Welcome to our life!

Hi, I'm Allison! I'm a thirtysomething, freshly baked, stay-at-home mom. I'm originally from Connecticut, now living in Germany, hence the name of the blog. I live in southern Germany with my German husband and our baby boy. Life has turned out to be nothing I ever expected, and am so incredibly happy with it! We certainly do have a lot of laughs! I hope you will enjoy following our new experiences raising a little half American/ half German in a little German town.

Samstag, 27. Oktober 2007

A healthy Allison is a happy Allison!!!

When I first moved to Germany, I had romantic ideals about life. And for the most part, life in Germany is even better than I could have ever imagined. Unfortunately, life also came with it :) We have to go to work every day, sit in traffic every day, and pay bills just the same. I also found out that I am not immune to health problems just because I live in a foreign country.

I was diagnosed with arthritis in May. It took a while for us to find a rheumatologist that we were pleased with, and finally, 3 weeks ago, I began a serious treatment regimen. Until now, I have been mostly on pain - killers, which are a blessing, as without them, I would have little use of both hands. But now, I have started a series of injections which are meant to attack the actual arthritis. The medicine I am taking has some serious side - effects though, which has made the whole experience a little frightening. Because I must keep taking my pain killers for 6 weeks, the time for the injections to start working, the side effects can be stronger. I have to take folic acid supplements to fight some of these side effects.
Yesterday, was my first blood test to check for indications of the serious liver problems that can be caused by the medicine. The rheumatologist explained that the liver problems caused by the medicine occur early on, so I have to have blood taken every two weeks.
The great news was that my first blood test came back with great results - everything is a.o.k!!! I had my third injection yesterday, and I feel really fine. I think I am battling a slight head-cold, I am sniffly, but I think that is a side-effect of working with four year olds. Hopefully, all things will continue in this direction, and I can get some relief, and start to lay-off the pain killers.
This is a great start to our "Herbst Ferien" or fall break! Yay!!

Montag, 22. Oktober 2007

My new good news!!!

Things here have been busy, but great. I have been very busy helping my friend Mandy set up the new apartment that she is buying. Saturday, we went to look at bathrooms and went to a few Home Depot-type stores looking at various odds- and- ends needed for a new home. Tonight after work, we drove to a kitchen store to pick out her kitchen. So much fun!! Tomorrow, we are off to pick out tiles for her bathroom and kitchen. Aahh, at least I can live vicariously through friends :)
But the Roesner family good news is that we just booked our tickets for Christmas!!! Joern, Marcel, and I will be flying in on Dec. 20th, so I hope everyone is prepared for the jolly German three! I am so very excited!!!

Dienstag, 2. Oktober 2007

Payday baby!!!

I am so very excited today! I was finally paid today! True, I have been working since the end of August, but due to the lovely German pay system, I only just received my first "paycheck." Here, you´re only paid once a month! Crazy weird, I know. Imagine though, how large a monthly payment seems, then imagine the knowledge that you have to stretch it out for the next month. Yikes! Then of course, is the huge chunk that magically disappears here without explanation (that would be taxes.) I do miss the good old American pay stub that explains where your money went. The only deduction listed separately was my health insurance. Everything else simply went into this magic disappearing pot! How wonderful :)

The good news? The great exchange rate for the Euro :) And of course, the fact that tomorrow is a holiday here, and I have lots of internet shopping to make up for!!!

Montag, 1. Oktober 2007

Celebrate fall- auf Deutsch!

Happy memories of life in Connecticut always include fall. Aahh, that marvelous season. School begins, the air becomes crisp, the smell of fireplaces used for the first time, and the beautiful lush forests of gold, red, and orange. And of course, the wonderful harvest foods- pumpkin pies, apple crisp, delicious acorn squash- just to name a few. Such pleasant memories!
Fall in Southern Germany is just as magical to me, yet in slightly different ways. School begins just the same, the weather has turned wonderfully cool, people have turned on their fireplaces, and the leaves have started to turn. Sure, we can buy lots of apples and pumpkins, but why stop there? Joern purchased 10 kilos (yup, that´s over 20 lbs!) of cabbage last week. He worked hard all weekend to make 7 Kraut Kuchen (cabbage cake!)

Okay, so kraut kuchen is like a cabbage quiche. It is so delicious, although sadly, because they are a lot of work, have fallen out of style. They taste best with another German fall favorite- Neuer Wein (new wine.) Neuer wine is wine that is bottled directly instead of stored. It´s like hard grape juice- delicious!!

Three Kraut Kuchen, some Neuer Wein and pear cider.
Starting new traditions, especially around fall, makes me really happy!

Sonntag, 30. September 2007

So busy, so busy

It has been forever since I have posted. Things have been really crazy here, and today is the first day in 3 weeks that I could take time to collect my thoughts and post.
I guess I´ll start with work. I love it!! The kids are adorable. I am enjoying learning how the 4 year old mind works, and having tons of fun with all our little ones. One boy is determined to teach me German, and another little girl is teaching me Japanese. The kids amaze me. One little girl can write in Japanese - she is 4. Another little German boy can speak Chinese because he lived in China for 3 years and attended a Chinese pre-school last year. They mostly all speak at least 2 languages. The little ones who don't speak any English truly inspire me with their bravery in facing such a scary world every day!
Unfortunately, I also had to take my first sick day last Tuesday. The fun of working with little ones! There was a stomach bug going around, and coupled with some stresses (like visitors,) my stomach couldn't take it anymore!
On Thursday the 20th, my mother and stepfather came in to visit us and to go to Rome for a few days. The visit was pleasant, although any visit can be stressful. We did some very nice things though. Last week Saturday, we went to the Maerklin Museum (model trains,) and to the Steiff Museum (the teddy bears.) Sunday, we went to Heidelberg, a very old and charming city about an hour from here. We rode on a funicular up a mountain to a restaurant at the top. The views were spectacular. On the way down, we stopped at the Heidelberg Castle. Because Heidelberg suffered little damage during wars, it still retains much Old-World architecture. We had a spectacular time!

My mom, Joern, and me standing high above Heidlberg

My mother and stepfather returned from Rome on Friday night, and we had a very pleasant, very large, dinner with friends and my mother-in-law. My mother's flight out was Saturday afternoon, so we spent a leisurely morning together before bringing them to the airport.
It was very nice to have my family here, and great to do things. Now, I am looking forward to getting back to our routine, and excited for Wednesday, my first German holiday!!

Sonntag, 2. September 2007

My week

Last week was my first whole week of work. It all went really well, and I am excited for the rest of the year.
Monday through Wednesday were teacher work days, filled with tons of meetings, and lots of work getting the classroom ready. Our classroom is really small, only for 10 kids maximum, so we didn´t have that much work to get the room ready. I was really pleased that they treat classroom assistants as part of the functioning school. At my old job, assistants were always very hidden, and I barely knew 1/3 of my colleagues. Here at ISS, I have already met all of the people working in the elementary school!

We had our first day with the kids on Thursday, and everything went really well! Our first student arrived at 8:10, and it took us 15 minutes to realize that he was in the wrong class- out he went! He was a real cutie, but he was already 5 (our class is mainly 4 year olds,) and he could count, knew how to spell and write his name, and had excellent speaking skills! Our official class count right now is 8 kids. Hopefully, two will move in during the year, because 8 is very small! But the ones I´ve met so far are adorable! We have 2 German kids, two English, and two Japanese. Two more kids will start this week.

