Monday, August 6, 2012

:: Austria in Review - Part III - Lake Time ::

Markus' parent's house is in upper Austria, just 25 minutes from Salzburg and about 20 minutes or so from different lakes in every direction.  We spent much of our time walking around lakes and swimming in lakes (okay, okay...the kids and Stefan swam in the lakes).  Our family motto on this trip quickly became, "A lake a day makes for a great vacay!"

There was a tiny train station half a block away from his parents house that took us straight to Attersee. We took this train many, many times...and the kids loved all 7 minutes of the ride every time!
Just a quick walk from the train station...
 brought us Attersee.
Stefan came with us most of the times we took the train down there and he and Markus may have had more fun at the playground than the kids. And, for the record...playgrounds in Austria are WAY more fun than playgrounds in America!
The kids and Stefan braved the water every time even though it was full of snow-melt-runoff freezing cold water.
Hardly a day had gone by in the past two years that they did not speak of and look forward to swimming with their Uncle Stefan again.
 He was so gracious with them and swam with them as much as they wanted.
One day we went to Wolfgangsee with Markus' parents.  We enjoyed a lovely walk around part of the lake...
and along the way, we happened upon these comfy bamboo chairs outside of a restaurant and had to stop for a rest.
*Sidenote: Something fabulous about Austria is that there are restaurants in the middle of (seemingly) nowhere that you come upon, even on a leisurely stroll. To Markus' enjoyment, there are huts on the top of mountains that have a full service restaurant. For him, the promise of a hearty, authentic Austrian meal after hiking straight up for 2-3 hours is a must!

We had amazing weather and fabulous views of Wolfgansee as we strolled along.
 The water is so clear.  Needless to say, Markus wishes that fishing was allowed there.
 The views never got old for me.
Oma Heidi dipped her toes in the water...
 while Jameson searched for the perfect rocks...
 and threw every one of them in the water.
The icy cold water didn't stop the kids from getting their legs wet.
 Analise was pretending to be Ariel, the Little Mermaid.
Heinz went off to the side and started making whistles out of a hazelnut branch. Yes, he can make a working whistle out of a branch in just a few minutes - it's amazing!  Here he is teaching Markus how to do it...
 and trying to show Jameson as well...
 We couldn't walk by the comfy chairs and not take a break on the way back!
As I mentioned, there were many lakes nearby and we saw them all.  One day we went to Seewalchen with Kristin and her two kiddos.  This part of the lake has a swimming pool with a slide and if you can see it on the right hand side, a diving platform on the lake. How fun to be able to dive into the lake on a warm summers day!
Kristin and I needed at least one picture together while the kiddos played on the playground.
The day before we headed home, Heinz and Heidi took us out to lunch.  The restaurant was on top of a mountain, overlooking Attersee.  The views were breathtaking despite the rain.  I call this picture Lady of the Lake :-)
A lake a day did indeed make for a great vacay...

Next Post: Play Time

Sunday, July 29, 2012

:: Austria in Review - Part II - Old School ::

Please forgive the blog silence and don't take it personally.  As soon as we got home from Austria we both dove straight back into work and it has been an especially busy season for me, leaving very little free time.  I have so many posts racking up in my brain and hope to get back at it regularly. Enough about that, back to our fantastic family vacation in the land of Markus' people!

If you look back at the last post, we took the weekend to adjust to the time change.  The following Monday, we headed to Kirchdorf, the village that Markus grew up in. First we headed to Schlierbach, the private Catholic school he and his siblings attended. It is a beautiful place that looks more like a castle, set a top a hill, overlooking the town.
While we walked around the outside of campus, Markus ran into one of his old teachers. As they were catching up the kids and I checked out a beautiful fountain in a nice garden area.  This is their version of a 'quad'.  
 There was also an abundance of dandelion fairies to set free.
We headed inside the school to talk to some of his other teachers and stroll around.  Our first stop was the cathedral. This cathedral is where the catholic students had to attend mass (the nine or so Protestant students, Markus, his siblings and a few others, got to sit around while everyone else was in mass). The cathedral is decorated with ornate sculptures, statues, gold leafing on practically everything, even a glass coffin with a skeleton of one of the founding monks, which still gives me the creeps - thinking of a six or seven year old seeing a skeleton at thanks.

This is no ordinary school!
This room is where most of the school assemblies are held. At least there is something to look at if one were to get bored!
This little guy points his gun at you no matter where you stand in the room.
After we finished walking around the school, we drove by the Lettner's old house, stopped by to see some old neighbors and then headed to eat lunch.  Every time we are in his old village, we have to get Berner-Würstel at the Boathouse.   Berner-Würstel, also known as heart attack on a plate, is so good...and so bad.  It's cheese filled sausage wrapped in bacon, served with fries.
But it does come with a salad...
The Boathouse is just across the lake from the castle that is home to Schloss Klaus which is one of the many campuses for Capernwray Bible School (Markus and I met at the Capernwray in New Zealand).  His dad taught here for 25 years!
After lunch we played at the playground at the restaurant (so many playgrounds all over Austria)...
Jameson LOVED the zip line.  Pretty much every playground in Austria has a zip line.
He squealed with joy EVERY time he got to this point...
We walked around the lake, spotted heaps of fish, picked heaps of flowers and blew heaps of dandelion fairies.
We had a great start to our vacation and even though I forgot my camera, my iPhone did a pretty good job with pictures!

Next post : Lake Time

Sunday, June 10, 2012

:: Austria in Review - Part 1 ::

One month ago we scrubbed our house from top to bottom, ran last minute errands, zipped up two full duffel bags and headed to the airport to Austria.  We'd been saving for this vacation for two years and we were so excited to take off and have three weeks relaxing and enjoying time as a family. And we did have a fantastic time - so much so that I didn't make time to update the blog!

We began our journey from the San Francisco airport at 7:30pm...
 The 11 1/2 hour flight went smoothly but we were all looking forward to landing...
We had a smooth and brief layover in Zurich, Switzerland.  How many airports can you look out the window at your gate and see snow covered alps!?
Just a quick 1 hour flight from Zurich and we arrived in Vienna, Austria.  We were quickly greeted by Markus' dad and drove 2 hours to their home in Sankt Georgen.  We were all exhausted but so excited to be in Austria, with family.  After a night of sleep we spent the next few days getting acclimated to the time change, and spending time with family.

Markus' brother Stefan lives just an hour away by train and was the first to greet us when we arrived at the house and he with us every weekend.  His sister Kristin lives about ten minutes away, so we were able to see her and her kiddos, Lenja and Lorenz, the most (aside from his parents) during our trip.
We did heaps of relaxing. Lots of sitting on the sunny back porch, talking, laughing, watching the kiddos climb around and play on the swingset with their cousins.

Sunday morning after we arrived, around 1:15am, the kiddos woke up bright eyed and ready to play!  They did a great job staying in their room playing quietly and finally fell back asleep at 4am.  The only problem with that was that Markus and I were WIDE awake that whole time and we couldn't go back to sleep! Finally around 5:30am Markus went upstairs to have some coffee and I decided to go for an early morning run (if only I were up for running that early every morning)!  This was the view from our bedroom as I got ready at 6am - sunshine on the clock tower as the church bells were ringing.
That evening we had a great reunion with Markus' mom Heidi as she returned from her weekend conference, however we were all exhausted - I fell asleep at 7:30pm. By Monday morning we were on schedule and ready to conquer Austria - or at least the areas surrounding Sankt Georgen!

Next post : Old School