Wednesday, December 29, 2010

This one´s for you, Karen

Dear Karen,

It was wonderful talking with you last night! I loved hearing that sweet Louisiana accent again. Reminiscing about our running days brought back so many fond memories. I loved training with you, Jamie, Natalie, and Lauren. Didn´t we have fun running the New Orleans Half Marathon!? I thought I would "take" you on my run this morning, to share what running is like during winter here. I gotta say, although I appreciated the warmth and convenience of running in Louisiana in the winter (one doesn´t need to wear nearly as many layers for example), I really appreciate the beauty and excitement of running in the snow here in Germany. Wish you were here... 
Yes, the outfit above is for one person. Me.
Getting started is the hardest part. Especially when it is cold and snowy outside. This hill is my first "obstacle." In winter, I usually walk up it. Can you see the snow truck at the top? He is removing the snow from the pathway and laying down gravel so people like me don´t fall flat on their face as they navigate through the snow. As I passed him, he kind of gave me a look that said "I´m being paid to be out here. Why on earth are you out running!?" Instead, he said "Guten Morgen."
THIS is why I run on snowy days like today. I wish you could feel and smell how refreshing and beautiful it is from the top of the hill. I have named this particular run, about a 3 mile loop, my "Enchancted Forest" run. Zev and I have named all of our "runs." His favorite is "Dive Shop Extended." We sound crazy, I know.
Off we go! (Note: Great music is key to running by yourself in winter. And summer. And any old time, really).
Ah the view. Good music, good view. Almost forget I am running...
My "Enchanted Forest Run" follows the same path as the "9 Water Wells" walk, which is popular among the Germans, who like to walk in summer and the fall. I pass about 6 of the wells on my run.
I love this part of the Enchanted Forest Run. (You´ll soon see why I have named it Enchanted Forest.) In this particular section, I run by little huts and garden plots, which aren´t inhabited, but rather used to garden and grow all sorts of produce in the spring and to have parties in during the summer!
The locals seem to love coming to these little huts on weekends during the summer.
Welcome to my Special Spot. This is the Enchanted Forest. Right behind our house. Can you see a fallen tree in the middle? I love coming here in the summer or fall and lying across that fallen tree.
I just look up into the canopy of trees, I close my eyes and listen to the creek.
I love to come here. I brought another Louisiana girlfriend, Leslie, here when she visited us in the summer. I loved running with her and showing her my special run!
video
I wanted to give you a 360 degree view of where I was standing. If you listen carefully, you will hear the water in the creek burbling away in the background. I moved the camera around a little too fast as I was recording it. Hope you don´t get a headache watching it.
I have my little "favorite" things that I like to pass on the way home. Like this Interstate sign from Nevada. It sort of provides a comforting reminder of home when I pass it. Not that I have ever lived in Nevada.
I know that I don´t have long to go until I get home, when I pass this house. Isn´t it adorable? Can you see the pot hanging on the second floor balcony? The art work on the front is really well maintained.
Either I must really time my runs well, or the buses come very often. Either way, the bus drivers know me as I catch the bus (and train) ever day to go to university. They wave and smile when when they drive past. I, in turn, do my part and make it look like I find running up the hill a breeze. Don´t worry, I slow down once they pass by.
I planned to find a picture of us running, but came across this picture of you at your crowning as a Duchess, first. I thought it was a good way to end this blog entry. Such good memories! I miss Louisiana!!
Thank you for the wonderful advice on my thesis research area. It was a pleasure catching up.
Happy New Year!
Your friend, Fiona xo

Monday, December 20, 2010

Esslinger Fackelzug

Last night was the annual Esslinger Fackelzug at our "local" fortress.
video
The Fackelzug is a torch lit procession from the Esslinger Altstadt, where the Medieval and Christmas markets are held, up to the Burg. 
There is a quite a "Medieval" community in our local town. Lots of dreadlocks and alternative looking woolen/ tie dyed clothing. I think we saw most of our "Medieval" people at the Fackelzug last night ;-)
It was fun to watch the torch lit procession walk from the Altstadt up to the Burg, along the ancient cobblestoned walkway. (You can see the lights at the foot of the vineyards.)
There were medieval musicians and fire dancers.
(Doesn´t Zev take great pictures?!)
The musicans and fire dancers had the crowd join in with them as they danced around the fire....
Here is a video of the "fire dance".
video
The best thing about the Fackelzug, is that it is not a great big commercial event. We actually missed it last year, because it was not advertised. I went to the Tourism Office this year to find out te date for this year´s Fackelzug. This is one of the many reasons that we love living in Germany.
Wherever in the world you are reading this blog from, we would like to wish you a warm, happy and safe Christmas. We hope that the love of Christ is shared warmly among you and your loved ones.
Merry Christmas!
Zev and Fi xoxo