It was a fun two days with the kids, learning about each other. They are all so small, and so sweet! And boy, do they make us laugh! It will be wonderful to get the classroom really rolling in the next few weeks, all of our shyness will disipate, and I am so excited to start seeing relationships form between the kids!

Sonntag, 26. August 2007

Food for thought, or thinking about food

I have to take a moment to brag about two wonderful recipes from this past week. So proud of myself, because they both came out wonderfully!

Fist, I made a delicious orichette and radicchio pasta salad from a recipe in last month´s Martha Stewart Living.
Since it has been such a cold summer, we definately haven´t been to many cook-outs, and I found myself craving pasta salad. Martha Stewart came along just in time to provide me this outstanding recipe that yielded this beautiful salad!


Today, I went to a pot-luck brunch for the Early Learning Center of the International School. The ELC is pre-K through 1st grade, and we all got together to kick off the school year. It was held at the home of the deputy lower school principal, and it was wonderful! It was so great to see some old faces I had worked with last school year, and of course, it was brilliant to get together outside of the school. I took a chance on a Paula Deen recipe. I firmly trust Paula, and know that I don´t ever need to test her recipes before introducing them to people, because they will always be good. Well, yet again, Paula proved herself with an incredibly rich, yet amazing Praline French Toast Casserole

(http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,1977,FOOD_9936_26774,00.html) which was out of this world! Go Paula!!!

Samstag, 25. August 2007

Three cheers for drugstore.com!!!!

I know that I really have to start getting used to German products. You would think that after 5 years, I´d have better integrated myself. But, there are certain things I just can´t give up on, and since I can purchase said items in dollars, it is cheaper to have some things sent from the States.
Yesterday, I received my drugstore.com purchase of- cleaning supplies and face soap! Woo Hoo!!! I ran out of my regular cleaer last week, and then considered buying something German. But, since I have yet to find something that comes remotely close to those wonderful scents of lavender and pine, I really didn´t want to buy a whole bottle for a week. So, shhhh.... I didn`t really clean until my precious bottle of multi-purpose cleaner arrived. Now, I am in the throes of cleaning heaven (okay, maybe that´s a little dramaticized,) but I am really excitied.
So, three cheers for my absolute favorite internet drugstore, for feeding my "dis"integration into German society :)

Sonntag, 19. August 2007

Baden Wuertemburg History

Today was a really fun day! Surprisingly so. My new resolution has to be better about cleaning and doing laundry during the week. I am so impressed, because I now actually have time on the weekend to do things! Yay!
So, today, Joern and I decided on checking out the Baden-Wuertemburg history museum in Stuttgart. Marcel came with us :) They opened about 3 years ago, and I really can´t believe we haven´t been there before. The museum was very interesting, it followed the history of our state from the time of Napoleon´s invasion to the present. The first floor focused on the history, and was very well presented, if you speak German. They had so much to see and read about. And, everything was artfully displayed, which really added to the experience.
I learned so much about the impact of Napoleon, the struggle to separate from Prussia, the experiences of the people living here through both world wars, and some interesting information about the state today.

The second floor was very interactive, which appealed to "my boys." There was a large display about the Black Forest, which is a very important part of our state. What I found most impressive was the hall that highlighted all the companies that are headquartered here in BW. Wow, I can´t believe how many well-known businesses are from here. Of course, there are the big ones, Mercedes, Porsche, and Audi. But, Steiff, SAP, Fischer dowels, and many others call this great state I live in home.

My favorite though was the "ABCs" of Baden-Wuertemburg exhibit outside of the museum. They had cases all over the walkway with a product or idea that is native to the state. Here are a few of my favorites:

"B" for Bretzeln (pretzels come from Altenriet, the village next to ours!)

"S" for Spaetzle, Swabian noodles!

"V" for Viertele, I know it´s hard to see, but those are wine glasses. Viertel is German for 1/4, as in 1/4 of a liter of wine, "le" is a Swabian ending for words.

Donnerstag, 9. August 2007

Wow, where has the time gone?

Well, since my last post, which was over a month ago, a lot has gone on. I will hopefully be able to find our missing photo cards to post pictures from Mallorca and England. Until then, I guess I should just start with now, and work on reviews of other trips as I get around to it.

Things here in Germany are great. We have been having miserably cold and rainy weather, which isn´t so bad compared to the killer heat waves in some parts of Europe and the US!

This past weekend, we dog-sat for a friend. It was so much fun, we really enjoyed having a dog in the apartment. The dog we took care of is Abigail, a 75 lb. black lab. She is also one of the best behaved dogs I´ve ever met! We had her for 3 days, enjoyed lots of walks through the fields around here. I definately see the fields surrounding our town (which are the cause of our being unable to build a house,) in a whole new light! Abigail was afraid of Leo, which was priceless, considering that sopping wet he weighs 4 lbs. I finally got Abigail to come sniff Leo by sitting on the floor and petting Leo, so that he wouldn´t make his mean face and scare the poor dog! Unfortunately, our time with Abigail went really quickly, and has now left Joern and I considering a dog of our own!

Otherwise, the week has been pretty slow. I finished reading a great book- The Savage Garden by Mark Mills. It is set in Tuscany, Italy about 10 years after WWII. The main story is a murder-mystery, but there are many different levels to the story. Although I found it hard to follow in the beginning, mostly because it was weighed down with a lot of Roman mythology, I really enjoyed the book by the end!

I guess that´s all for now, hope everyone reading this is doing well!!

Dienstag, 10. Juli 2007

Feeling really bad

Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to work with some amazing kids. One of the most amazing has become a good friend of mine, Tori. Unfortunately, last June, she and her family finally moved back to the States, after 4 years. Overall, the year seemed to be rolling along fine for her, despite the typical teenage trials.

She´s been going through a particular rough teenage spot lately, which of course, made me upset anyway. Now, she also told me that her mom is really sick, and her dad is deployed. Mom might need surgery, but right now, things don´t look too good. Everyone is scared.

It is times like this that I have the biggest problem being in Germany. I adore my life, but when something bad happens at home, I can´t always get back to be with the ones I love. This summer is especially busy for us, with traveling, doctors appointments, and life in general, so going home is just not an option right now.

So far, I have missed my cousin Katie´s graduation from college, and my cousin Elizabeth´s graduation from high school- both were events that I absolutely did not want to miss. I missed graduation parties. I missed going to the races with my father. I missed everything that I have worked so hard to hold on to these past 5 years that I´ve been here. And now, I can´t be with Tori when she needs a strong support system the most. This is so frustrating! I know that my life is with my husband, but sometimes, I wish life could be put on hold so I could be a bigger part of other people´s lives.

I am trying as hard as I can. I try to stay in touch with emails, and phone calls. Sometimes though, it is not enough. Then I feel guilty being here, where people think I´m living a carefree life. I´m not complaining at all about my life, there are just some days when living in another country doesn´t have such a romantic feel. This past week has definately been one of those times!

Dienstag, 3. Juli 2007


Europeans are very good at going on strike. The French are probably world champions of organizing themselves into strikes, but Germans can be pretty good too.

Last week, I started working with the cutest little 4 year old boy. He has speech problems, and I am working with his school SLP to implement his summer program. We meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This morning, Joern was going to drive me to base on his way to his meeting with Toys´r us in Cologne. Because this is a HUGE ride for him, I was going to take the train home.

