29 April 2009

Roman Fortress Saalburg

On the day we went to Wehrheim, we also stopped by an old Roman Fort called the Saalburg for a couple hours.

Traces of the fort date back about 2000 years and it was a part of a huge wall that stretched across most of Germany.

We felt it appropriate to reenact a possible battle scene. Although it may look like Karen is throwing a spear directly into the wall there is actually a large gap. So don't worry about the spear bouncing back at her!

There were several buildings inside the fort, each of them with different museums that contained old Roman archaeological finds. These two pretty loaves of bread were actually found in Pompeii, still preserved from the Volcano. Wow.

Elora was really excited to look inside the well.

The grounds inside the fort were very extensive and very beautiful. It probably didn't look that pretty 1500 years ago...

Elora loved running around and exploring everything.

Here is Ollie and Mommy posing together inside of the old ruins of a large Roman bath. The different rooms were composed of a warm bath, cold bath, and a changing room.

Oliver was also happy to crawl around as you can see.

Here are a couple of baking ovens. We're thinking about building one of these in our backyard back home. We actually ate pizza at a place that cooked the pizza in a wood burning oven just like this.

This tree branch was just begging for someone to lean up against it and look very chummy.

Elora enjoyed running around inside the museum and hitting the old relics with her stick. Notice that we took a picture -before- telling her not to hit the 1000 year old archaeological find. It lasted that long, it can withstand a 3 year old right? Actually she never hit it, she was just waving her stick dangerously close. But she was very interested to learn that this was an old stake that was used to stake down the "crane" used in constructing the large walls.


Elora loves picking up sticks, pine cones, rocks, and feathers. She carried this handful around with her when we saw a place inside the fort selling ice cream cones for 1 euro. So we bought her a cone and told her to put her sticks in the bush while she ate it. Elora interpreted this as "jam all the sticks directly into the bush" as you can see in the photo with the sticks suspended in the neatly trimmed hedge above her head. You'll be interested to note this was her 2nd ice cream cone ever, and both times she ate them all without spilling a drop. The only mess was on her face.

We finally got a good family picture! Actually this production involved using photoshop to cut and paste one person who originally wasn't looking at the camera. Can you guess who got edited into this picture?

27 April 2009

Wehrheim Walk

Since the town of Wehrheim where I (Chris) used to live was close by the temple, we took the train over one late afternoon.

Actually we took the train in the wrong direction, then took a bus ride that dropped us off about 2km outside of town and walked in. So here we are taking a slight detour through the woods. It was beautiful as you can tell. Wehrheim is in the Taunus region outside of Frankfurt and is basically a collection of small villages scattered about in between hills and forests.

Elora was being a goober. She loves the forest because it has lots of sticks. The only thing she loves more than picking flowers is picking up sticks. No stick, branch, or twig is too small. Which makes for slow going. One branch she found, she insisted was an arrow that belonged to Robin Hood, and she named the forest we were walking in Sherwood Forest. No prompting involved... she came up with that all on her own.

Here is the road to the town after you come out of the forest. Notice the sidewalk that ends quite a long ways before getting to town. I remember that from when I lived there. There is a crosswalk on the other side, and a sidewalk. But then just grass for half a mile. Odd...

We brought the small travel stroller with us, and Ollie loved riding in it. He especially liked that he could climb in and out by himself.

And finally, here is a picture of me in front of the house, because I knew it was what my dad would have wanted to see. I can just hear the conversation now. "What? You went all that way and didn't go see the house? Why didn't you go get a picture?". Now I know the next thing my parents would have asked is, did you knock on the door and ask to look around inside? No I didn't, as you can see, the lady who lives there was actually standing by the door thinking we're nuts. And right as Karen took the picture her husband just pulled into the driveway on his bike, also no doubt wondering why a strange American family was posing in front of the house. Naturally this would have been the perfect opportunity to go inside and see if they were still in possession of the orange toilet on the main floor, brown toilet in the basement and green toilet in the master bedroom...odd.

I remembered there was a little cafe around the corner from our house. So we went there for dinner. There were chickens outside Elora was excited to feed dandelions to. I had chicken for dinner. It was the one on the left...

26 April 2009

Frankfurt Temple

Last week we went to the Frankfurt Temple. It was about a seven hour train ride to get there (and that was on the high speed bullet train, normally it would take eleven hours).

We stayed at church-owned apartments that were right next door (22 euro a night!), so after we arrived it made the daily commute easy! There were also several lovely bakeries nearby, and lots of dandelions and daisies growing in the grass, so the kids were very happy to eat pastries and pick flowers every day.

Oliver really liked to pick the daisies. He would sit down in the middle of a patch of flowers and pick the daisies. Elora would try to give him a dandelion, and he would throw it away, and return to his daisies.

