Sunday, May 30, 2010

Trier and Luxembourg

First I want to say these are two cities I would have never thought to go to when I lived in the States. With all the options of Europe who thinks of Trier, Germany? Living here you get so many suggestions of places to travel to and that is one of my favorite parts. People love talking about traveling and I am more than happy to listen.

The trip started with an absolutely beautiful train ride along the Rhein and Mosel rivers. With castles and vineyards lining the hills it was breath-taking. I am going to try and not write a itinerary of our trip (Justin said I tend to do this and I believe him), so I will just give you the highlights.

Fun facts about Trier
  • it is the oldest city in Germany (whatever that means) dating back to around 16 BC
  • it has the oldest Roman ruins outside of Rome
  • it has more than seven UNESCO World Heritage sites include three Roman baths, Roman amphitheater, Roman gate entrance (Porta Nigra), Roman bridge (still in use), and the Holy Roman Emperor Constantine's throne room.
  • it also is the home of the oldest Christian church and the oldest pharmacy in Germany
  • it has the longest running farmer's market dating back to the 10th century
  • it is known for its amazing wine
  • Karl Marx, the author of the Communist Manifesto, was born in Trier

So the city has a lot of old things, but it is full of so much culture and history. One of the things we love about traveling is all the real-life history lessons we get. It is truly awesome to see things you have heard about in school. We did our best to see as many sights as possible in two days.

The beautiful city of Trier. This is the hauptmarkt aka where the oldest farmer's market is held as you can see.

The Porta Nigra-you can see where it gets it name. The stones get darker every year.

The Porta Nigra from the opposite side


This fountain monument was dedicated to the city of Trier by the local craftsmen. It was really cool with different scenes of occupations from musicians to butchers.

We made a visit to the birthplace of Karl Marx and learned all about his life which was quite interesting.

St. Peter's Dome and Church of our Lady-both World heritage sites. St. Peter's Dome is home to the Holy Tunic believed to be worn by Jesus when he died.

Roman bath aka Kaiserthermen- Built by Emperor Constantine, but actually never used. It was the third largest bathing complex in the Roman world.

The amazing view from the Mosel river. This is when I really love the views of Germany, it is such a beautiful country when it is warm.
The Roman bridge as you can see is still used today. Now that is some serious civil engineering.

The Roman amphitheater-I liked the idea of imagining Gladiators fighting in this ring (not that I like the thought of all the bloodshed because I don't), but that something like this actually existed



Our re-enactments- Justin kicking some ass like a Gladiator and me as a tiger coming out of a secret side door.

Statue of a wine boat that carried the harvest along the river.

More wine guys.............and one beer guy!

Huge, well-preserved mosaics from the area were on display at the archeological museum.  This one depicted a victorious chariot racer with his name and the name of his lead horse included in the middle.  Apparently this sport was even bigger than Nascar back in the day.  Shake and Bake!

Weinstube Kesselstatt - a nice lunch stop with local wine and great food also a suggestion from one of my English students.

Trier I have to say is a city that if you ever get the chance to see you should. 

Luxembourg

One full day was plenty to take in the sites of this unique city, established in 967 as a central European stronghold.  Ironically, it was controlled by several countries including the Spanish, Dutch, Italians, German, French, and just about everybody else - not such an effective job at keeping people out.

We were greeted by a gospel group in Luxembourg City as the climax event of the "Louisiana Food Festival" which featured euro-style cajun cuisine and gospel music

Luxembourg City is practically a fortress built into a hill with a deep valley surrounding it and sweet bridges stretching across the gap.

Casements built into the fortress on the left are also a UNESCO world heritage site.

Robert Schumann hails from Luxembourg and helped to establish the European Union - originally it was started after WWII to prevent countries from stockpiling war-making materials such as coal and steel.

A cool building, we think is the Court of Justice, in the EU quarters.

Luxembourg City stained glass interpretation in the train station.

Thanks to amazing weather it was an awesome three days of walking around in the sunshine and learning more about Europe.