When I woke up this morning and turned on the TV, it was loaded with reorts about the train strike that began this morning. The strike isn´t just the Bahn, which is the German version of Amtrak, it also encompasses the subway and street car systems in most cities- Stuttgart included. The strike began around 5:30 this morning, after some people had already boarded trains for work. A woman in Berlin had gotten on a train, and at 5:30 when the train pulled into a "middle-of-nowhere" station, she and all the other passengers were told to get off the train, because the driver was now on strike!

I hated to have to cancel, but without my license, and without Joern being even in the same state, I really had to! Argh! At least House is on tonight- I guess that´s the day´s saving grace!

Here´s to happy and easy flowing travel!

Montag, 2. Juli 2007

What to do, what to do?

Rainbow over Neckartailfingen

Coming off the news of my new job, any news pales in comparison. My new latest obsession- vacuum cleaners! I really broke ours on Saturday, and considering that it was 30 Euro and we got three years out of it, I don´t think we got that raw of a deal!
So, I hopped on my trusty internet on Saturday to check out reviews of vacuum cleaners- oh my gosh, the choices are mind boggling! I checked the Cleaning & Organizing forum on TheNest.com, and everyone recommends Dyson. I admit, I am a sucker for clever marketing, and am pretty much sold on the Dyson myself. I figure that I am a working woman now, and can afford a quality home appliance.
The second thing pushing me towards the Dyson are the tumbleweeds of rabbit fur that refuse to be vacuumed, swept, or anything, and Dyson has a specific model for animals.
The price of course, is the only problem with a Dyson- I only worked 2 weeks in the past month, and most of my money would be gone if I decide to purchase my dream vacuum.
In my research though, I have also found two other companies with animal models- one a Miele, which has an excellent reputation. Their Cat & Dog 5000 (oh my gosh, how exciting!!) is 100 Euro cheaper than the Dyson, but it doesn´t have a hardwood flooring function. So frustrating.
Unfortunately, that is all the news that is new here. My aunt wrote to me this morning- yay!
Hope everyone is good and that you´ve all enjoyed my L-O-N-G entry about Venice :)

Sonntag, 1. Juli 2007

A nerve-wracking week!!

This past week was excellent!! But, it was also quite stressful.
I worked at the International School all week, which was so cool! One of the classroom assistants in one of the senior kindergarten classes left on Monday for Mallorca, to start work on her M.A. What an awesome place to work on your degree!
But, since she was gone, they asked me to work for her for the week. Of course, I said yes immediately! I was also told that Monday would be my job interview for one of the classroom assistant positions opening in September.
So, I started the week nervous about getting to know the kids on their last week of school, but I wasn´t nervous about the job interview at all. Of course, all that changed rather quickly. The kids were wonderful! All ages 5 & 6, and they were all so cute! It took me a few minutes to feel comfortable in the classroom. The teacher was wonderful too, and it turns out she grew up in Trumbull! Small world!!
What I became nervous about was the interview. Right before my meeting, I was speaking with another kindergarten teacher, who told me that there was a surprisingly large number of candidates for the position this year.
My interview, which I thought would just between the principal and myself, turned into the principal, the assistant principal, and two teachers! Sheesh! Then, they asked me all these weird questions, like how I felt about putting up bulletin boards, and what would I do if I didn´t get along with a teacher. Argh!
So, I was even more nervous after the interview. Especially when I was told that I would find out about the job at the end of the week!
The week went so quickly. I easily bonded with the kids, and it was so sad that it was the last week of school, because the teacher I was working with needed me more to move furniture and take down papers than to work with the kids. I did my first playgroud duty, and found out that playground duty really isn´t that bad with little ones, but probably worse with older kids.
On Friday morning, the secretary called me to say that I would be meeting with the principal at 2:50 to discuss the job. Considering the fact that school gets out at 3:00, he wasn´t joking when he said the END of the week! All day, teachers were telling me not to take it personally if I didn´t get the job, and that the principal wasn´t well known for making the best decisions!
So, I nervously poked my head into his office at 2:50. He started by asking me all these questions about my week, like what I did, how I got along with the teacher, and how I got along with the kids. Come on buddy- I was there to find out if I got the job, not to discuss the senior kindergarten!!!!!! But ... then... slowly... we got around to the job. And- I GOT IT!!!!!!!! I am so, so , so excited!!!! I will be in the junior kindergarten- SO excited! Oh my gosh! I can´t believe it! I start on August 27th! Well, okay, since it is a new position, it must be cleared through the school´s financial officer first, but all classrooms below 2nd grade must have an assistant. It´s pretty certain, that I will be working again! YAY! I have to say, I am very proud of myself :)

Part II of our Venice trip

We enjoyed walking around Murano, and tried to find the store where Wolfgang (my father-in-law)got in trouble for refusing to buy some Venitian glass. Unfortunately, Joern was very young at the time, and couldn´t quite remember. After our time in Murano, we hopped back on a Vaporetto, headed for Venice. While waiting, we met a very nice couple from Canada, and spoke with them for some time about their one month tour of Italy- NICE!

We rode on one of the much smaller Vaporetto boats, which was very cramped, to Venice. On the trip, we passed the island of San Michele, which was designated by Napoleon as the city cemetery for Venice.

San Michele
We decided to get off the Vaporetto at the first stop on Venice, at Fondamenta Nove, located on the northern side of the island. From this stop, we walked along the water, then easily found the signs to the Jewish Ghetto. I was quite interested in seeing the ghetto, which was the first Jewish ghetto, begun in the 1500s, and opened by Napoleon. Unfortuately, it was late on a Friday, and the museum was not offering any more tours, so we had to put this area on my list of places for return. The ghetto lies in the Cannaregio Sestiere (district,) which has few tourists and offers the opportunity to see the "real Venice,"- quite refreshing! After exploring as much as we could, we decided to make our way back towards the tourists. Right outside of the ghetto, we found a very kind looking gondoliere. Since my mom´s anniversary gift to us was money to be used towards a gondola ride, we figured that this was the right gondoliere to go with.

Entrance to Jewish ghetto, view from the gondola.
The gondola ride went around the northern part of the city, and was wonderful! Although they are not cheap, taking a gondola ride is definately something that must be done if you´re in Venice. Since we departed from the Cannaregio area, we spent most of our time on quiet, small canals. Our gondoliere told us a lot about the history of the area, including the history of the architecture, which was quite interesting. We did spend about 5 minutes on the Grand Canal, which was very busy with lots of boating traffic. After our time on the Grand Canal, it was a pleasure to return to the quiet canals of Cannaregio. We circled around the ghetto, and our gondoliere gave us more history of the area. The ride lasted about 40 minutes, and was simply amazing! Venice seems completely different from the water!

After our magical gondola ride, we floated back towards Piazza San Marco. Of course, we got lost numerous times, but that´s okay in Venice! We finally got back to Piazza San Marco around 7, and decided that we were very tired, and it was time to head back to the hotel. The ride on the Vaporetto was about an hour, and was a nice way to relax after our busy day. We had another wonderful dinner in Lido di Jesolo.

We left on Saturday morning to head to Chioggia for a while. Chioggia is a fishing village, that is about an hour drive south of Venice. Of course, this was on a Saturday morning, and many Italians were heading to the beach for the day. The drive took us about 3 hours, and we found a parking problem in Chioggia. The town itself was very cute, it has a much more Italian feel to it than Venice, since it is not such a tourist destination. Like Venice, there are canals winding through the town, and many historic buildings. We could only stay for a short while, due to the parking siutation. Next time, we know to take a Vaporetto to Chioggia for the day, and leave the car back at the hotel!

