Buon Natale! Frohe Weihnachten! Happy Christmas!

15 December 2011: Thursday

This evening we had a school Christmas dinner at a nice trattoria near the Medici Chapel in Florence. We dined on antipasti, eggplant parmesan, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and panettone. Everything was tastey and the company was great. I sat with Madel and a friend of hers that was visiting Italy from a study trip to Sweden. I knew that she also went to Cal Poly but it was not until I met her that I realized that she is roommates back at Cal Poly with one of my best friends from high school! It is so funny how small our world is!

17 December 2011: Saturday
Gelato: Crem de Grom + Tiramisu

19-22 December 2011: Mid-Terms

A week full of studying and little sleep. Not much different then finals week at Cal Poly. I had my Florentine Architecture midterm on Monday, Grammar and History of the Renaissance midterms on Thursday.

Wednesday was “d-day;” the day my final design for the Uffizi Gallery exit was due. The exit had to include a café and also fit into the historical context of ancient Florence. For this project, I was thinking a lot about what the renaissance was. The Renaissance is a re-birth of classical ideals. I studied the evolution of proportions and styles, and then added a third phase to the evolutionary tree. Following the styles of Mies van der Rohe, I developed this project: –>

23 December 2011: Friday
Gelato: panettone and mandarin (Italian Christmas combination)

She is here! My mom arrived last night to visit me in Florence! This had been the longest time I have ever been away from my mama! 4 months is too long. With the end of my last final on Thursday, I practically ran to the train station of pick up my mom.

Today, we walked around to see all of the sights and I gave my mom a thorough lecture of Florentine architecture. We visited the Palazzo Vecchio and David, the Ponte Vecchio, we bought her a pair of leather gloves.

In the evening, we hiked up the hill to the Piazalle Michelangelo. The city of Florence had set up a beautiful frosted Christmas tree in the Piazalle. For dinner, JC, Sar, and I took her to Gusta Pizza for some real Florentine Pizza!

24 December 2011: Saturday and Christmas Eve

We slept in and in the afternoon, we went to the central market to buy some food for our Christmas Eve dinner. She had so much fun looking at all of the strange cuts of meat, cheeses, and vegetables. For dinner, I made meatloaf patties and green beans. Sar joined us and made us one of her wonderful Tiramisu! I was even able to find “A Christmas Story” online to continue our tradition of watching it every Christmas.

After dinner and presents, we took an evening stroll through the streets and made our way to the Duomo for Christmas Eve mass. It lasted 2 ½ hours! More then a Sunday mass, there was an hour of singing and verse reading before mass began. Led by our favorite archbishop of Florence, we enjoyed the smell of incense and the revealing of baby Jesus (in my opinion the best part)! I had never seen the Duomo so full! It was such a fun experience!

25 December 2011: Christmas Day

Buon Natale! (meaning “good birth” or Happy Christmas in Italian).
Mom, JC, and I got on the train this morning to visit my family in Germany again! This time, we are staying with my mom’s cousin Mari and her husband Wolf (daughter of my Tante Git, sister of Barb). The train ride was so beautiful, just like the one to Vals. This time, we went through Austria, past Insbrook. We arrived in Ulm in the evening, just in time for Kasespatzle!

26 December 2011: Monday

Today is the feast of St. Stevens and a state holiday in Bavaria. We took the morning easy. JC and I explored the yard around Mari and Wolf’s house. They have five pet peacocks! We had fun looking for and collecting the tail feathers of the beautiful male peacock. They also have two geese and tons of chickens running around their yard.

For lunch, we went to my Tante Git’s house for a post-Christmas supper and then ventured through the town where my grandma was born. We enjoyed good conversation and more Christmas cookies then any one person should consume.

I tried a new type of cookie who’s recipe comes from my great grandma. Made from the Quince fruit. This fruit-roll-up type cookie has a sweet, yet bitter, taste and is so tasty!

27 December 2011: Tuesday

Up early today to tour Munich. We began the day at Schloss Nymphenburg. Home to King Ludwig I and birthplace of King Ludwig II (he later built Schloss Neuschwanstein). This palace is a simple version of Versailles in Paris, but the frescoes and paintings will give Versailles a run for its money. King Ludwig I began a collection of portraits called “The Gallery of Beauties.” This collection included 36 portraits of the most beautiful women the king had ever met; from a cobbler’s daughter, to some of the noblest women in Bavaria.

