Big Bockedra and the Mediaeval Hamster Wheel

Hi guys! New city, new team, new adventure! This year Ken and I are located in Großbockedra, Germany. Don’t ask me how to pronounce it, I haven’t really gotten a straight answer on that… I do know that groß means … Continue reading

Braunschweig, Brunswick, and Ted vs. the Porcupine

Greetings, all! It’s that time of year again! It has been two weeks to the day since we left our homes and made a new one here in Braunschweig, Germany. I am going to do my best to keep you all … Continue reading

Prague: Uncensored

FINALLY, it is here. This is a big week for the Frease’s of Germany. A day we have been anticipating since it was made official. COREY AND RACHEL ARE COMING TOMORROW. I know that you are all super jealous of the two of them; we would be as well. These honeymooning lovebirds get to spend a glorious week in our company. Worry not blog-readers, I will try and do our time together justice.

Also, I would like to take this time to reflect on another countdown of ours. Currently, we have 49 days until our tentative flight home for the summer. Can you guys believe it? Time really flies! Also, to keep the theme alive, we have 141 days until our wedding. Naturally, this fun little fact incites equal parts excitement and panic.

Moving forward, not much has happened since my last post. Except, OH YEAH, we went to PRAGUE! A couple of weeks ago Kenny got four days off of practice; obviously, we took full advantage. Unbeknownst to us, Prague was less than a five-hour drive away. Also, bonus, our friend Brendan Coleman from Xavier is living in Prague at the moment. He’s on a program called “TEFL Worldwide” where he helps Czechs learn English. (BTW he sent me a link… definitely looking into this for next year.) So, Kenny booked our hotel that Thursday and we left Sunday morning. We got an incredible deal on an amazing hotel right in Old Town. We felt super fancy when we walked into our room and saw this:

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Also, I have to post photos of the chandelier from the lobby. Each crystal is suspended from a separate string = coolest chandelier I’ve ever seen.

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Anyway, after we toasted to our unconditional love and downed the bottle of champagne, we made plans to meet up with our friend Brendan. Brendan took us to a little restaurant he likes that serves genuine Czech cuisine. It was very good! And the beer was very, very good! Speaking of that sweet nectar, after dinner he took us to a charming little bar with an impressive array of beers on tap. My deepest regret is that I did not get a picture of him and Kenny together. C’est la vie, next time! After we said our goodbyes we were anxious to get back to the hotel. There was a king-sized bubble bath calling my name. Also, there was a casino in the hotel for Kenny, need I say more?

In my opinion, one of the greatest parts about staying in a hotel is the complimentary breakfast. My attempts to rouse my husband were futile. His late night in the casino turned him into an angry morning bear so I gave up and dined solo. I felt badly because; let me tell you, this was a breakfast fit for a king. Though, forgiveness came easily when he saw the big pile of pastries I brought back for him! We had a big day ahead of us so we set out to feed the hangry (hungry + angry. Go ahead and use it) bear. The Palladium, Prague’s giant shopping center, was directly across from our hotel. When I say giant…

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I mean giant! Naturally Kenny beelined for the fried chicken. After Kenny consumed mass quantities of KFC we set out for our adventure! That is until, I saw it: Starbucks, in all her glory.

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Morning = made.

Now, finally, we were off! We stopped back at the hotel to confirm our route. The concierge drew us up a foolproof map and sent us on our merry way. We were first to take bus #8 and get off at specified location and then take bus #24. This is where it all went wrong. I would like to preface this journey by reminding you people that Kenny and I are not city-folk. We have no idea how to use the public transportation system. We were like two newborn baby turtle hatchlings trying to find the ocean for the first time. The funny thing is that we were completely unaware of our blinding incompetence until we got to the tram stop and the doors opened in front of us. There were people with tickets, some people didn’t have tickets, there was pushing and staring and babies crying. It was a mess. We ran away confused. I said we should go back and ask the concierge how to do it; Kenny said that was too awkward. Kenny offered a cab; I said it would get too expensive. We were really in a pickle here, guys. Finally we came to the conclusion that we should just jump on the #8 bus. I mean, what could go wrong?