Since we were driving home anyway, we left Chioggia and headed north. Verona lay in our diretion, so we decided to spend some time there, before really making our way home. I was so surprised by Verona, which is a bustling, wonderful city! After parking, we walked through the gateway in the city wall to find a magical place! We were totally blown away by the gigantic Roman arena in the center, which is the world´s thrid largest Roman arena. There were so many wonderful buildings. We made our way to the Piazza Bra, one of the many lovely squares in Verona. This is surrounded by the incredible town hall, and many wonderful restaurants. Off of Piazza Bra are many of the pedestrian shopping streets, for which European cities are well known. Verona is really a fashion haven, which again surprised me. I though fashion was regulated to Milan. We followed a busy but exciting street, and found ourselves at Piazza delle Erbe. The Piazza delle Erbe was the site of the Roman Forum, and is surrounded by amazingly beautiful buildings.

Verona city wall

Roman arena, Verona

Palazzo Maffei, Verona

On our way back to the car, we happened upon a car racing event. Only a few of the many old cars had come in, and we only spent a few minutes. After we left, we drove around Verona, and were extremely impressed by all the things to see. We finally left Verona around 7 pm, and headed home.

The ride from Verona to Stuttgart lasted about 6 hours, which meant we made extremely good time. Our drive took us through the infamous St. Gothard tunnel, which has been the scene of many frightful accidents recently. We drove along through Zurich, and finally pulled in to our driveway at 1:00 am. Overall, it was one of the best trips ever, and a very special way to celebrate us!!

Our pictures from the trip are at:

Donnerstag, 21. Juni 2007

How we celebrated our anniversary

Basilica San Marco, Veince

Joern and I decided to go away for our anniversary on June 9th this year. The Thursday before the 9th was a holiday, so Joern decided to take Friday the 10th off from work, so we would have a long trip.
We began our trip on Wednesday, I went to work with Joern, so that we could drive to the Swiss border and take off for our adventure. We spent Wednesday night with Joern´s friend Fabio outside of St. Moritz. This was in an attempt to cut down the long drive to Italy. The coolest part about visiting Fabio was the fact that his wife and daughter, Fabianna, were down for 2 weeks. I adore Fabianna. She is 3 and one of the most amazing little kids I know. We had so much fun together!!! And Fabio's apartment in the Swiss Alps is simply wonderful!

After enjoying some friendly hospitality, we took off Thursday morning for Italy. The original plan was to spend the day in Milan, a 2 hour drive from St. Moritz before heading off to Jesolo, where we would be staying. Unfortuantely, Joern did not bring a map, and Fabio did not consult one when he gave us directions to Milan from his house. He told us to take the pass that we have to drive up to reach the apartment (the Julier Pass,) and then to take the San Bernardino pass into Italy. Turns out that Fabio could have told us to drive back to Stuttgart first, and it still may have taken the same time for us to reach Milan! Sheesh! Unfortunately, the weather was very poor on Thursday, and we didn't even get to enjoy the scenery on our 5 hour drive through the Alps!

Since we were far behind on time, we decided that Milan would have to get cut from the trip. Instead, Joern suggested we stop in Como to walk around for a while. Oh my goodness, Como is beautiful. The lake is amazingly beautiful, surrounded by the Alps and little villages. I could move to the area around Lake Como! Even if George Clooney didn't live there, I would still adore the area! We walked around the lake area, and then into the center of Como. The town has such a relaxed atmosphere! We decided to head back to the car though when it started to rain.

We got back on the road and headed towards Jesolo, where we would be staying for the duration of our trip. The drive was so beautiful! One we cleared the three hours of sitting in traffic nearn Milan, the weather cleared. We drove through the Lombardy region, which is incredibly gorgeous! The autostrade (Italian turnpike system,) goes through beautiful areas, quite unlike I-95 in CT!

We finally pulled in to Jesolo Lido around 8 on Thursday night. We never expected to spend almost the entire day in the car, but in the end, it worked out. Jesolo is a town situated about an hour from Venice, and Lido di Jesolo is the seaside resort area of Jesolo. It was the German travel hotspot in the 70s and 80s before cheap airline travel brought the discovery of Mallorca. Joern and I have stayed in Lido di Jesolo twice in the past, but both times were approximately 5 years ago. It was to me a resort town that had seen it´s heyday, and was in it´s twilight. The hotels were old and there were rarely many people, even during high season. We were shocked when we pulled in to Lido di Jesolo to discover that it has really changed in the past 5 years. The hotels were all newly redone, and there was tons of construction everywhere! The street that runs along the beach, already closed to traffic for the night was full of people! We finally found a hotel, the Hotel delle Nazioni, a beautiful, newly renovated hotel, that was so well designed, that all rooms had a sea view!

Our hotel, and view from our balcony.

After getting settled, we went out for a pizza, in a restaruant along the main street, that is turned into a pedestrian promenade every night. Joern had a ham pizza, and mine was four cheese- yummy! After our pizzas and a good glass of wine, we walked along the promenade, which is really huge! We walked for over an hour before deciding, we would not reach the end of town any time soon, so it was time to turn around.

On Friday morning, we were up at a reasonable time, and had a great breakfast on the hotel terrace, overlooking the Mediterranean. It was so beautiful there! After breakfast, we drove to Punta Sabioni, the closest ferry dock that would bring us to Venice. Because I wanted to buy a day ticket for the Vaporetto, Venice´s public water bus system, we had a little confusion finding the right booth. I highly recommend the day ticket if anyone goes to Venice- it is 13 Euro for 12 hours, which worked out wonderfully!

Because of all the ticket confusion, we got on the wrong boat- oops! We were going to go to Burano, one of the islands, from Punta Sabioni, which would have been a 40 minute trip. Instead, we got on the boat headed for Venice, an hour from our dock, and the complete wrong direction! It wasn´t so bad though, we got to walk into Piazza San Marco (St. Mark´s Square,) while we were waiting for the next boat to Burano.

View of the bell tower and Doge´s Palace approaching Venice.

Clock tower in San Marco Square.
Burano was absolutely beautiful! The houses on Burano are very brightly colored, and it is a wonderful site to pull into Burano from the lagoon! The island is well- known for lacemaking, although little lace is actually made on the island anymore, you still see it everywhere! We walked around Burano for a few hours, enjoying the slower pace and empty streets, as compared to Venice itself. Burano was by far one of my favorite places to visit.

Burano has quiet streets and small canals. You get the feeling of Venice without the craziness of the crowds.
After Burano, we boarded the correct boat headed for Venice. When we started approaching Murano, another of the islands, Joern suggested we spend some time on the island. I had read many bad things about Murano on the internet that I was reluctant to go. Murano is the island famous for Venetian glass, and famous for pushy salespeople. We got off at a vaporetto stop that wasn´t in the main tourist area of the island. There were a couple of glass factories, but few tourists. We walked by one factory that had its doors open to the street, and people could watch the glass being made. It was wonderful! And, there was no pressure to buy anything, as the store was a separate entrance! It was wonderful to walk around Murano though, again, like Burano, the pace was slow and it wasn´t packed with tourists.

Making Venitian glass in a Murano factory.

One of the many, many glass factories on Murano island.