We continued into the center to find a very old cemetery. Everyone from my mom’s side of the family is buried here. It was such a creepy cemetery, with vines growing over the tombstones and the overgrown trees blocking the sunlight and casting strange shadows on the dirt path. We explored all of the sights in the center (rathaus, St. Peters, Frauenkirche) and had bratwurst and beer at the Victualienmarkt.

Our last stop of the day was at the Olympic park and BMW Welt! The Olympic park had three pavilions made of fabric lofted over a large open space. BMW Welt (World) is the museum and factory for the BMW cars. The museum and showroom was designed by architecture firm Coop Himmelb(l)au. This space was fantastic with different platforms and spaces for soaking in the beautiful automobiles. We even saw some original vintage cars, including the BMW Isetta.


Dinner was in a traditional Munchener restaurant. We ate schnitzel and spatzle!
The drive home after was full of excitement. Wolf is not afraid of the road! On the autobahn, he pushed the car to 190 km/h. That is about 120 m/h. The fastest I have ever been in a car!

28 December 2011: Wednesday

This morning was lazy and so was the afternoon. All we did was eat today! My Uncle Mich came from Stuttgart to visit my mom and we had a wonderful brunch of meat, cheese, eggs, and pfannkuchen (German pancakes).

We kept eating at Uncle Mar’s house. Gert made some wonderful desserts and we enjoyed coffee with whipped cream! Tante Git, Barb, Tante Wilt, and another Wolf joined us! In our family, we like to count names. The same names tend to show up over and over again throughout a family tree. Names like Rupert, Martin, and Hugo are uncountable in our family!

This evening, we drove into Ulm to visit a German Medieval festival. We drank gluhwein (like mulled wine) and ate some hot snacks. It was so cold that night! To fight the cold, the festival supplied hot wooden baths that people could pay to sit in. Weird if you ask me. But people were enjoying it.

29 December 2011: Thursday

Our last day in Germany. We took the drove down to the Allgau again to play in the snow today! Wolf and Maria have several traditional wooden sleighs and we had so much fun flying down the snow-covered hills. We had a picnic lunch of liverwurst and pretzels with hot apple juice! The Alps were covered with clouds most of the day, but around 13:00 the clouds began to lift. We could see deep into the Alps as the snow began to fall. It was so beautiful and JC’s first time seeing falling snow.


Dinner at Barb’s with Schupfnudeln (long potato noodles) and sauerkraut.

Tomorrow we head to Salzburg. I am sad that we must leave Germany so quickly! I feel so welcome here. I’m falling in love with Bavaria.

Family + Return to the Allgäu

21 August 2011. Family.

Today I met even more of my German family! With my Tante Elk and Tante Git, we joined family for a very nice lunch in the town of Roggenburg. The restaurant was part of a monastery and I ate spätzle and fish (with the head still on!) It was very yummy! I was able to meet my Great Uncle Mar for the first time! along with seeing my Great Tante Wil again and meeting many more of my mom’s cousins. It was so great to see my Oma’s three siblings together! They are so cute. We had so much fun talking story and laughing at plays-on-words (Elk had to explain them to me) and old family stories. We must be related because we all have the same dry sense of humor.

After lunch we drove to my Uncle Mar’s house where we all sat in the garden and ate desert. Uncle Mar’s wife owned a bakery and made us home-made ice cream and the best Apple Strudel ever! Tante Elk and I could not stop eating the delicious desert.

22 August 2011. Return to the Allgäu.

Barb picked me up again for another adventure in the Allgäu, but this time we did not go as far south. The hills were just as green and we would see the Alps off in the distance. We stopped in a very cute town, Wangen, for “lunch” consisting of local meat, cheese and tasty deserts. We ate lunch at the Fidelisbäck Bäckeri** where I have now discovered a new desert to add to “the tastiest desserts ever” list (after Tiramisu and Sticky Toffee Pudding): Bienenstich. This dessert consists of a very light and not too sweet cake with a sweet cream between. But, the best part is the crunchy toffee and almond coating that is on top! It is sooo good. We ate it too quickly!

The rest of the day we spent at a local swimming hole. This lake was very interesting because it was not clear at all, but it was very refreshing. Barb told be that ancient trees began to decompose in the lake causing the water to stay brown and foggy. The “scum” that forms on the bottom is the same stuff that is used in mud baths and what people pay hundreds of dollars to have smeared all over their bodies in places like Baden Baden. The dark color of the lake and the warm weather kept the water at a comfortable 70F.

** Fidelisbäck Bäckeri is a very famous bakery that is owned by a distant relative. Tante Git told me that the owner is her cousin’s cousin. Made me realize how small our world really is! Also, Bienenstich translates to “Bee Sting.”