Elora loved to sing "I love to see the temple" and whenever she'd see it, she'd shout, "That's the temple I'm going inside someday!"

It was actually kind of nice that the temple was so far away because we had to prepare and think about getting everything ready a lot more than normally. And then once we arrived we stayed for 5 days, which meant we didn't have to worry about much else. No frustrating commute through traffic, 2 hour drive through the national park behind RVs, tourists pulling over at every turn, etc. etc. like we had to back home.

The only downside? The apartments, were actually just small rooms, with enough room to hold two single beds, and a bunkbed. Literally. Nothing else, just room to walk from the beds to the door, all in a single room. Needless to say, we would all have to go to bed at 8pm. But maybe this was a feature and not a bug...

No TV in the room either, so suitcase rides had to pass as entertainment. The room guidelines said to respect the room like the temple itself, so no eating in them, only in the cafeteria. I think they just wanted to prevent a big mess, since the rooms are also cleaned by visitors. But since it is also said that your house should be like the temple, and you naturally have to eat at your house, we found this to be an adequate loophole in their legal reasoning and snuck in some food. Shhh... don't tell anyone.

Elora and Oliver hanging out in the bunk bed reading together (seperately). Note, the playpen had to be placed on top of the bed, because there wasn't enough room on the floor for it. Oliver and Elora loved climbing up on the bunkbed and sitting behind the ladder. Elora kept asking Oliver to marry her everytime she crawled up next to him. Oliver would push her away like the little brother he is, and she'd run into the bathroom saying, "I'm not getting married to Ollie anymore I'm going back to the castle." (the bathroom a castle?)

Then 2 minutes later she'd run back up and repeat the whole process over again. Even though Ollie didn't want to get married he cried whenever she left. We think she's been watching too many Disney princess movies, but how else do you fill a 7 hour train ride!

20 April 2009

Of Squirrels and Girls

My tough little girl with the 2x4 gets sad about a squirrel.
by Chris (Karen said it's cuter when you realize it's the dad consoling his little girl)

The saddest experience in Elora's life occurred the other day while watching The Sword in the Stone. Elora was excitedly watching as the little boy was turned into a squirrel, and a girl squirrel discovered him and was giving him hugs and was very attracted to the boy squirrel.

Elora asked, "Are they going to get married?"

But the story didn't have a happy ending. As the boy squirrel kept pushing the girl squirrel away, because he was in fact human. When he finally transformed back into a real boy, the girl squirrel ran away in shock, and then cried from her tree branch.

Upon seeing this, Elora quickly turned to me, lip quivering, eyes tearing up. I couldn't bare what was going to come next so I reached out my arms and she quickly dove into them saying, "I don't want the squirrel to cry!"

I tried to console her, and explained the boy couldn't marry a squirrel. Later after I thought she had forgotten about this sad moment she suddenly turned around and again said, this time with big tears in her eyes, "I don't want the girl squirrel to be sad. Why is she sad?" Again more hugs and more consoling...

Probably the saddest moment ever because her tears were not over getting hurt, getting punished, going to bed, or having her toys taken by Oliver; these tears were completely selfless. She was devastated that the poor little girl squirrel didn't get to marry the little boy squirrel. Sniff.

You can watch the clip in question here. It doesn't get sad until the last minute. Karen says she tears up when watching it too.

Playtime at the Schoenbrunn Park

Oliver likes all the pretty flowers. We call him "Blossom" whenever we put this hat on. Not really, but it would be funny if we did. Sort of... in a mean way. But he really loves the flowers and loves to make the hand movements from the "popcorn popping on the apricot tree song."

Elora and the grouchy lady bug...The Schonbrunn palace gardens are teeming with blossoming trees, chattering squirrels, lady bugs, and nasty box elder bugs, or as Elora calls them "Those are the bugs that Maxi (cat) used to not eat, because they are filled with yellow goo." We can't get away from those bugs even on the other side of the world.

We got some pretty pictures of Elora admiring this awesome tree that is all over the place here. It has these huge orchid-like blossoms all over it. Anyone know what the tree is called?

Although Elora refuses to look at the camera, she's always good for a very sweet looking picture if you can either sneak up on her, or if you're far enough away and zoom in so she doesn't notice she's being watched.

Here is the closest thing to a good family photo we have. It might look like Elora was looking into the camera. That would be wrong. This picture was actually taken in the 1/500 of a second while she was tossing her head around. Just random luck... Mr Hammy Ollie, meanwhile wasn't co-operating.

19 April 2009

Playing at the Park

We're in Frankfurt right now on a Temple trip... but here are some pictures of play time at a couple different parks from back in Vienna we were meaning to put up.

It can never be stated enough that their parks and the things they have at the parks to play on are far superior to any park we've seen in the US.

Ollie loved climbing... but it took some help.