Dienstag, 5. Juni 2007

Holy Cow- 6 Years!

Tomorrow morning, Joern and I are off (after I pack, of course,) to celebrate our anniversary! I am SOOOOO excited! Except, surprisingly, I am even more excited about the fact that we`ve been married 6 years than the going to Venice thing! My excitement started in January. I still remember just how I felt 6 years ago today, and how utterly amazed I was to be marrying Joern. I can´t believe I still feel all giddy when I look at Joern, or hold his hand, and I am still utterly amazed that we´re married! So, even though this is a little early, I just wanted to wish Joern a very happy anniversary!

Donnerstag, 31. Mai 2007

The art of compromise

We have been discussing our June plans for months now, and it had come down to the following:
June 2- wedding in Cologne (4 hours from here)
June 9th & 10th - Venice for our anniversary
June 11th- my birthday
June 15th- cocktail party for International Women´s Club

Although it doesn´t seem so bad, poor Joern seemed to have a breakdown about a week ago, and decided that he desperately needs a vacation- NOW! He has been basically working 2 jobs for months now. The past few weeks he has been "spacey," and we both agreed it´s time for him to return to earth!

We played around with the existing schedule, gave up on a few plans, and added a few more. Here are our finalized plans for the month of June.

This upcoming weekend- no wedding. This made me sad, but I understand that 8 hours round trip is very long for people we aren´t that close with.

Next week- June 7th, the Feast of Corpus Christi, is a holiday in some German states (ours included.) I will go to work with Joern on Wednesday, he has planned to visit customers on the Swiss border. When the work day is done, we´ll drive to Joern´s friend Fabio´s house near St. Moritz, and stay there for the night. On Thursday morning, we´ll head out for Milan, which is about 2 hours from St. Moritz. After haning around the really, really, ridiculously good-looking Milanese, we´ll head out to somewhere near Venice. On Friday and Saturday, we´ll spend time exploring Venice and its environs, while remembering to savor wonderful wine and food, and to leave plenty of romantic time to celebrate our 6th anniversary! Not sure if we´ll head back Saturday or Sunday.

The following week- Joern will work Monday though Thursday. Friday the 15th, at 6:00 am, our plane takes off for Mallorca! Since we´ve already been, we decided that we won´t need to spend a week there. We´ll be there from Friday the 15th until Tuesday the 19th. We´re both so excited!!

I gave up the wedding, and the cocktail party. But I feel like I got a lot more because of it. Our original plan to Venice was an overnight trip, but now, we can have a much more leisurely trip! Plus, I guess it was worth giving up a cocktail party to spend a couple of days in my favorite place ever! Hopefully, the change of scenery and the Meditteranean pace will help Joern!

Montag, 28. Mai 2007

Happy Birthday Jörn!!!!

Yesterday was Jörn's birthday, and I just wanted to wish him yet another "Happy Birthday!"
This year was the first year that we didn't hold a big birthday event. We just had some steaks and salads with Jörn's parents, Marcel, Fabio (who was here for the weekend,) and us. Very small, but very nice. I made Jörn's favorite cake, a Paula Deen caramel cake. It was yummy!
We were fortunate that today was a holiday, so Jörn could enjoy his birthday without having to worry about going to work the next day!
Now, we have our anniversary and my birthday to look forward to! Yeah!

Oh, and I hope everyone has a safe and happy Memorial Day!

Samstag, 26. Mai 2007

Crazy week!

My week started off fairly normal. On Tuesday, I went to work with Joern, and then went over to my friend Mandy´s house to pick up a bunch of packages that arrived for me. Yeah! It was like Christmas, I had ordered a bunch of books from Amazon including travel guides for Croatia and Venice, and season 9 of Frasier! I also got my photo book from Ireland, and I my dresses from JCrew finally arrived. I love packages!
I was going to spend Wednesday at home working on laundry that I had built up in anticipation of Frasier. Thursday, I was going to go to Frankfurt for the day to meet up with a girl I met on The Nest.com, who like me, is an American married to a German. I was excited about Thursday for many, many reasons, including the fact that I had a two hour train ride in each direction to enjoy my new book, The Other Boleyn Sister.

Imagine my surprise then on Wednesday morning at 8:15 am when the phone rang, and the secretary from the International School was on the line. Turned out they need a sub for the day, and needed me there ASAP. I am truly thankful for the job, but not really all that happy with changes in my routine. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity, left the laundry for yet another day, and was driven (chauffeured?) to work.

The day went well. I was subbing for the assistant in one of the two first grade classes. The only odd part was that both the classroom teacher and the assistant were out for the day, so two subs had charge of 20 six year olds, on "dress crazy day." In my perfect world, no one would ever hold something so distracting to little ones as "dress crazy day." Oh well. The kids were adorable though. I also got the opportunity to work for a little while with the pre-kindergarteners. That was when I found out that either I need to spend more time with them, or I am simply not a pre-K teacher!

Overall, my day was wonderful, and the next great surprise came at the end of Wednesday, when the secretary requested that I work Thursday and Friday as well. Again, little me, I jumped at the opportunity, although sadly, it meant missing my day with my new friend. I spent the rest of the week with the first graders, which I really enjoyed, as it gave me time to really get to know the kids. I want to take all of them home now :)

I hope that my hard work and flexibility pays off and I can get a job next school year. I really like the school, love the kids (minus pre-K) and wouldn't mind making a little money on a regular basis!

This is a long weekend here too. We don't have much planned, not even for Joern's birthday. Poor Joern just needs some time to relax, so I hope that this weekend is helpful to him!

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! I hope that the weather is good, and that everyone can enjoy some time outside. And I hope that this is the beginning of a great summer for everyone!

Sonntag, 20. Mai 2007

Our weekend

This weekend, Joern, Marcel, and I went to Switzerland to visit a friend Joern`s friend Fabio. Joern, Marcel, and Fabio all grew up together, and Fabio has recently moved. I think he is missing Neckartailfingen, and the Neckartailfingen gang is missing him.
So, Friday morning, Joern, Marcel, and I all piled in the car to go to work with Joern. Tee hee hee, I guess that`s really a perk of Joern`s job. His region extends all the way to the Swiss border. All Joern did was to plan to visit his customers lying along the border, and then continue on to Fabio.
The Swiss border with Germany lies along Lake Constance, which is a beautiful place in itself. The lake is quite large, and is bordered by Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Looking back at Germany from the Swiss side of Lake Constance
Joern finished his workday around 3, and after Marcel bought out McDonald`s, we headed towards the border. After our passports were checked, we had to stop and buy our vignette, a sticker that shows you`ve paid the tax to drive on the Swiss autobahns. The great thing about Switzerland is that not long after entering the country, you are met with beautiful views of the Alps.

An hour from the border, Joern brought up the fact that we would be stopping at his favorite rest stop ever, Heidiland. No joke!

Turns out that Johanna Spyri actually set her famous story of Heidi in this certain area of the Swiss Alps. Obviously, some people in this area were quick to jump on the marketing bandwagon with Heidi, and now besides the Heidiland rest stop, there is a Heidi Village (Heididorf) inclusive of Heidi`s House, a "Heidi Experience" walking tour, and another "Heidi and Peter" experience. Wild! Of course, it was enough for us just to buy gas and go to the bathroom.