The answer to that question is: a lot. A lot went wrong. We ended up on bus #8 for a good 45 minutes to an hour. Let it be known that I wanted to get off the bus  when we first started to realize these we not the correct tram stop names. But Kenny just kept saying, “It’ll loop around,” “It’s gotta loop around,” “It’s going to loop around soon.” It became his mantra for the day.

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“It’ll loop around”

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“It will for sure loop around”

Long story short it did not loop around. No looping happened at all. We were dying laughing; it was so hilarious. We were in the middle of nowhere next to a strip joint and XXX video store.

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“I thought it would loop around”

We did get to see some beautiful local artwork…

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???

This poor woman was lost with us…

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Bye-bye bus from hell.

Apparently, we went in the exact opposite direction. There was nothing left to do but hop on another bus and head back to where we started. The tram took us about 20 minutes down the way when decided to cut our losses and grab the first cab we saw.

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“I can’t believe it didn’t loop around”

Finally we made it to Prague Castle! We were so relieved to be back on the map we almost didn’t notice the lack of people in the courtyard…

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The castle was closed for the day. Imagine that! So we just snapped some pictures of the stone cold guardsmen underneath some brutal statues.

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Also there was an awesome view to the right of the castle, but I will post that next time in order to do it justice.

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Anyway, back to our trip from hell. After we saw as much as we could, we began our trek home. Our path lead us down the side streets of Prague. Ken and I must be spoiled in the pristinely clean and always salted streets of Germany, because this place was awful. It was nothing but brown slush and garbage. We had three maps, two more maps than you need really, and they all turned out to be completely useless in these side streets. However, we did see this little gem drawn on a fence outside of the vast courtyard.

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Greatest number in the whole wide world!!

To make a long story short, about 30 minutes and a pair of boots later we located the river and got a cab (R.I.P. Tan Leather Boots.)

We got to the hotel and headed straight to the hot tub to melt away our troubles. In order to use the hotel “spa” you are supposed to the wear the “spa slippers.” Needless to say they fit Kenny like a glove.

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After our hot tub dip and a surprise sauna visit we headed back to our room to get cleaned up. Due to the failure that was our day Kenny and I decided we would treat ourselves to a lovely dinner. Let me tell you, lovely doesn’t even begin to describe the perfection of the meal we consumed. We went to a restaurant called “La Dégustation.” The menu was in a fancy shmancy envelope.

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There was a choice between a six or an eleven course meal. After a great debate I convinced Kenny that a six course meal would be sufficient.

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This meal was art. It definitely made up for the day’s shortcomings. Here is Kenny looking super excited about the fourth course in front of us.IMG_3516

Here is Kenny looking extra classy and philosophical.

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That about concludes our fantastic first day in Prague! Despite all of the setbacks I still had a wonderful time with my husband. It really made for a great memory. Cheers!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOMMY! …also, Schloss Lichtenstein

First and foremost, before I begin, I would like to wish my beautiful mother a very happy 27th birthday. I could not ask for a better role model and friend. Your daughters and husband love you very much and are lucky to have you!

On to Schloss Lichtenstein! I am not going to lie to you people… these pictures are fantastic. This is largely thanks to Dr. Fritz (The Fritz’s are a very nice German family we have come to know), as he let me borrow one of his amazing cameras, that of which takes very high quality photographs. We also had a very beautiful subject. The castle of Lichtenstein seemed to have been plucked right out of the Middle Ages. It was not as grandiose as others we have seen, but it certainly had the most character. The castle is perched atop a stony mountainside. It being contrived mainly from stone as well, giving the illusion it has simply sprung up from the mountain itself.

Am I right??

As per usual, Kenny and I arrived just as the internal tour was starting. Naturally, the tour was entirely in German, but due to dumb luck, a woman in the tour was whispering translations of the whole thing to her two friends, whom of which (if my eavesdropping skills are up to par) were from New Zealand. Apparently, there has been a castle in this location since 1200. However, it has been destroyed twice and the current structure has only been around since the 1800’s.

