Monday, July 30, 2012

Europe Trip: Day 13 & 14

Wednesday was the 4th of July, which I found out really means little to the Swiss.  So instead of celebrating it, we decided that we would celebrate Jachen's birthday (July 5th) by driving to Lake Walensee and having a little picnic.  As a rest stop on the way there we stopped by a monastery on Mt. Sion to take a look around.

Here's the view:
Here's the monastery (these pictures look awesome by the way -- they were taken by Stephanie using the Cross Process iPhone app):

On the side of the monestary they had a nice collection of gnomes.  Henry didn't care how many other people or things had touched this gnome -- he needed to kiss it.  He has a thing for kissing gnomes.

We pause for a family portrait:
Lake Walensee is one of the smaller lakes in Switzerland -- but it was clear and as blue as any that we had seen...and pretty cold.  We found a nice spot to picnic and quickly commenced with eating our 4th of July haul.

Henry saw rocks, so he basically just wanted to throw them.

Engagement photo.  Notice we are both wearing shirts that Monica designed.  You can get your own here.
Our picnic at the Lake was cut a little short by a giant rain storm.   So we packed it up and hit the road.  I was a little bummed, because I was determined to jump into that lake.

While driving home we passed through Liechtenstein once more.  From the highway we could see a big castle sitting on top of the hill in Balzers.  After looking for a way up we eventually found one and found the castle to be The Gutenburg Castle.  It was very cool and is currently being used as an event.  If anyone would like me to come shoot their wedding in Liechtenstein, I am there.

The view from the castle:

The hill near the castle seemed like a great place to take some family pictures.

Von Trapps:
 Just as we were leaving the castle it began to rain again... a lot.  We felt bad for the group that was assembling under umbrellas to take a tour of the castle.
When we got home, we finally decided to let Jachen open his birthday presents.  We had brought them with us to the lake but because of the rain-out we didn't have time to open them there.  He was eying them the whole time so we figured that we'd better let him open them.

Here are some of the things he got:  American cheesecake and a new pair of Pumas.
The next morning we packed our things up early and left for the airport.  We were amazed that our 2 weeks in Europe had gone by so quickly.  We are so happy that we went, and so happy that we took Henry with us.  It was definitely a different experience with a 1 year old, but we were so happy that Monica and Jachen were able to meet him face to face.  He was definitely in love with them and we were probably most sad about the fact that they wouldn't be able to see him face-to-face for so long.

Thanks Duschletta's for hosting us and making our trip so great!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Europe Trip: Days 10 & 11

After such a busy previous week of travelling, we were pretty eager to take it easy for a few days.  As luck would have it, Jachen had to go into work on Monday and Tuesday, so we had some time to do some more exploring around Rorschach (I didn't dare drive on those European streets).  I actually don't remember much about what we did, but hopefully these pictures will be some kind of visual evidence.

Carrots?  Oh yeah, we went to Migros to buy some things to bring home with us.  Back to the home where it doesn't cost 4 dollars for this many carrots!
What about this picture?  It looks like we ate some delicious Swiss treats.  The stuff on the left is called Ovolmatine and it is pure evil.  It is basically crunchy Nutella.  I remember one night of playing monopoly deal and putting large clumps of that on top of ice cream.  I'm pretty sure that's banned by the Geneva Convention (You see my Swiss joke there?)
Sisters doing each other's nails.
Other things we did include getting trapped in the rain.  Visiting some thrift stores and finding an awesome mini-train set in Rorschach.  Footage of the train-set can be seen in Part 4 of the video.

On Tuesday afternoon Jachen joined us and we traveled to the biggest city nearby, St. Gallen.  St. Gallen is a really cool old town and the namesake for the state that Monica and Jachen live in.

During our whole trip Steph and Monica took backseat duty with Henry.  While there he developed this ability to make funny disgusted faces.  He's so silly!
I found this Toblerone at the Coop in St. Gallen.  I think it weighed 4kg.  I was going to bring it home for my friend Scott, but I don't think it would be good for his diet.

Jacob wanted us to open him a Swiss bank account -- we got him this instead (jk -- we didn't buy him anything).
Some more of St. Gallen:
St. Gallen has a really amazing church.  Surprisingly we didn't go into too many churches on our trip, but we were definitely glad that we went into this one.  Inside we were treated to an awesome organ recital.

Modern directional signs.  Graphic design in Europe is so sick, it's not even funny.  One thing I learned during our trip is that the abbreviation for Switzerland is CH, which stands for Confederatio Helvetica.  I guess that's why I saw so much Helvetica when I was there.
We're almost there, only one more day!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Europe Trip: Days 9 & 10

Even though we had just returned from a big adventure on Friday, on Saturday we were scheduled to hit the road again with Monica and Jachen to see a couple of bigger cities in Switzerland that we wanted to see.  Our first stop was Lucerne which is a beautiful city that sits on Lake Lucerne.  When we arrived in town, we discovered that it was packed because of a music festival that was happening -- plus it was also Saturday -- so that doesn't usually help.