About an hour`s drive past Heidiland, we exited the Autobahn at Bivio, a medieval trading town, which is part of the canton (or county,) of Graubuenden. Graubunden is well known not only for a destination for winter sports enthusiasts, but also for a dried beef specialty. We saw many buildings along the narrow streets of Bivio that advertised this Grabuendener meat.

Beyond Bivio lay the Julier Pass, one of the steep winding streets that Europeans (Germans especially,) love to use to feel like a racecar driver flying through the Alps. A positive about a pass is that they provide much better views than the Autobahn. Of course, to reach St. Moritz, one must either be wealthy and fly a private jet in to the funny little airport, or use the Julier Pass. This road winds its way high into the Alps, and reaches 7, 494 ft. to look up towards the Bernina Massif, which is over 13,000 ft. tall. Beyond the Bernina Massif lies the Engadine Valley, home to St. Moritz and it`s surrounding villages.

We had to drive through St. Moritz to reach Fabio´s village of S-Chanf. I immediately fell in love with the wonderful city, with it´s beautiful hotels, and old European charm.

A 15 minute drive beyond St. Moritz, and we arrived in Chanf, town of 547 residents that is hidden among the beautifully high, snow-capped Alps. What immediately struck me about the area is that it is throughly Italian. The buildings look exactly like they do in Italy. And I know this sounds strange, but the rooves of homes in Italy are quite different from those in Germany, and in the Engadine Valley, they are completely Italian. The names of the people in this area are all Italian, and the lanugages spoken here are Romansch (an old Romance lanugage,) and Italian. This is where tiny Switzerland amazes me, because in a space the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, there are three distinct cultures, French, German, and Italian. Of course, if you could walk over the Alps, you would quickly be in Italy from St. Moritz, which would also explain this strong influence.

On Saturday morning, after Joern and Marcel had a debate over whether to buy ostrich eggs from the farm down the street for breakfast, Joern and I headed out to St. Moritz. Since I already had fallen in love on Friday, I was only in for a day in heaven by going back. St. Moritz lies among the Alps, on Lej da San Murezzan lake. The city rises up a mountain - side, and from the center, and the residential area above the center, one has remarkable views. It is really a winter town, home to the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympics, and the last natural bobsled run in the world. In the summer, the town is very quiet, some bike riders and hikers bring a little life to the area, but nothing like in the winter. For me, it was perfect, as I adore going to towns off season, to see what they are really like.

First stop was to visit the grocery store, as this is one of our favorite ways to learn about a culture. Plus, bringing home food from another country is always an excellent way to enjoy your trip when you`re back home. We bought coffee, chocolate, and pre-packaged Rösti, which is like a pan-sized hash brown. After the grocery store, we walked down to the lake and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

We then drove up to the city center, which is up on a mountain. Much of the city center is under construction, average for the fact that the city springs to life in November. The city center reminds me of a very, very old 5th Avenue. Very old like medieval 5th Avenue. There is so much old- world charm surrounding Cartier, Prada, Gucci, and the like. We walked by to the famous hotel, Badrutt`s Palace, which has been catering to the international jet-set since the 1800s. The city center has such impressive views of the Alps, and oozes charm. I could have stayed forever.

In the afternoon, we went back to Fabio´s apartment to watch the soccer game, which ended in Stuttgart being crowned German champions! We headed home at 6:00, stopped at Heidiland, and were home by 11:00. What an amazing way to spend a weekend!!

You can see all the pictures from our trip at www.joernandallison.shutterfly.com


In Europe, soccer(or football) is THE sport. For most people here, life is family, soccer, work; but the order of importance changes for some people. Professional soccer leagues form a very complicated network, including competitions within the country, and competitions within the world. Imagine that professional baseball was played with equal feverish devotion all over the world, there would be competions within the US, and then the "World Series," would be just that, and the American champions would compete against champions from other countries.

In Germany, there is the Bundesliga (like the major leagues,) and a variety of levels of other teams (the minor leagues,) that all comprise German soccer. Saturday afternoon marked the end of the season for the Bundesliga, in effect, the German soccer world series. Unlike the baseball though,there are no playoffs. All games are regularly scheduled season games, and the winner is determined by points acquired throughout the season. The two teams that were vying for the German Master title yesterday were, VfB Stuttgart (of course, our team,) and FC Schalke 04 (near Dortmund.) The two games were took place at the same time, and it was quite nerve-wracking. FC Schalke was playing a team from the northern Germany, and Stuttgart was playing Cottbus (another team from the north.)

Going into the game, Stuttgart was leading Schalke by one point. If Schalke won yesterday's game, and Stuttgart lost, then the two teams would have tied, and the championship would have been determined by the number of goals scored by each team. For a time yesterday, Stuttgart had not scored against Cottbus, and Schalke was leading in their game by 3 goals. It was very scary. But then, Stuttgart came around in the second half, scoring two goals, and winning the game and the title of German Champions 2007!!!! YEAH STUTTGART!!!

Of course, the entire state erupted into a party. More than 150,000 fans had packed into the center of Stuttgart, where public viewing areas were set up. After the win, downtown became one giant party.The players parade began around 6 pm, and it took many many hours because of the amount of people. Stuttgart was completely packed with revelers far into the morning. And why not? The fans deserved it, and so did the players!!

Sonntag, 13. Mai 2007

Eurovision song contest

It´s that time of the year again, another event that makes you think, "where did the time go?" and "why on Earth am I watching this?"
The Eurovision Song Contest is in its 52 year of entertaining Europeans, and Israelis, although it is broadcast worldwide, voting and participation is limited to Europe, Israel, and Turkey.

42 countries participate, and send the representative songs to the Eurovision governing board, and from these 42, 28 are sent to the semi-finals. Some countries may pass to the semi-finals, but not to the finals because they did poorly the year before. Four countries though, Germany, France, Spain, and the UK can never be voted out of the finals (because they are the largest financial backers.) From this group in the semi-finals, 20 are chosen to go to the finals, plus the "Big Four," that must always participate.

Previous winners include Celine Dion (representing Switzerland,) Abba with Waterloo, and Katrina and the Waves. Generally, the musicians should not have already received worldwide listner status. Celine Dion was relatively unknown when she won in 1988.

The finals are held on a Saturday night, usually in May. Up to 600 million people worldwide tune in to watch. Although the show brings kitsch to a new level, it is really cool. Some countries chose to go traditional, enter songs in their native languages and keep with traditional music, but some countries sing in English and some chose very progressive music. It is something so very European, it is really enjoyable to be a part of it.

We watched the majority of the show, but missed the entry from Serbia who went on to win the contest. By far, our favorite was the entry from the Ukraine, a band whose lead singer is a transvestite. How much better can you get than a futuristic, Ukrainian Ru-Paul?!!

We also enjoyed the song by the Romanian group, who reminded us of a singing circus act. I was pleased with the Irish entry, they stayed very traditional, and I so enjoy traditional Irish music!

After the entrants perform, each of the participating 42 countries have 15 minutes to call in with votes. Then, to report the votes, a person is chosen as a representative (usually a celebrity from that country.) It is always fun to see how the people in each country celebrate the contest.

In the end, the Ukrainians came in second, behind Serbia. Sadly, there is a lot of political motivation behind the voting, as well as "friendship." The Turkish performers received the most votes from Germany and the Netherlands, the two western European countries with the highest Turkish population. But overall, it is quite an entertaining evening! You can look forward to my post next year, about the Eurovision Song Contest from Serbia!!

