29 November 2009

Christmas Markets

We have been going to some of the Christmas markets the past week. The weather has been beautiful most days, so we thought we should enjoy the markets as much as possible before the weather gets cold!

We went to the Rathaus market on the night it opened and it was CRAZY. It is a really crowded market at night, and we now know to take the kids earlier in the day. But we found the kiddy rides and met up with my friend Rene, and her kids, Grace and Ethan. It was fun to see all the kids ride the train together. Oliver loved that there were buttons and a steering wheel to play with.

Rene and I hanging out and watching the kids ride the train.

Random picture, but I was looking at it and I never realized how much I talk with my hands... Wow, I must have been really excited about something.

Elora waiting for her turn to ride the carousel!

The kids were sad that they didn't get to ride the train again. Here they all are watching it go around again!

We bought a vanilla cream filled doughnut, which Oliver was all too happy to finish up once we got home!

We bought this bucket of cotten candy at one of the markets, and the kids kept wanting to bring it with us whenever we left the house. Works for me, kept them from asking us to buy another bucket! Oliver was just as happy to hold the bucket as he was to eat the candy!

This is the market at Maria Theresian platz, where the natural history and art museums are. I love this market. The food is really good, and the setting is beautiful.

This stand sold lots of yummy looking gourmet chocolate. I think I will be coming back here!

I love looking at all the Christmas ornaments!

Elora is so fun to take to markets. She wants to see every single stand and look at everything. And as usual, is full of questions. This year she has started picking out items she wants to save her money for.

As for the food! These are nougat knoedeln. They have chocolate hazelnut filling inside a dumpling, that is covered with sweetened bread crumbs. I have been making these at home, but they taste the best at the markets.

There are always stands with chocolate covered fruit, so we decided to try some. The kids just wanted to eat the chocolate and leave the fruit...

Kasespaetzle! Spaetzle are a homemade noodle, and these are cooked in a big cast iron skillet with cheese and onions. A little too many onions for me in this batch, but still pretty tasty.

The girl who works in this marrionette booth is so sweet. She always plays with the kids when they come look at the booth. Elora loved all the puppets, and was very excited to watch them dancing.

And of course, more food. These are fried bread that are filled with either sauerkraut or jam and sugar. Of course we went for jam and sugar.

Elora was "sitting in the shade to cool off". It really wasn't hot, but that is what she said...

Elora and Teddy taking a break.

Chris trying his very first Leberkase. It is meat and cheese all processed together and made into a loaf looking thing... then it is sliced. Reminds me of spam actually...

Here is a loaf of Leberkase. I don't think meat and cheese have any right to look so much like bread. Strange food, but very popular here.

The students have been protesting here. Something about needing more money? Better education? We are not so sure, can't translate the german banner so it makes sense... but we were impressed with the huge banners they made...

This is at the Karlsplatz market. The kids were super excited to see the animals. Elora was feeding the ponies, but when Oliver went to pet one, it bit his finger. It was pretty ugly. While wandering around looking for a bandaid, we found a super nice paramedic who cleaned and bandaged Oliver's finger, and brave little Oliver who had been crying stemmed his tears and just sniffed and looked solemn while being bandaged up.

The kids wanted to see the goats and sheep, but they were hiding. The sign is telling people not to feed the animals... very important to follow the instructions on the sign. (There was no sign near the ponies though...)

To help Oliver cheer up, we went to the park, and I loved this pic of Elora when Chris was bringing her Teddy over to play. She looks so excited to see him!

Nothing like a bucket of cotten candy to cheer up the kids. Oliver carried this bucket around the remainder of the time at the market. He is harder to take to markets, not so interested in the stands. He just wants to run and run and run... When he ran all the way to the U-bahn station twice, we figured he was trying to tell us that it was time to go.

24 November 2009

Milk Fort

We bought a new brand of diapers today, and how cool is this? The box was designed to turn into a little castle, complete with a knight and princess to play with.

One of my friends took me to the Austrian version of Costco, and I bought 84 liters of milk. It was a lot cheaper than the grocery store, so I thought I would stock up. It keeps on the shelf for about four months, although 84 liters won't last us near that long.

Oliver loves to carry the toothpaste around and also to brush his teeth. He looks pretty pleased with himself for finding the toothpaste.

Elora and Daddy decided to build a fort with all the milk. What else were we supposed to do with it?

Mommy and Ollie playing and watching the fort building.

Mommy and Ollie in the milk fort!

Elora in the new fort! She was so excited to have a new fort (and was disappointed when we told her that it was time to put up the milk...)

