Tim arrived Sunday, 16 December 2012 at Frankfurt Airport. Todd, Laura, Carys and Joel took the train from our home to Frankfurt to meet him. His luggage didn’t arrive with him so we didn’t have to take it along on the train ride back or the long walk from a bus stop that we ended up taking because we didn’t want to wait for the next bus. Then his luggage arrived late in the evening, so that worked out very well. Carys and Laura took Tim downtown to see the Wiesbaden Christmas Market but he was way too tired, having also just come off a week of finals, to enjoy anything so we took him home and he was asleep by late afternoon.
It was a wonderful feeling to have one of the older boys in our house with us. Tim, Todd, and Laura went to Rothenburg on Monday. We toured portions of the city, walked around a section of the Medieval wall, climbed the city tower to get a fabulous panoramic view from above, toured the local church built in the 1100-1300s and walked through a portion of the Christmas Market. In Cochem, Todd and Tim toured a castle on Tuesday. Tim was sick Wednesday then went to Oppenheim with Dad on Thursday to view some caves and see a church. Some of the tours were not available but they still had a good time.
We thought Josh was to arrive Saturday, so we went to the airport via car, without Tim since we didn’t all fit, to bring Josh back only to learn after two hours of waiting that he wasn’t due until Sunday. Back in Wiesbaden, tremendously relieved that Josh didn’t miss his flight, Tim, Carys, Joel and Laura went ice skating in downtown Wiesbaden, did some Christmas shopping and enjoyed Nutella crepes at the Christmas Market while Todd did some grocery shopping and errands.
Josh’s arrival on Sunday made the family reunion complete and Laura was especially happy to have the whole family sitting at the dinner table together. Repeatedly throughout the upcoming week, she would find herself counting the kids or family members, reveling in the fact that we were all together.
The evening was spent opening Christmas presents. Todd and Laura weren’t feeling well so went to bed early and the kids spent the evening together.
Monday we left for Austria in our Fiat 9-passenger van that was three rows of three (a surprise to us) and a stick (not a surprise but different). We had plenty of luggage space and plenty of luggage, since we were going to be skiing. We arrived at our first hotel on Christmas Eve, the Pension Guggital in Germany along the Austrian border and skied for two days at the Soll resort in Austria.
Todd bought ski lessons for Tim, Carys, Joel and Laura while Josh spent the morning snowboarding on his own, discovering the pistes at the resort.
The weather Christmas Day was absolutely perfect for skiing – clear skies, sunny, neither too warm nor too cold.
Josh snowboarded without his coat throughout the Alps in the morning, then joined the rest of us on the smaller slopes in the afternoon. Todd stayed off the slopes, due to a back injury, so spent the day in the town of Soll. The family enjoyed a nice dinner in Soll at a local restaurant. It’s Austria, so Tim had a glass of wine and then accidentally (really!) ended up with a tall glass of beer. So our first time taking Tim out for a drink was in Austria, with the whole family and he ended up with one more drink than he intended to order!
The next day was wetter with it snowing or raining all day and Carys stayed off the slopes, due to her leg pain. She and her dad found a few sites, hiked to some beautiful waterfalls and enjoyed the day together. Josh balanced time with the family and venturing off on his own, snowboarding into other towns from peak to peak, having a great time. He even enjoyed a hot drink at an igloo-like gasthaus with igloo hotel rooms. He came back to the Soll resort area with perfect timing, meeting Tim, Joel and Mom at a Gasthaus on the slopes for a late lunch just as the waitress was handing us our menus. He was soaked! We enjoyed goulash, hot drinks and a great view of some of the steeper slopes at Soll. After a family dinner at a nearby Austrian town, the kids went moon-sledding (sledding down some of the ski slopes at night) while Todd and Laura enjoyed quiet drinks (Radlers – a mix of beer and soda) in a restaurant at the base of the slopes.
From our ski trip in Austria, we travelled up through Munich and over to France where we spent two nights in the city of Metz. Metz (pronounced “Mess”) is known for its beautiful cathedral and we saw it both during the day and at night. Yes, it is definitely beautiful. The Metz Cathedral has one of the highest naves and the most stained glass of any church in the world. It is stunning.
Joel’s favorite stop in Metz was the shopping center we went to in the evening. He enjoyed the sport clothing store. Laura did enjoy the kitchen wares store nearby. Many creative kitchen items for European kitchens. Todd and Carys really enjoyed the cathedral.
From Metz, we travelled to Luxembourg to see the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial, where Gen Patton is buried. He was killed in a car accident in Germany after WWII and was buried there because he had requested that he be buried with his troops. It was a beautiful site. Over 50 acres and some nice memorials that explain the troop movement during WWII. We also visited a German Cemetery for their fallen. It made me proud as an American to learn that the Germans were initially buried there by the American troops. Later, the Germans took over the cemetery, added to it and maintained it.
Luxembourg City was fascinating because it exists at two very distinct levels, due to the cliffs inside the city borders. Apparently, the city existed at the bottom of the cliffs first, then grew over time to the tops of the cliffs. It was a fun city and we’d like to return in warmer weather.
We spent the evening in Trier, Germany and enjoyed dinner in an underground restaurant then we all just did our own thing in the city for our last morning of the trip. Todd and I took off after we thought everybody but Joel had headed out. Joel wanted to relax in the hotel room. Todd and I visited the Porta Nigre (the Black Gate), the largest Roman City Gate north of the Alps. It was built the years before 200AD. We walked on it!
On the way home, we stopped at an extremely impressive castle, which we only viewed from afar because it was closed for the season and toured a much smaller castle that offers a rented room!
Germany, Austria, France and Luxembourg; Skiing, touring, museums, shopping and sightseeing; Austrian goulash, French pastries, German Schnitzel; Together
Memories that will last a lifetime.