Freitag, 11. Mai 2007

My luck

I worked on the military base here in Germany for 5 full years. In those 5 years, there was one USO concert about 2 hours from here, and it was a Keith Urban, which Joern would never have gone to see.
Last night, Mandy came over for dinner. Joern made absolutely delicious whole wheat spaghetti with a white asparagus cream sauce! I love being married to such a great cook. Alas, my waistline does not!
But, getting back to my story. So, Mandy tells us that Gary Senise is in Stuttgart this week! Hello, I LOVE Gary Senise. He's on a USO tour, and tonight, he and his band, the Lieutenant Dan Band, are playing here! GRRRRR!
I'm pretty sure that we can't get signed on base for this event, because USO events are always for ID card holders. That is SO frustrating! Where on earth was Gary Senise for the past 5 years? Why now?

Donnerstag, 10. Mai 2007

A great day today

Something really cool happened today that hasn´t happened in a long time- I worked! One of the ladies I met though my brief stint working with religious education on base helped me to get in touch with the International School of Stuttgart. Even though I had interviewed with them in September, a number of miscommunications resulted in neither the school nor myself staying in contact. This friend of mine emailed me over the weekend to say that the school was really in need of subs, and that she brought my name up again with the school. When I contacted the school on Monday morning, they told me they needed someone today (Thursday.)
I subbed for a kindergarten classroom assistant, and had the most wonderful time! I haven´t worked with little ones in a long time, and was certain that I didn`t like working with small children. Today totally changed my mind! The 16 little ones were adorable, and I had an incredible day! The teacher was a wonderful lady from Australia, and she and I got along quite well. She´s so great that she talked me into volunteering in her classroom, which I hope to begin within the upcoming week. I am so excited now, in the hopes that I may be able to do some more subbing at the school, and maybe, if everyone keeps their fingers crossed, I might be able to get a job as a classroom assistant in the fall. Then, I will have a job while I work on getting my master´s and teaching certification! I am just so excited right now! Hope everyone is well, and looking forward to a great weekend!

Dienstag, 8. Mai 2007

Way to go Stuttgart!

It´s that time of the year again in Germany- when all the statistics come out about the previous year.
Turns out Germany is among the safest countries in the world, and Stuttgart is tied for the lowest crime rate in the country! That means we live in one of the safest cities in one of the safest countries in the world! Now, if that isn´t reason to pack up, move to Germany, and raise kids here, I don´t know what is!

Things here are going well. I got wonderful news yesterday. I will begin working as a sub in the International School of Stuttgart on Thursday! I interviewed earlier in the school year, but due to a variety of problems (like taxes) I was unable to start much earlier. Since I haven´t worked in almost a year, I am so excited to start earning a little money again. Plus, this is an excellent way to get my foot in the door at the school! Needless to say, I have bubbling over with excitement for 2 days now!

We are starting to plan for Joern´s birthday, which is always a big cook out. Hopefully, it won´t rain. But, since we had no rain in April, I shouldn´t complain at all about rain because we desperately need it! I can´t believe that it´s already almost our birthday/anniversary season again! Time really flies!

I hope everyone who is reading this is doing well!! Good night!

Donnerstag, 26. April 2007

Skip ahead to the present, this weekend, I´ll finish the past

I HATE uploading pictures. That´s all I have to say! The reason why I haven´t posted the second part of my Ireland trip is because it took me a total of 40 hours to upload my pictures to the internet! I am NOT allowed to upload any more pictures until the weekend. So, I will finish the Ireland posting this weekend.

Things have gotten back to normal here, which is great. I´ve had a pretty good week. I guess it started on Monday, when I found out my friend Mandy (who I went to Ireland with,) will be staying in Germany. She ended up on the transfer list out of the school here on base, and was assigned to Cuba. I was really scared that my closest friend here would be in Cuba! Fortunately, everything worked out, and after a few nail - biting weeks, it´s official that she´ll be staying!

I have also met a few other girls this week through theNest.com. There is a message board for International Newlyweds. No, I´m no Newlywed,but I am international, so I´ve found a group to really bond with. This week, two girls joined who are Americans living in Germany, like myself. They´re both married to Germans, like me, and are around my age. I find this incredibly exciting to finally find people in my situation. Since none of us are currently working, we plan on meeting in early May!
I am incredibly excited!

Otherwise, things here are great, most likely because it´s asparagus season. White asparagus here is wildly popular. Every year, people anxiously await the mid-April through early June time, when you get fresh, delicious German grown white asparagus! We have found a relatively local farm that offers pretty inexpensive white asparagus. (German grown grade A white asparagus catches up to $9.00 per pound in the grocery stores.) But it´s worth it at any price, because it´s DELICIOUS!Today, we stopped by the farm and bought quite a lot to get us through the weekend. YEAH!

This weekend is a holiday weekend here in Germany. Well, May 1st is the holiday, but many Germans will be off on Monday, so the stores will be quite busy on Saturday, and traffic will be a nightmare. We don´t have anything planned for the weekend, but we are off to Cologne on Monday night. Our friends are getting married in June, and on Monday, we are celebrating Polterabend, a German wedding tradition. I am extremely excited about both the Polterabend and the wedding, as I still have never been to a German wedding.

Well, I guess that´s all for now. I hope everyone is good!

Mittwoch, 25. April 2007

Ireland, Part 2- Waring post best enjoyed with a pint of Guiness!

I figured that ending the first part in Dingle (An Daingean.)
Our Thursday started out beautifully. We stayed in Devane´s B&B, which we found particularly lovely. The owners were wonderfully kind and helpful, and made a great breakfast! Best of all, Devane´s B&B is in a bright pink building, and is located on a hill leading into town, thus providing wonderful views of Dingle Harbor! Anyway, who woudln´t want to stay in a bright pink B&B?

The view from our B&B in Dingle

After checking out the open shops in An Daingean, we made our way out to the Slea Head Drive, which loops around the end of the Dingle Peninsula. In reality, the drive isn´t very long, but offers such beautiful views, you really need a day. And that´s just what we did! It was slightly disconcerting that as we entered the drive, there was a sign saying, "road closed ahead," but we figured it would be best to go as far as possilbe.

Our first stop on the Slea Head Drive was at an area with beehive huts. These huts are all over the Dingle Peninsula, and are thought to date from the 12th Century, when Norman invaders forced Irish people to the far coastal areas of the country. The Beehive Huts that we visited were a series of about 5 cirucular huts, encircled by a much larger outer stone circle. It is most amazing to see these structures, as they were built without mortar, and yet they have remained throughout a constant battering from the weather and the sea air for almost 1000 years! Another enjoyable thing about visiting these particular beehive huts was the fact that it is also used as a sheep pasture, so we got to walk among a bunch of sheep and lambs simply to go to the huts!

Sheep grazing with the Atlantic in the background

A view of the ringed area housing the beehive huts

After exploring, I was able to ask about the road closure. Yes the road was closed, but the man operating the site informed us that we would still have wonderful views, and that it was well worth driving out to the closure.

So, we were off again. The views got more and more incredible as the Dingle Peninsula jutted farther and farther out into the ocean. We stopped at Slea Head, which is one of the westernmost points in Europe. From Slea Head, you can view the Blasket Islands. The Blaskets are a series of islands, that up until the 1950s, housed a number of famous Irish authors and artists. The Blaskets are uninhabited now, but there are day trips available to tourists to visit them. I would imagine this would be an incredible day!

