance suddenly made shorter by technology and goodwill.