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Prague

Well, "they" were right; Prague really is a gorgeous, intriguing and amazing city.
Since Zev had some time off over Thanksgiving weekend, we decided to head somewhere that was local and where we had never been to before. Prague was the perfect choice. Only five hours from home, door to door, the journey here on Thanksgiving day meant that we arrived in Prague in the afternoon, just before sunset. We had booked an apartment online and were very pleased with the quality and value of this clean and modern apartment in the heart of Prague. The area is lovely, not far from the famous Charles Bridge, with lots of great pubs and restaurants in the quaint neighborhood. The apartments themselves are gorgeous from the outside; think Paris, with high ceilings and intricate marble work on the outside. They are all in good condition too.
The next day, we had breakfast at the Starbucks in Old Town Prague and then went and joined a free walking tour of Prague run by "Sandemans." I had read about this free walking tour online through tripadvisor, and I must admit I was a little skeptical, thinking that nothing can be free and imagining that the guide would pressure us for tips the entire time.
Well, the trip turned out to be well worth it, with the guide mentioning tips at the end of a very informative and interesting 3 hour tour of Prague. Our guide's name was Karel, and he is a native Czech who studied abroad in England and was very passionate about his city. We started the tour at the infamous "Astronomical Clock" which you see above and ended it overlooking the beautiful Prague Castle (which is really spectacular when lit up at night).
Prague is super easy to get around on foot. The city is mostly cobblestoned streets along streets filled with stores, restaurants, pubs and of course private apartments.
During our walking tour, Karel pointed out some interesting facets about Prague's history, including the story of some guy a long time ago who tried to steal some jewelry off the statue of the Virgin Mary in a church. According to the legend, the Virgin Mary "came alive" and grabbed his arm. As the statue was considered sacred, the church officials decided to cut off the thief's arm at the elbow in order to release him. Anyway, Karel took us into the church to show us the arm which is all black and dangling off the roof. Oh yes my friend, it was dangling there.  
Just goes to show; you got to watch where you "hang out".
 
Korel also took us to the Franz Kafka statue which is based on one of the famous authors dreams and is located on the outskirts of the Jewish Quarter, also a "must-see" in Prague. Franz Kafka is actuall buried in the Jewish historic cemetery.
Zev and I had coffee after the tour in the "Franz Kafka" cafe to warm up a little bit.
 The Prague Christmas Markets started this weekend, which helped to distract us from the cold!
Isn't this city pretty!? This is the night view of Prague Castle.
The Old Town square. It looks like a fairytale scene to me.
If you are a romantic, this city is for you.
If you like dark beer, sausages, pumpkin dumplings or hearty goulash, Prague is also the place for you. German beer is great; Czech beer is excellent. So what did we do for dinner last night? We went to an underground, former brewery and ate pork knees with some of the most delicious dark beer I have ever tasted. The pork knee was quite tasty!
This is what the pork knee looked like when it came out...
And after...
 Today we were blessed with beautiful blue skies.
We decided to explore more of the Old Town as well as the Castle distict, on the left side of the river.
It was neat to cross the famous Charles Bridge, which was packed with tourists.
It was pretty cold, I must say!!
The view from the top of the hill was quite amazing. We watched the changing of the guards at the castle.
We even tried to get inside the church. But we were unsuccessful, unfortunately. It kind of went something like this:
Zev: Hi I'd like to have a look inside
Czech guard with a stern look (no smile): It's closed to tourists.
Zev: Oh, but we just wanted to....
Czech guard with a sterm look (no smile): I said it's CLOSED to tourists. Closed!
Zev: I guess it's closed......
We enjoyed a lovely Czech dinner tonight at a local restaurant, off the "touristy track" near our apartment. Our bellies are full and Zev's eyes are glazing over. So I think it's night night time.
Hope you had a lovely and warm weekend! Not long until Christmas now. Take care and love those nearest and dearest to you.
Zev and Fi xoxo