If you want to see more pictures from our trip to Trier, Germany and Luxembourg click here

-Marisa (with some Justin thrown in)

Friday, May 21, 2010

One Year Older

As many of you might know I love birthdays and mine is no exception. Yesterday I celebrated my 27th birthday which means I have moved over into my late twenties. Don't worry I have no hang ups about getting older.  I just hope as I get older I have learned a few things, but also kept a child like spirit. I take after my mom in that I like to celebrate my birthday not just on the actual date, but throughout the month. I have to say the celebrations started early this year as I was given gifts from my mother in-law, sister and brother in-law and my mom and step-dad when I was home in April. Also on my trip back for my friend Lauren's wedding I had one night in Atlanta and my girl Melanie and her husband threw me a mini party with a few guests and some kick ass food. Mel's husband, Chris, is finishing up culinary school and he cooked up a Mexican feast that was to die for. The queso dip rocked my face off. It was an amazing night and I am so lucky to have such great friends.

Chef Chris working the kitchen

Kayce, me, Meredith and Mel. Thanks Mel and Chris for an awesome night and on a school night. Meredith thanks for the fabulous birthday cake!

My actual birthday was quite low key, but very fitting. I started the day by teaching a class and my supervisor did an observation. The observation rocked and so the day was starting off right. From there I met up with my friend, Katy, and met a new friend, Grace. Grace is friends with Katy and also got a job at my language school. So the three of us now work together and get to tell all our hilarious classroom stories to each other. It is funny how I referred Katy to the job and then Katy referred Grace to the job. We know a good thing when we see it.

After lunch I had the later afternoon free so what better to do than take a nap. I mean it is my birthday and I love naps, great combo.  Justin came home around 6 bearing gifts!!!! We started with a birthday beer then proceeded to open presents.

Justin even got birthday wrapping paper! Love him!

A new umbrella! I know this might seem lame, but it has been raining a ton here and my umbrella was cheap and broken. Love the color!

I wanted you to feel like you were right there with me opening presents. Justin took some great reaction photos.

This is a really cute present because it is the signature pottery and painting style of Frankfurt.

It has our neighborhood written on it, Bornheim.

Last but not least.

A teapot set. I was served tea in Vienna using one of these things and I said I would love one. Well Justin found one in Frankfurt and it rocks! I used it this morning and it was very enjoyable.

Justin was very generous this year and also got me an online photography class that starts in June. Here is the link if you are interested. I am excited to actually learn how to use our camera on manual finally. 

After present opening we enjoyed a dinner of all locally/organic food. It was a stew we like to make translated to Farmers stew, it was my requested birthday meal. It was amazing and then to top it off we rented a movie, Valentine's Day (thank you Justin for watching it with me, what a guy) and enjoyed my favorite pastry.

This pastry is so good. It has like vanilla pudding in the middle and a glaze over the top that is awesome.

Don't think the festivities stop there. We are headed out of town for the weekend and then next friday we are having a birthday dinner party at our neighborhood restaurant and our girl, Tanya, is hooking us up. The only thing missing from this birthday is a joint party with my BFF, Dave. We have the same birthday and for the past 4 years we have thrown a really fun party. Happy Birthday Dave wish I was there to celebrate with you! I always say your birthday is what you make it and I like to celebrate and I hope you do too!

-Marisa

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Checking out the Wieners

For Ascension Day break, which means a 4-day weekend for a national holiday, we flew down to Vienna, Austria to visit my friend Yu Nagai and to see the sights of this famous capital.  Yu is a fellow GT grad that I met on my study abroad in Germany some 7 years ago.  Since then he finished up at GT, then grabbed a Master's at a uni in Tokyo, and is now working on becoming Dr. Nagai at a university in Vienna.  It had been a really long time since I'd seen him and it was nice to see another familiar face on this continent.  He was an awesome host that opened up his student housing to us and helped us navigate the local transportation.  We were also happy to have him come along to see some of the sights in his own city.
Yu Nagai and me - one can imagine how much fun and confusion in conversation comes up when talking with or about this guy.  It was awesome hanging out with him after 7 years or so and we really appreciate his different world view and his world travels.

