Wednesday, July 22, 2009 bene...

Zev and Howard had to ride in the SAAB on the back of the tow truck, so mum and I could ride in the truck next to Dennis.

As I type this our car is still in Italy, near Venice somewhere. Luckily, our wonderful Deutsch insurance company, ADAC (some of the best advice we received when moving here was to use ADAC- awesome value), will ship our car from Italy to Germany sometime in the next two weeks. ADAC gave us a rental to get back home to Germany from Italy. Being a one car family isn't all that bad, because now that Zev installed a little basket on the back of my bike, I just ride my bike to German class- just like all the locals!
Cousin Christie made some AWESOME Italian coffees!!
Some of you may know that "va bene" is translated from Italian to English as meaning "it'll be alright" or "no worries" or something along those lines. Usually it is said with a shrug and hands lifted in the air. I (Fi) actually had an Italian bus driver tell me "va bene" in just this manner, when I asked him (at 1245 am after we had literally walked the length of Venice) when the 1230 bus was meant to arrive. (In case you are interested, the scheduled bus never came- we caught the next one and no one seemed to mind. La Dolce Vita remember- just enjoy life and smile). So of course, the next day, when the clutch in Zev's SAAB went out in a little Italian village on our way home to Germany, I just HAD to shrug my shoulders and say "va bene." Really, all of us keeping cool about being stranded in Italy right around siesta time on a Friday afternoon (especially Zev- he is SO CALM under pressure!) is what helped us make the most of the situation. In fact, we even met some lovely people along the way, such as the tow truck driver, Dennis (seen here in the pics), who was due to get married in a week and take his new bride to America, or our eccentric taxi driver who drove us to the rental car company and who almost knocked a guy on his scooter over after beeping the horn and waving his hands and saying all sorts of things in Italian. (Zev laughed his head off in the back seat while I was trying to speak Spanish/ Italian to the taxi driver and explain where we needed to go.) The poor guy on the scooter was so jolted from the taxi driver tooting his horn right behind him, that the visor on his helmet fell over his eyes and he temporarily couldn't see! The taxi driver did comment that he didn't think the man on the scooter was Italian because an Italian would know to get out of the bene, like I said.) After a delay of about 5 hours which really wasn't too bad, we still managed to drive through the gorgeous mountains between Italy and Austria to catch up with Zev's little cousin and God-daughter, Christie, who is working over the summer at a hotel near Folgaria. Ah the excitement of travel!!

Stuttgart "Run the Remember" Half-Marathon

Thank you to Hans for taking these pics! Thank you to Zev for being a wonderful partner- running partner but more importantly, a husband.

Our little Apple Tree

I may have posted previously that in Zev's lunch box I place a cut up apple. Every day. He really loves it and sometimes puts peanut butter on it. I am happy that he is eating a piece of fruit every day. He eats pretty healthy most of the time anyway. BUT this Summer has also brought a wonderful surprise to us in terms of our very own apple tree in our backyard. Our landlords told us it was an early blooming apple tree- but it started dropping ripe apples around the beginning of summer already!! While Howard was here with mum, he made us TONS of wonderful apple compote- apples chopped up with raisins and honey and cooked in the microwave for a few minutes! Yummy for breakfast. Anyway, I find it so cool that I can walk into our little backyard and pick apples. We have had to give a bunch away though- there are only so many apples a person can eat. Maybe I could freeze some apple pie though? My dear neighbor, Madga gave me some homemade Sour Cherry Pie (she thought Zev would "love it"), and said she was going to start making Apfelkuchen (apple cake) now that the apples from her orchard were starting to ripen. I wonder if she can give me any tips on how to make Apple Pie- German style!?

Monday, July 20, 2009

La Dolce Vita

For those of you that have been to Italy, you will probably agree that La Vita really is dolce there. And the gelato too. You know, Zev and I feel so blessed to live in Europe and have these experiences. We are humbled by the fact, we truly are, and we wish we could share the experiences with our dear family and friends. God is good and actually, we have felt blessed in all our postings- Sydney, Alabama, Louisiana and now here. We just try to be the best people we can be and to be obedient. You don't need to go to Europe to appreciate the beauty and those around you. Each place that we have lived in holds a special spot in our hearts, and we still keep in regular contact with our dear friends that we made at each of those places. So perhaps a little suggestion as to counting ones blessings- sometimes you just need to look around you and be thankful for your health, safety and the little things in life. The Italians appear to really understand what it means to enjoy life and appreciate their surroundings- they enjoy a long lunch and time with family and friends, although they can be pretty "passionate" and "expressive" on the roads!!

The pictures below are of the smallest German speaking country in the world: Liechtenstein. Blink and you'll miss it. This is how you visit 4 countries in 1 hour- drive from Germany to Switzerland, cutting a little bit off the side of the Austrian border (we were technically in Austria for about 15 minutes- still had to get the special toll ticket but such is life in Europe). We then drove into Lichtenstein about 15 minutes later after we crossed the Swiss border. Very quaint country. Little country but very quaint. A real prince still lives in this castle too. Other interesting facts about Liechtenstein: it is not part of the EU and has no intention to join (something about tax breaks....);

A real Prince still lives here

Schloss Solitude is located in Stuttgart. A really pretty palace- small but in a great location and in great condition. One of the princes of Baden-Wuerttemberg (the German state we live in) liked to have parties and balls here.