Side note: forgive the horrible quality of the photos from inside the castle… picture-taking was frowned upon, thus, we had to be sneaky again.

The first room we entered had painted murals from floor to ceiling.We also found these rather interesting paintings on either side of the room. The first is Count Eberhard I, Duke of Württemburg and the second is Count Herzog Ulrich von Württemburg. Each painting features a peculiar phrase at the top.

“Attempto” meaning “I dare”

“Stat Animo” meaning “I have it in mind”

How embarrassed must Count Herzog be? What a lame caption to be eternally associated with. At least Count Eberhard gets to be daring…

Anyway! The next room was really beautiful. It boasted gorgeous stained glass windows overlooking the valley below, as well as sundry suits of armor and weaponry.

Apparently, according to the New Zealand lady, boys as young as 12 and 13 were made to fight as well (Kenny and I had originally deemed them midget-armor). The following armor was designed to fit children (not for Tyrions).

Oddly enough the coolest part of the room was a rock…This is a part of the mountain from underneath the castle; they literally built the castle around this chunk of mountain for fear of disrupting the mountain’s foundation.

The next room was the “gentlemen’s drinking quarters”. It featured more elaborately painted murals and all sorts of old-fashioned drinking paraphernalia. But first, this room had the most beautiful hearth I ever did see…

What a pretty green color!

The room, in itself, was comedy. The mural depicted men doing manly things… which in these times (still accurate if you ask me) meant drinking, hunting, fighting, and smoking a pipe… Believe it or not, this tubelike thing is a champagne flute. It takes 4 men to wield it and holds up to 3 bottles of champagne, if memory serves. These guys clearly liked to party.

The next rooms we saw were the part of the castle that the owners would use to entertain their guests. These rooms were more elaborately decorated than the rest, gaudy even.

Side note: what people did before technology… Below, there is a small, fancy sort of gate opening at the top of the wall. There is a hidden room through the tiny gate where musicians would sit and play during parties for hours on end… rough gig.

Lastly we entered the castle’s chapel. This really was a lovely chapel, except my pictures turned out awful because it was really dark and we were in stealth mode so using the flash was not an option. Thus, all you guys get is a photo of their stained glass window behind the mini alter… Es tut mir leid.

After the tour we spent a long time just taking in the view. The leaves were starting to turn and the sun was hitting the valley just so… it truly was perfect.

Stunning, right?

Also, I had to post this picture. This “C’mon Emily” pose is nearly identical to the picture from Tübingen when I was taking too many pictures…

Unfortunately, there was nobody around to take our picture together so this is the best we could do…

Until next time! Cheers!

A castle? Yoshi can’t go in those.

The winds and bends of the roads and the surrounding fields of wildflowers and orchards made for a lovely drive from Hechingen Village to Burg Hohenzollem. As we were nearing the castle and snaking up the mountain I was so excited I kept having Kenny stop the car so I could take a picture of the nearing castle at every bend… I will spare you the majority of these photos, as they are very much alike. However, here is my favorite! The seemingly endless coiling road came to an end about ¾’s of the way up the mountain. We were met with the neon vest and open hand of a parking attendant. We paid 2 euro to park and wait for the next shuttle up the remainder of the mountain. Meanwhile they had a little pub and a shop of some of the most random castle paraphernalia you can imagine. Here are a few examples…

There were also ridiculously sharp swords and battle-axes labeled unconvincingly as fake, as well as dragon figurines and the usual wall of alcohol that has become a commonplace of sorts in the German shops we have happened across. After dress-up we headed towards the shuttle. We got on the bus and sat down in the teeny seats. Poor Kenny barely fit… but we were so excited!

…and then a wonderfully ridiculous human being sat down right in front of us. You haven’t seen a bowl-cut until you have seen this guy. It was incredible…

I have never seen it’s equal.

Anyway! We finally made our ascent. The shuttle arrived at the castle grounds and we bought a ticket for the “tour grandeur”. We were informed we won’t be able to understand a word of it (obviously), but they gave us a castle guide in English! Which was all we needed:) The way up the castle was really cool; consisting of a drawbridge, another winding path made of stone, and a charming garden courtyard.