A view of the Great Blasket Island as we near Slea Head

Stone walls lining the hillside at Slea Head.

View of the Blasket Islands.

We stopped at the gift shop at Slea Head, which actually was quite helpful. Turned out that the Slea Head Drive was closed off about 20 feet from the gift shop. There had been a landslide on Easter Sunday that caused the road to crack. The woman working at the gift shop suggested we drive back a little ways, and we would come to a mountain pass that would bring us out almost to the other side of the closure. That was PERFECT! The ride through the mountain pass was also beautiful, and we only ended up missing about 3/4 of a mile of the entire drive!

We came out near the Blasket Island Visitor Center, which unfortunately, we missed. We did drive out to a lookout point, where we were able to walk down to the water, and were treated to some amazing views!

Looking back towards Slea Head.

We discussed this scene with two guys from Galway a few days after taking this picture. They described this scene with one perfect adjective "hardy!" This is the ocean, and even though it was sunny, it was April!

The houses here have incredible views, and personal archaelogical wonders (beehive hut)

As we got back on the road again, we came upon Louis Mulcahy Pottery Workshop, in Ballyferriter. The pottery was absolutely beautiful! Even though I lived in Ireland for 4 months, I didn´t know just how famous Irish pottery was. After spending some time in the workshop, we decided we were getting tired. There was a bookshop which I found quite enjoyable, as they had as many books in Irish as they did in English! We didn´t stop in the local heritage museum though, and now, I know this is a place I must return.

Harborside in Ballyferriter.

As the day wore on, we found ourselves at Gallarus Oratory, which is an amazing structure.

Built between the 7th and 8th Centuries, the Gallarus Oratory is the best preserved early Christian church in Ireland. It was built completely without mortar, but with a technique called corbelling, that has allowed the structure to be waterproof for over 1000 years! We watched an very interesting movie about the archaeology of the area, including the Oratory itself. It was simply amazing to stand inside a structure that was so incredibly old, yet so well preserved!

After our visit to Gallarus, we were tired, and headed back to Dingle town. We spent some time meandering the streets, visited the harbor, and had dinner.

Since we were so tired on Thursday night, we went to bed very early, which allowed us an early start to our day on Friday. So, around 11:00 (the Irish aren´t very early risers,) we headed out to Doolin. Doolin is in County Clare, so it was approximately a 4 hour ride for us. We drove along the coast to Tarbert, where we got a ferry over the River Shannon. The ferry ride was quick, but I´m glad we did it, instead of driving all the way around the Shannon. The ferry let us off at Killimer, and then we drove up the coast, towards Kilrush and stopped off at Kilkee. Kilkee is a charming little resort town. We explored the beach in Kilrush for a while, and then headed into town for lunch. We had a delicious lunch of fish and chips, and sat on the sun porch of the restaurant. After lunch, we walked around the city center for a while, and then headed for the Cliffs of Moher.

We arrived at the Cliffs of Moher around 4:00, which was probably a good time as there weren´t to many tourists. The Cliffs are a major tourist attraction, and the number of visitors is growing every year. The Cliffs are among the highest sea cliffs in Europe, they are 214 meters (700 ft.) high, and stretch for 8 km (5 miles,) along the western Atlantic Coast of Ireland. Having been to the Cliffs 7 years ago, I was slightly disappointed with the changes that had been made, but considering that it was for safety´s sake, I cannot complain much. The Cliffs still afford incredible views, and in my opinion, are still well worth the visit.

The site made famous by Matt Lauer on the Today Show (1 May 2007.) As you can, words can´t begin to do justice to these majestic cliffs.

A view of O´Brien´s Tower standing high on the Cliffs of Moher.

After spending some time at the Cliffs, we were off again to our final destination, Doolin. Doolin is a very small village, located about 10 minutes from the Cliffs of Moher. Doolin is steeped in tradition though, and what it lacks in size, it definately makes up for in character. We stayed at an absolutely wonderful B&B, the Sea View in, that had a lovely view of the ocean.

Our B&B in Doolin

After getting settled, we walked into town. A charming fact about Doolin- the city center is split into two parts, divided by a 10 minute walk. We stayed in the smaller, and probably older part of the center. We walked to the other city center for dinner, in a very new, but enjoyable pub, Fitzpatrick´s. Doolin is exceptionally famous for traditional Irish music, but since it always starts late (between 9 & 10 at night,) we decided to walk back to our side of the center after dinner. We arrived at O´Connor´s Pub around 9, and the musicians were just setting up. O´Connor´s is probably one of the most famous pubs in Ireland, and for good reason. When we first arrived, I was a little nervous because there were so many American tourists. But as the night wore on, the Americans (being the early to bed people that we are,) started leaving, and the pub filled with Irish people from all over the country. The music was exceptional. A real traditional Irish music session is an impromptu gathering of musicians, who often will stop in a pub to play a few songs, or to sing. The atmosphere is quite relaxed, and the musicians are usually amazing! While we enjoyed the music, we also met some incredible people! We met two guys from the Glendalough area of Ireland (near Dublin,) and we met two other guys from Galway. We had some very interesting conversations, and were able to learn much more about the country. The people in the pub were all so friendly, and it was so easy to strike up a great conversation.

Fisher Street, Doolin

Saturday morning, we met up with some of the people we met the previous night, and they took us out to the ferry dock at Doolin. The ferry goes to the Aran Islands, which unfortunately, we didn´t have time for. Despite the amazing weather, the ocean was very forceful, and the crashing waves were magnificent! We spent some time walking out on the cliffs at the end of Doolin, which provided us with some more amazing views of the Cliffs of Moher.

The Cliffs of Moher from Doolin

Crab Island off the coast of Doolin. This is one of the best surfing areas in Ireland.

We also walked far out onto a very rocky, which resembeled the moon. Doolin lies in the Burren, which is an area of Ireland, covered by limestone. The Burren is home to amazing plant life and wildlife. In Doolin, the Burren opens to the sea cliffs. After some time, we came upon very secluded ocean cliffs, where we passed a few hours enjoying nature´s inspiring gifts. Since the ocean was quite active, the waves breaking against the cliffs came up quite high, and hit with such force, that it sounded like thunder. Spending time there was wonderful for the soul.

Sadly, Saturday was our last full day in Ireland. So reluctantly, at 3, we made our way back to the car, and headed back to Cork. We drove through Limerick, and had to give way to a bike tour for about an hour. Our drive home took us by some interesting sights, but there simply wasn´t time to stop. We arrived at the B&B, which was our original B&B in Cork (the Belvedere Lodge,) around 7:00. We were so tired!

Our flight back to Germany was at 6:20 am, so Sunday was a very early morning. We flew Aer Lingus into Amsterdam, and had a 5 hour layover in Amsterdam. I have never been to the Netherlands, but after spending time in the airport, I am hopeful that one day, we will go. Mandy and I did get to purchase some amazing cheese at the airport (the Dutch are well known for their cheese.) I also appreciated the layover, as we had a great time to reflect on our trip.

The final leg of the trip was a one hour flight into Stuttgart. We arrived at 5:00 pm in Stuttgart, ready to get back to our lives.

Overall, the trip was absolutely incredible. We saw tons of things, but didn´t over -extend ourselves, so we were able to enjoy every minute. The weather was amazing, and quite uncommon. I simply cannot wait for my next trip to Ireland, because I can guarantee, this was not my last trip there!