We walked across this long wooden bridge, which was really amazing.  You can see more of it in the video.
The day was pretty hot, but we found a nice little splashpool area, where we could dip our feet in the river.
Another awesome public fountain. Put your whole arm into it Henry.
Jachen is a treat addict if I've ever seen one.  He's gonna freak out when he comes back to the states and sees how much Ben & Jerry's there is to be found.  He probably paid 5 Swiss Francs for this little cup of ice cream.
Macarons!!!  So mini.  Those macarons were like 2 bucks.
After leaving Lucerne we stopped in another cool town called Rapperswil.  We came to find out that the town was also having its own music festival, so most of the town was shut off.  But we were eventually able to find our way up to an old castle on the hill that looked over everything.  There was some old ghetto playground equipment, but Henry is no respecter.

For a better view of Rapperswil, you should definitely check out the video because there is more in it.

On Sunday we started out our day singing some hymns in German at church.  I love pretending like I can speak another language.

After church we decided to go on a little drive and explore some of the areas east of Rorschach.  Our first stop was the country of Lichtenstein.  Lichtenstein is very small (probably about the size of Kirkland, maybe bigger if you included all of the mountains) and the people there are really into their Duke, who leads the country.  This is the Duke's house:

Here's the view from the Duke's house.  This is probably where he says "All this land is mine!  Except for that part over there, that's Switzerland."

On our way back from Lichtenstein we wanted to stop by a couple of old churches.  We found a pretty cool old one in Switzerland that had some awesome cows next to it.

After eating dinner back at Monica's place we decided to go find a small park for Henry to run around in.  While we were in Europe, Henry was actually regressing in his walking abilities.  Jachen was determined to put an end to that.

That night we introduced Monopoly Deal to Monica and Jachen.  Their lives were forever changed.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Europe Trip: Day 7 & 8 (Venice, cont.)

I know I know, we never finished blogging our trip to Europe.  We've been back home for a couple of weeks and some other things have unfortunately been occupying our life -- but you may have seen that I finished a bunch of videos of our trip.  That should count for something right?

Anyway, on with our trip I guess.

On Thursday morning in Venice we knew that we weren't going to have very much time.  Our train left at 11:30, so we really only had a few hours before we needed to gather our things and grab a vaporetto to catch our train.  We spent the morning enjoying our favorite part of Venice --- just walking around and exploring.  We walked towards St. Mark's square so we could see what things were like when it wasn't mobbed.  We arrived at around 9:15am, which is about 30 minutes before the Basilica opens up and there was already a line across the square.  We had thought about waiting, but ultimately decided that we didn't want to with Henry.  Who cares about old churches anyway?

Instead we decided to take the elevator up to the top of the Campanile, which is a big tower in the middle of the square.  This afforded us some great views.

After that, it was pretty much time for us to get our things together and head out of town.  Before leaving I paused on the Accademia Bridge one last time to take this photo of me and the backpack that my friend Edward let me borrow.  This thing was pretty much invaluable for our time in Italy.  Otherwise we would have looked pretty ridiculous trying to wheel luggage around (which we saw a lot of other tourists doing).  Thanks Edward!!

One last shot of the Grand Canal while waiting for our vaporetto.

"Henry, there's our boat!"
We caught our train and soon found ourselves back in hot, sweaty Milan.  Once again, we didn't really have a plan for what we wanted to do. We knew that we wanted to check out this old castle in the center of Milan.  So we hopped on a train and found ourselves there in a few minutes.
The castle was cool and very old, but there wasn't much to do there.  So we headed to a park just north of the castle.

There wasn't much to do there either.  Outside of the castle we found a fountain (which Henry loved) and also this pedestrian only street which had a lot of outdoor restaurants, stores, and a guy playing Oasis covers.
We walked down the street looking for food, but ultimately we ended up going back to our hotel and eating pizza at the place that we went to on our first night in Milan -- we are boring creatures of habit sometimes -- especially with a kid.

The next day we had to catch a train back to Switzerland pretty early, so we really didn't have time to do too much more in Milan.  We headed out a few blocks to see if we could find a grocery store to buy some italian treats.  We were actually pretty surprised on how hard it was to find a big grocery store in Milan -- We guessed that most people in the city just ate out more or something.

We eventually found a pretty good one and bought some gnocchi, salami, and some other treats for our journey back.

At the train station waiting for our train -- its about 45 minutes late.  We will find out later why.  By the way, Milano Centrale is the bomb -- although the outside looks a little fascist.

Getting the heebie geebies out before the train ride.
So our train ride ended up being much more eventful than we thought.  It turns out our train was delayed because their was an avalanche on the track.  Because of this, we ended up having to take a train to Chiasso then switching to another train.  We took that train to Erstfeld, then got off the train and travelled by bus to Fluelen.  We then took a commuter train from Fluelen to Zug.  And then finally a train from Zug to Zurich.  This wouldn't have been bad beside the fact that most of the directions were in German and it seemed like no one was really giving all of the passengers any clear direction.  We ended up arriving in Zurich 1.5 hours later than we expected to.

Luckily Henry was a trooper -- except for when we tried to give him kisses.
Zurich was beautiful.  It was amazing how different it felt from Italy.  Definitely a lot cleaner -- definitely a lot more expensive.  With the little time that we had before we met up with Monica and Jachen, we decided to cruise around the old town.

We met up with Monica and Jachen at the train station, went to Coop to buy dinner and then had a nice picnic in the middle of Zurich town.  Another thing that we did was go to one of the 5 H&Ms that they had in downtown Zurich  (seriously so many H&Ms).  We ended up buying a couple of shirts for Henry, but I don't think we were in the grown up H&M, so we didn't find anything for ourselves.

After the picnic we drove back to Rorschach, determined to rest for a few days.