21 November 2009

Last Day in Rome

Here is the grand finale of the Rome trip:

Our last night in Rome we ordered a pizza... the best part of the pizza in Rome is the cheese, so a got a four cheese pizza. This is how we discovered that most pizza in Rome does not actually have tomato sauce... so we ended up with some really awesome cheese bread.

Oliver has decided to become a photographer, and practices with the camera every chance he gets. Careful little guy, that beast weighs as much as you...

The last day we had a 1:00 flight, so we got up early (not hard with small children) and decided to walk to a different section of Rome that we hadn't been to before, and see what we could find... Here is a view of the Arch of Constantine in the morning, with the Colosseum off to the right.

Elora and Dirty Teddy hanging out in the park...

Dirty Teddy climbing a tree, with some interesting ruins behind him. We have no idea what these are, we came across them and they are not listed in our guide book or any of our three maps.

Oliver was of course, a fan of the fountain.

This is the Theater of Marcellus, an open air theater from ancient Rome, finished in 12 BC. It was used as a fortress in the middle ages, and then in the1600s, a royal family built a residence on top of the ruins. Now it has apartments built onto the top of it.

This is the back of the Basilica di San Giovanni. It was right near our apartment, but we never walked this way until the last day when I realized that the man who owned the apartment we rented said we shouldn't miss this one! So on our way to the train station, we took our suitcase and walked over to the Basilica.

Because we entered from the back, we had no idea it would be so large and spectacular inside. Here are a couple pics.

These large statues line the walls on both sides of a large hall inside the Basilica.

Unfortunately, we only had about ten minutes to tour the inside, as we needed to be heading to the train station to find the train that goes to the airport...

Here is the front of the Basilica, and Chris looking around for the Metro, which we couldn't find... When we finally got to the train station, we had barely missed the train to the airport (ah! Stress!) but then we realized the train only took a half hour to get to the airport, so we arrived in plenty of time. Especially because security let us cut to the front of the line because we had the stroller. Another occasion that reminds me that I really don't mind traveling with kids!

The adventure continued when we got to Vienna, and our bag was missing... the airline had lost our bag, which had all of our coats, hats, gloves, as well as cameras, cell phones, and Chris' computer power adaptor in it... nice. Vienna was not as warm as Rome, so we got to travel the hour back home on trains and buses with no warm clothing, and lots of older women looking at us like we were bad parents for having our kids out with no coats!

Luckily by the time we arrived home, the airline had found our bag and brought it to us at our apartment. Thank goodness, because Elora had started to cry when we told her we couldn't find the bag that had our souvenirs, some toys, and blankies in it...

19 November 2009

Rome - Day 3 - The Walk Everywhere Tour

On our last full day in Rome, we decided to walk around to various sites we had missed and "had to see". Rome had so many amazing sites, I know we missed a ton in our wanderings, but we really enjoyed our last day of sightseeing. Hopefully we can make it back someday, now that I know a few places where I really would like to spend more time!

This is the Fontana di Trevi, one of the most famous fountains in Rome. We went there first thing, and were pleased that once again the sun was shining. Elora however, thought it was too cold, so before enjoying the fountain, we went searching for hot chocolate (which turned out to be amazing hot chocolate...) Interesting fact, this fountain was started by Bernini (famous Italian artist/sculptor/architect) and other artists, but was stopped when the pope died. The fountain was not finished until over 100 years later by Nicola Salvi, an architect most famous for his work on this fountain.

Elora getting warmed up inside Daddy's coat. She was pretty tired by the last day of the trip, and wanted us to carry her around (especially when she wanted to be wrapped up in Chris' coat...)

We walked to the Piazza Navona, which ended up being one of my favorite places we visited. It is a huge square in the middle of a group of apartment buildings and shops, with three large fountains, artist stands and some beautiful architecture. The square is built to cover the site of Domitian's stadium, which was an ancient Roman stadium built in the first century, and used for competitions. Note Oliver carrying around a box of Ritz crackers. We could not get that box away from him for the remainder of the day.

The kids enjoying the famous Fontana dei Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers - 1651 by Bernini). Fun fact, the four rivers represented by the fountain are the Danube, the Ganges, the Nile, and the Rio de la Plata. The kids love fountains, and today they were being very sweet with each other. Lots of hugs and holding hands.

One of the artists had this huge dog, that Oliver stood and talked to for nearly ten minutes... and then I had to drag him away. I wonder what he was telling the dog that was so important?