I knew the view was going to be amazing, but there are not words to describe the feeling I got when I looked over that edge. Kenny and I, both being from Midwest America, will always appreciate such things. You could see for miles and miles all the way around the castle. We sat on a bench in silence for nearly five minutes just taking it all in. I was freaking out during this picture… He wanted to lay down!? I said nooooo way!

Also, Kenny downloaded this really cool app (he was obsessed with it) that allows you to take panoramic photos! Though, as you can see it’s a little on the squiggly side and it couldn’t exactly figure out where I was every time… Side note: Above I am imagining those little stone hobbles along the wall to be where Legolas would stand and just murk people.

Here, a nice (and fluent: low levels of awkwardness) German couple took our picture too! Surrounding the castle were several statues representing kings that have ruled here in the past dating back to the 16 hundreds. Kenny was bound and determined to take a picture of every last one. However, (for the sake of my sanity in trying to read the crumbling inscriptions) I am only going to post the first and the last out of the ten. It was rather interesting to see how the different fashions have changed over the centuries. Why would people ever stop wearing capes?

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1861-1888

Since the castle was at the very peak of a mountain it was difficult to get a decent picture… not for lack of trying of course…

So incredibly beautiful. Moving right along, as you can see Kenny is headed into the building. Unbeknownst to us, the internal guided tour was to begin at 6:00. There is no such thing as “Mayers” time in Germany… I mean, this thing started at 6:00 sharp. Naturally, Kenny and I moseyed in around 6:06. I’m pretty sure it was uncomfortable for everyone involved. The door was locked so we had to knock. The kindly old man that was to be our tour guide let us in, and was most likely reassuring us that it was alright to be late… although of that we can never really be sure. We just kept shrugging our shoulders and saying “English, sorry,” then pointing at our English guide book… total idiots. Also, to make matters worse we were just snapping photos in every direction only to discover this sign when the crowd dispersed to head into the next room…

Oops…

So that is our excuse for the poor quality of photographs you are about to see. We had to be in stealth mode.

All four walls of the first room were adorned with an elaborately painted family tree. Naturally, it reminded me of the Black family tree in the fifth Harry Potter film… R.I.P. Sirius. 

The room below featured beautiful paintings: depictions of both actual historical events and fables from centuries past. Unfortunately, due to the big and bright windows, they were overexposed.

However, the next hallway had a couple of fancy mirrors…

Also, there we found the weirdest stained glass window in existence… Seriously though, quadruple high-five for anyone that can tell me what this thing is.

Every room we entered was more aesthetically pleasing than the next.

The last stop of the tour was an armory and a room full of display cases. Each with various artifacts from the different time periods of the castle’s existence.

(Ignore the panoramic squiggles.)

Although we did not understand a single word from anyone throughout the tour, it was still an amazing experience. The inside of the castle was just as magnificent as the outside promised. Kenny and I had another unforgettable day together:) Plus, we finally quenched our thirst!!

Cheers!

Bookmyer-Land!

Guten tag! Kenny had another free afternoon yesterday so we took full advantage. As per my beautiful grandmother’s recommendation, Kenny and I ventured to Hechingen: the ancestral home of the Bookmyer’s (…though it was shockingly void of slot machines and small yappy dogs…). The village of Hechingen is barely 15 minutes south of our Dußlingen so it was a very short and pleasant drive. Also, conveniently enough the castle of Hohenzollem, (our destination #2), was just another 10 minutes up a mountain. Imagine our excitement to see this looming off the horizon…

I was bouncing in my seat and half expecting to meet Dumbledore after that sighting. Anyway, after a couple displays of classic Kenny road rage we arrived in the village of Hechingen. The place was beautiful. The town square was very modern; obviously the newest part of the village as we were not met with anything of the sort when we left the square.