For My Mom. Humors of the German Language.

There are many words in Germany that sound very funny. My favorite is the word that means “to travel/ride.” The word is spelled Fahrt. Just say it and you will know why I would sit in the back of the car and start giggling every time we passed an autobhan off-ramp saying Ausfahrt. I got some very strange looks from my German relatives! Ha Ha!

München + the Allgäu

19 August 20ll. Munich.
Gelato: koko (coconut)

Thursday we spent the day in Munich (München). Taking the train through the German countryside is very relaxing! The trains are always on time, unlike the ones in California. We arrived in Munich just before noon and in time to see the giant glockenspiel (cuckoo clock) strike 12:00. It was so fun to hear all of the tourists cheer as the wooden knights lanced and Bavaria, in blue and white, was victorious!

We ventured through St. Peter’s church to the Victualienmarkt and Beer Garden. We found wonderful pretzels. We ate our lunch outside of the Frauenkirche “Woman’s Cathedral”. This cathedral was the former stomping ground of our current Pope Benedict XV. There is an interesting story that goes along with this cathedral. There is a large black footprint in the middle of the foyer. The legend says, that as the church was being built, the devil came inside. As he stood in the center of the foyer, he looked up and could see no stained glass (because they were hidden behind the pillars.)

Toby, Mar, Anni, Avi, and Mel

The devil stamped his food in excitement, leaving the footprint in the stone, because what good was a church with no windows? Yet, as he stepped forward, the windows appeared and the devil turned and fled.

Even though it was a very warm day in Munich, I had such a great time exploring and doing touristy things! My cousin Mel even told me that it was fun for her! She said that she had visited Munich many times before, but she had never looked at this great town through the eyes of a tourist or an architecture student! Once home, we had a great family BBQ on the lawn of my Tante Git’s house.

20 August 2011. The Allgäu.

Friday was my favorite day in Germany so far, despite the fact that I fell and scraped my knee! My mom’s cousin Barb and her family picked up my aunt and I to visit southern Bavaria. This area, the Allgäu, is so beautiful! The green rolling hills of Germany suddenly turn into the rough and rugged Alps. King Ludwig II of Bavaria grew up in the castle Hohenschwangau and also built his fantasy castle, Neuschwanstein, which is perfectly situated in the foothills of the Alps. Both castles rise up above the surrounding towns and forest.

Gab and her husband Pet

Before touring the castles, we visited the town of Buching, a five-minute drive from the castles, to see the quaint town where my Opa was born. His family has lived in this area for generations and worked in the farming and tree harvesting. We found the site of his home along while meeting my mom’s other cousin Gab, who still lives in Buching. There is a beautiful site of the Alps and Neuschwanstein from Gab’s yard. The green fields are filled with cows and their farmers. (It is said that the cows of the Allgäu are more beautiful then the women. haha) I had never met my cousin Gab before, yet, she told me that she recognized me right away; that I looked just like my mama.

We toured Neuschwanstein first. After a long hike (on the hottest day in Germany for 20 years) we finally reached the castle that is clad in a beautiful marble and sandstone. King Ludwig II built this castle to honor his favorite composer, Richard Wagner. Every wall is covered with gorgeous frescos and tapestries depicting Wagner’s stories of “Tristan and Isolde” and “Persival and Gawan.” King Ludwig II was only able to live in his new castle for a few weeks. After vigorously taxing his people to build his extravagant castle, the King was mysteriously found dead in a lake not far from the castle.

Hohenschwangau was my favorite castle. King Ludwig II grew up in this castle and was always a dreamer. He brought his telescope to the Hohenschwangau castle to survey the construction of his new Neuschwanstein castle. Hohenschwangau as not as fantastical of a castle as Neuschwanstein, but it still depicted many of the folk stories of Bavaira and lookes over the beautiful Allgäu. One of the most interesting treasures in this castle is a loaf of bread from the King of Russia. This bread is now over 120 years old. Yum.

Me, Pet, Ber, Barb, Jan, and Tab!

On the way home, we stopped at the Wieskirke. This beautiful UNESCO world heritage site is decorated in the most extravagant rococò style. The architect went overboard with gold leafing and cherubs, yet it is so peaceful and quiet. The only sounds are the footsteps of visitors on the tile and the soft bells of the cows in the fields around the church. This church was a must see for me because my Opa helped restore this church after it was bombed during WWII.

(have your volume up to listen to the cow bells!)

An amazing day ended with an amazing dinner! Käsespätzle!