Both the kids laid down in this basket swing for about 20 minutes while we pushed them. It looked pretty comfy so we tried it, and it turns out if you're an adult it makes your stomach feel pretty sick. I see an opportunity for amusement park ride....

Springtime brings lots of flowers. Elora can never have enough. Literally. She can have 30 in her hands all bunched up and still get mad when we don't let her stop and pick some more.

Ollie loves to roll around in the grass. I think the grass tickles the back of his neck.

18 April 2009

Schonbrunn Carriage Museum

We took the kids to see the Wagenburg, the Imperial Carriage Museum that has over 100 carriages from the former Imperial Court. Back when there was an Imperial Court, the court had over 900 carriages. And they are all very ornate.

Elora especially like this gold plated carriage. Yes that's real gold leafing they apply to the wood. Elora thought it was Cinderella's carriage.

The even decorated the the horses. That's a fancy plume.

This saddle was very interesting, because I've never seen a saddle like this. Notice the slipper for a stirrup. It belonged to the beloved Empress Sissi. She loved riding horses. It's also interesting to see the leg mounts at the top. She rode side saddle as all ladies did. Their legs hooked around each of those horns sticking out at the top. We read that she actually preferred to ride this way. She tried to ride the "normal' way and didn't like it. Funny because you'd get the impression that it wasn't viewed as "lady like" but after going an on overnight horseback camping trip back in Utah I'm thinking, from experience, that it just made her butt, hips, back, and knees sore! Side saddle is probably much more comfortable. And she actually could ride pretty fast in this saddle, we saw some paintings of women jumping over barriers while riding side saddle. The bodice of her "riding habit" (dress?) was so fitted she had to be sewn into it.

This black carriage was originally plated gold, but when Sissi died, they painted it black for the funeral. They even painted over the colorful paintings in the middle, and no one knew the paintings were there until the 1920s when someone discovered them underneath a layer of paint. They've since been restored.

Elora really enjoyed the carriage museum, but even more she enjoyed playing in the gardens outside afterwards!

17 April 2009

Teddies, Gummies, Ice Cream, and Pasta

Here are some random photos we found amusing for one reason or another.

The two teddies, as I found them one night when I walked out in the hall. Guess which one is the dirty teddy?

Gummy Hamburgers. We got Elora this gummy burger at a chinese restaurant. Each piece was a seperate gummy. She was thrilled. Cute.

Pistachio Magnum Bars! Imagine a Hagan Daas ice cream bar, but with pistachio flavored ice cream and pistachio nuts. Yummm. But they cost more than a tasty Cornetto so we probably won't get them too often.

Spaghetti kids... Elora loves pasta, which is good as we eat it so often because its cheap (2lbs of pasta for $1).

Oliver is a little slurper. He's at the stage where he likes to pick up and eat his own food. Except he takes very small bites. And if he ever has too much food in front of him he gets frustrated and smashes it all around and throws it off the table. Maybe he's like, "I eat so slow this is gonna take for ever!!!" But if you only put a couple pieces in front of him at a time he's a happy camper. Notice the awesome Nightmare Before Christmas "two fer" shirt.

16 April 2009

Back to the Zoo!

When we got home from Budapest, the weather in Vienna was beautiful (finally!!!) so we set off to the zoo with Elora's friend Charlie and his big sister Mia.

When the younger kids saw Mia climb to the top of the Panda bear, they wanted to try it too! It was fun to see them all play together. Elora loves to see Mia - I think it is fun for her to have a girl bigger than her to teach her how to play princess and mermaid and all those fun girly games.

No trip to the zoo would be complete without some big cats. We were lucky today and saw the leopards up close. I don't think we have ever seen them this close before. We also got to see the Cheetahs walking around. I think now that the weather is getting warmer we might be seeing less of the cats playing and more of the cats sleeping...

I have never seen the hippos outside before, so I thought this was pretty cool, and funny that they just dumped a bunch of apples outside for the hippos to munch on. A step up from the hay I usually see them eating!

There is a neat water playground at the zoo, with a water pump that kids can use to pour water into a series of troughs and pools. Elora and Oliver both had a great time and got soaking wet. Ollie's pants had to be laid out on the stroller sun shade in hopes that they would get dry after he decided to crawl through a few of the water pools.

Elora and Charlie had a great time running around together. If you look closely at Elora's pants you can see just how much fun she had at the water park...

And another ride on the Ford tractor! Elora is appropriately dressed for the ride in her "farmer pants".

Chris came with us, for which Charlie's mom and I were very grateful - he was good at running after the crazy kids so that us moms could just stroll along behind. It's amazing how fast Elora and Charlie are when they decide to run away...

I am not sure what game they were playing, but it involved lots of shrieking (Elora), laughing, running, and pointing at the pictures of birds.

On the way home Oliver wanted to hold Elora's hand. So cute.