Schloss Hohenzollern (which is still owned by the former royal family of Germany, and in which the current Prince has a summer residence in). Must be nice to have a residence for all seasons!

And finally, my favorite- Schloss Ludwigsburg. Why? Because there is so much history to be told in this castle- our tour took almost 3 hours- and because the City of Ludwigsburg and the German government have done a great deal of work to maintain the historical artifacts and authenticity of the castle. It even has one of the world's oldest personal baroque theatres inside!
We are so blessed to live in Southern Germany, because there are no shortage of castles here- all within a short drive!! And I (Fi) LOVE a good castle- especially one with a lot of history and amazing stories. How about a castle with a real life prince? Well, Hohenzollern Castle about an hour south of Stuttgart is still owned by the Hohenzollern Family. It is one of the most breathtaking castles I have ever seen- the position of the castle on top of a mountain in the Schwabish Alps is simply stunning. The heir of the Hohenzollern family, George Frederick, Prince of Prussia, now manages the castle at the grand old age of 30, and apparently, on the day we toured the castle, we had just missed seeing the prince (who lives in Berlin). We had a group of French students on our castle tour, and you can only imagine the "oohs and ahs" by the French girls, and the rolling of the eyes by the French boys (as well as Zev) when the tour guide told us that we had just missed seeing the Prince (or sitting down for a cup of tea as mum put it). A great experience touring this beautiful castle.

Later in the week, I took Mum and Howard to visit my "favorite local castle"-Schloss Ludwigsburg. We were really lucky in getting an extra special tour by a dedicated tour guide, Martina. She even graciously showed us parts of the castle never shown to tourists normally, and once she heard that I live in the area and that this was my 5th tour of the castle, she asked whether I was interested in a job giving tours in English and Spanish!! She told me to think about it, but I think it sounds like a fabulous idea....what do you think?

Monday, July 06, 2009

I Capture the Castle

Howard, mum, Zev and I in downtown Stuttgart. Summer in Europe is gorgeous.
My man cooking us up another wonderful dish (he really is the world's best cook in my humble opinion).
In front of the Altes Schloss in downtown Stuttgart. Side note: I could have lived in ANY of these castles- aren't castles simply amazing? They just don't build castles like they used to anymore....haha

We enjoyed a packed lunch on the grass at Schlossplatz in Stuttgart.
Our flower boxes are looking lovely- in time for Meme and Howard's visit. Zev usually takes our "self-portraits" but I thought this one that I took was cool, with mum and Howard enjoying a conversation in the background.
Zev showing us the finer points of how to play Petanque (or "Boule" as it is commonly called in Australia).
Howard showing us how it's done. Team Howard and Meme- they said they hadn't played Petanque before, but I'm not sure....
Mum really took to the game- she was a natural and now she is asking when we will go and play again!! Fun stuff. We visited Strasbourg, France, which is in the heart of the Alsace region. My sweet friend, Adele's husband, Romain also comes from another city in Alsace called Colmar, and she has been filling me in on the specialities of this region in France. We enjoyed a yummy French lunch (very rich- it really is a wonder how those French girls stay so slim!).
Mum inspecting the French bakery.
HOT!!! Zev eloquently describing his lunch dish in France (his neighbor on the next table ended up ordering the same dish...."I'll have what he's having.....")
Walking through the streets of Strasbourg was lovely- mum kept saying that it reminded her of an old movie called "Umbrellas in Strasbourg." Good memory, mum!
Zev leafing through some antique prints in a Strasbourg market.
Our day trip to the historic university town of Tuebingen (where Fi is hoping to study next year!) and the pretty medieval town of Rottenberg was beautiful- the sun was shining and the colors of the flowers and artwork on the buildings seemed to be extra vibrant. Zev took some really neat close up shots, which showed the detail of craftsmanship and beauty in design.

Beautiful Heidelberg on the Neckar River- the same river that flows through our town of Esslingen, as well as the towns of Rottenberg and Tuebingen, which we also visited.
We toured Heidelberg Castle.Follow me, folks!

The title to this blog seems fitting as it is the title of one of my (Fifi) favorite childhood books (by English author Dodie Smith), and yesterday we visited our 5th castle in 8 days. Meme and Howard are visiting us all the way from Australia, and we have really enjoyed showing them the beauty of Europe in the summer time, as well as exploring some places that we have not been to before. Zev had to return back to work today, so I will take mum and Howard to visit one of my favorite local castles here, Ludwigsburg Castle (you've probably seen pictures in our blog as this is a "must do" for our guests!) So far we have also shown mum and Howard our sweet historic town of Esslingen (of course), as well as Stuttgart, Strasbourg in France where we enjoyed a yummy French lunch, Tuebingen (the flowers on the bridge were absolutely gorgeous), Rottenberg, and Heidelberg where we toured the historic Heidelberg Castle. Yesterday we visited Hohenzollern Castle, which is really one of the more picturesque castles that I have ever seen- it is one of those castles that when you imagine what a beautful castle perched on a mountain looks like- well Hohenzollern is that and more.The weather has been gorgeous thus far, and for Zev and I, this is our first summer in Europe (what a beautiful experience). We pinch ourselves and thank the Lord every day that we live here- we feel so incredibly blessed to live in Southern Germany. It is really neat to learn the history of Europe first hand as we visit all these amazing historic places. Hope you enjoy the pictures, God bless and take care wherever you are! Love and hugs, Fifi xoxoxo