First order of business: I needed my caffeine fix. We walked into a mod looking café only to stare at the gibberish menu board. I sincerely hate ordering here… I feel like a baby-idiot. Nevertheless, I placed my order: iced coffee. This was a grievous error. The nice lady gave me a face of pure confusion. So, naturally, I said the word “ice” a few more times and put my fingers apart the approximate size of an ice cube thinking this would help. Well, like a light bulb went off inside her she went to work. When she pulled out the ice cream scoop I knew I was in trouble. I received a large mug complete with a bitter espresso mixture poured over vanilla ice cream and a mound of whipped cream. I blame myself, really… my level of awkwardness was at an all time high.

After we finished the weird espresso float we walked around the shops in the square. Until we happened upon a shop we had no choice but to enter…

LOOK who we found!

AND LOOK what we bought!!!

I am sorry Marge… the Coke puzzle is getting put on the back burner to make room for our Disney friends.

Moving forward, besides fabulous puzzle places, Hechingen features some beautiful old buildings.

As well as this creepy thing that confused us…

As I was saying previously, after we left the square the village sort of crept back in time. My personal favorite was the cobblestone streets. Kenny had mentioned that it was clear these were not created for the purpose of cars. Immediately I imagined horses trotting through the narrow streets and big wooden wheels making for a bumpy horse drawn carriage ride.

Until I saw this in a store front window…

That shirt really smacked me in the face back to the present…

Up next in our wandering session, we stumbled upon these lovely family crests.

Unfortunately we have absolutely no idea what this means.

You can’t really see it (mainly because I botched the photo and completely cut it in half) but the farthest one to the right does not have a family name underneath it… So, I pretended that it’s the Bookmyer family coat of arms:)

Meanwhile, the sun was beating hotter and the hills were getting hillier and Kenny and I were developing a thirst. Hence, Kenny darting off at the speed of light towards this beer umbrella.

It was closed… Apparently from 12-2:30 shops and bars take naps. Needless to say, we were not pleased. We trudged back to the car sweaty and parched. Although, on the bright side, we did discover the deal with the creepy thing…

It’s a fountain!!! Still creepy though…

It was really fun touring the village of Hechingen. Just walking down the streets with the possibility that my ancestors have done the same. Thanks for the suggestion G-Money:) Next stop: the castle! Cheers!

It was no Hogwarts but…

Sunday was magical! Upon arriving in Europe I was most taken aback by it’s natural beauty. There is myriad of hills, valleys, trees, and flowery fields all along the drive from Stuttgart’s airport to our little town of Dußlingen (ß = “ss”). However, what I really wanted to see was a castle. Thus, Sunday we set out on a castle hunt. Obviously, we have no castles in the ‘Mericas (unless you count Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas… which I know my mother does) so I was doubly excited! These “castle hunt” pictures will be the first of many!!

Our first excursion outside of Tübingen began with a lot of insanely fast driving (not my fault) and a near trip-cancelling experience due to some spilled McDonald’s coffee (possibly my fault). Anyway the expedition made us quite thankful for our GPS… that of which I have decided to name “Navi”. Our drive through Stuttgart was nuts… there is no rhyme or reason to the streets here. Kenny was very impressive and ninja-like with his newly honed manual shifting skills. Although the roads were confusing we enjoyed very spectacular views just off the highway. However a minor speed bump hit us when the address we searched via iPhone and entered into Navi brought us to a large industrial building… sincerely hoping this was not our castle we drove around the corner to a beautiful park and stumbled onto Schloss Rosenstein.

This particular castle was destroyed and made anew in the 1900’s thus it appeared almost modern looking.

Rosenstein has ornately carved stone lions on either side of the castle… As I was taking pictures I had to wait because so many kids wanted their pictures taken on the lion’s back…

The castle itself was beautiful but I thought the sculptures surrounding it were the real gems there.

Also, these statues instituted the “don’t give the camera to Kenny” idea…

unless you want pictures of stone butts…

Anyway! As you may see in stone butt picture #2 there is a beautiful garden behind me; featuring blooming red roses (my favorite flower), ivy laden stone pillars and hedges trimmed to perfection.

We even (albeit awkwardly) asked a couple to take our picture in the garden…

and also my attempt…

Schloss Rosenstein was beautiful and an excellent first stop on our “castle hunt”! Cheers!