The square was so beautiful and perfect for us because there were no cars, so the kids could run and play.

And of course, Elora chased the birds. After awhile Oliver joined in the fun too, pointing and talking about the birds before deciding to chase them.

Picture of the entire square.

Oliver posing with his Ritz crackers.

We also went to see the Spanish Steps at the Piazza di Spagna. At first we thought there was scaffolding (that would be our luck) on these famous steps, but it is actually a recreation of the Berlin Wall to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Here we are in front of the Pantheon. The original Pantheon was built in 27AD, but destroyed in a fire. After a series of rebuildings and fires, the form of the Pantheon that is still seen was built in 128AD, and I can't believe it is that old, and still standing... It is such a magnificent building.

There was a fountain in front of it with lots of birds bathing. Oliver loves birds and was excited to watch them.

The Pantheon was turned into a church in 600 AD and still has that appearance now. Many famous people are buried there, including the painter Raphael, who was buried here at his request. More fun facts - the dome is the widest masonry dome ever raised, and all the light for the interior is provided by the hole in the dome that is nine meters in diameter. It is a really spectacular sight.

I liked this picture because it gives some sense of how HUGE this building is.

As we were wandering around, we went in this church. No idea what it is called, and I don't even really remember where it is, but it was so beautiful. I highly recommend wandering around Rome until you find it.

Here is Elora in front of the Temple of Hadrian. It was built in about 145 AD to deify the Emperor Hadrian, and now all that remains is this partial wall of columns. There has been a new building attached the this wall.

Now on to the pastries! We were actually looking for this gelato shop which is supposed to have the best gelato in Rome when we came across the Temple of Hadrian. The gelato shop also had pastries, so we got a few pastries wrapped up to enjoy later.

Okay, so we ate a lot of gelato in Rome, and while this was good, it was actually not the best we had. But what was good, was the huge dollop of whipped cream on the top.

We finally headed back over to the ruins of the Roman forum which I had been really wanting to see all week, and which we attempted to find the entrance to ALL WEEK. Today was no exception, and we wandered around looking for the entrance, asking for directions... Meanwhile, Elora decided to hop into pictures with other people. This happened on multiple occasions, and she was very excited. "I took a picture with that person, and they were so happy!" Strange child won't pose for us, but happily goes and takes pictures with strangers.

A view of the ruins of the Roman Forum. So awesome.

Me taking pics of the Roman Forum.

There was an exhibit inside the Roman Forum of these heads that are HUGE! They were parts of statues or busts of different emperors that have been found.

A view of the Arch of Septimus Severus (After Harry Potter, that name just makes me think he was a bad guy...) built in 203 and has crazy carvings all over it. The carvings are pictures of soldiers and battles that were fought under the command of Severus. I assume he must have done well since they built him an arch... In the background are the remaining columns of the Temple of Saturn which was originally built in 497 BC! Being from America makes all these old buildings seem amazingly, insanely old. Our really old buildings in the US are like, 200 years old.

Elora loved exploring the ruins. There were lots of chunks of columns and buildings just lying around, and these crazy huge cobblestones that were interesting with a stroller. Note to self: Next time leave the stroller in the apartment and let the kids run and run and run...

We finally made it inside the Colosseum - the largest amphitheater ever built in Rome. Could hold approximately 50,000 people. And mostly used for all those gladiator fights they keep making movies out of. If you notice all the ruins in the middle, they used to be underneath the floor of the Colosseum, and are the rooms where animals, weapons, and gladiators were kept. Very little of the original building is still there, a lot of it was scavenged by people who wanted building materials in the 1500s. I think the wall on the north is the only original, the rest were reconstructed at different points in history.

Interesting note: it is called the Colosseum because there used to be a large statue that was a copy of the Colossus of Rhodes located outside of it. (For those who read about our trip to Rhodes, I thought this was funny, because Elora LOVES the story of the Colossus of Rhodes). It had its face recarved four times because different emperors kept making the face of the statue look like themselves. But sadly, it was destroyed...

Ollie and Elora held hands as we walked around the Colosseum. Everytime I stopped to take picures, they would play nicely nearby, and then when we started to walk, they would hold hands again.

While sitting on the steps, Elora asked Oliver nicely if she could have a cracker - and surprisingly, he gave her one (he is quite possessive of Ritz crackers, in case you couldn't tell by the prevalence of pictures with the Ritz box present). Elora was very pleased and rewarded Oliver with a nice hug.

And of course, once we got home we broke into the pastries. They were okay, but on this trip I felt like Austrian pastries are better...