On our first day we trekked out to the Schoenbrunn Palace, which was an enormous palace of the famous Habsburg Dynasty.  Now I didn't know much about the Habsburgs before this trip, and now I understand that they ruled for 6 centuries in many parts of Europe, including Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, northern Italy, and Spain - these guys got around.  Their family included some famous names such as Marie Antoinette who would later be beheaded in France, Franz Ferdinand who would be assassinated to start WWI, and Napoleon even married into this family after defeating the Habsburgs.  This palace featured over 1400 rooms and an amazing collection of gardens, and was most recently the home of Franz Josef and his wife Elizabeth (aka "Sisi") in the early 1900s. 

Schoenbrunn - the Summer palace

Wicked fountain in the surrounding parks of Schoenbrunn

A better view from atop the Gloriette

The Habsburgs even thought to include a maze in their gardens......not quite as redneck as the corn mazes in Georgia

Lots of games to be found in this park (still at Schoenbrunn)

Moments before we had Yu race another Asian guy to the top - I was way too tired for another one (I know.....ironic that we had the asians do the gymnastics events and for the record, Yu was victorious)

View of the Neptune Fountain (below) and the Gloriette (above) from the palace

Also on day one we were able to make it down to the city center and enjoy a famous schnitzel from a restaurant, Figlmueller, that has been cranking them out since 1905 or so.  Now here's a clarification for my fellow American counterparts............Wiener Schnitzel is not a sausage and it's not even a German food.  Wiener schnitzel is a large, flat, pan-fried piece of veal or pork.  It's called "Wiener" because it comes from Vienna, which is called Wien in the German language.  So, the Wiener schnitzel just means that its the pan fried pork usually served with a slice of lemon.  Fast food chains like "Wienerschnitzel" do you an injustice by making you think that wiener schnitzel is a hot dog or something - see for yourself the photographic evidence below.
Wiener Schnitzel - definitely not a sausage and definitely bigger than my dead serious face

On day two we used our handy dandy Rick Steve's "Best of Europe 2010" guide to take a self-guided city tour, including all of the following sites:
"The Gates of Violence" - part of the Monument Against War and Fascism; this part remembers victims of all wars and violence with wartime images on all sides; the entire monument serves as a reminder to keep our governments in check, since they came under Nazi rule from 1938-1945

Stephansdom at the center of Vienna

Inside the dom;  while not directly bombed during the war, the roof tragically caught fire from a nearby bombing and collapsed; the stained glass at the center was all removed by locals before the city was attacked and was thus preserved - the stained glass around the perimeter, however, all blew out during the fire when the roof collapsed

Holy Trinity plague column - erected by Emperor Leopold I in memory of the 75,000 Viennese people that died from the bubonic plague in 1679; Leopold prayed on his knees in public (in middle of statue) for the city to be spared and it was, so the bottom shows the Lady Faith casting an old naked lady (the plague) into an abyss

For lunch we checked out the Naschmarkt, which is a huge farmer's market/bazaar that had a little of everything, but mostly food.  Then we made it to the Kunsthistorisches Museum (art history museum) which was huge and included an interesting variety of Egyptian and Greek artifacts, as well as paintings from Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Flemish painters.  It was quite and undertaking for the end of a long day, but we really enjoyed it.

"Theseus Clubbing the Centaur" in the main staircase of the Kunsthistoriches Museum

Of course no trip to Vienna would be complete without a sampling of the original Sacher Torte cake at Cafe Sacher - sorry, we ate the cake too fast to take a picture of it.  It's basically a chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jelly in between layers with a hard chocolate shell on the outside.  It was good, but not sure that it lived up to all of the hype.  I mean Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker put together some nice stuff in a box too.
Moments after savoring the delightfully plain Sacher Torte (chocolate cake)

On our final day in Vienna, we found the elusive Mozart statue and visited the Habsburg's Treasury which was a real hit.  It was a quaint little museum that contained loads of regalia and jewels and gold and well-preserved dress from the Holy Roman Empire.  They also had some embroidery work with gold and silver thread that was made to look like a painting - unbelievable craftsmanship.  On the weirder side of things, they had a lot of religious artifacts and ornate glass vessels that claimed to contain splinters from Christ's cross, thorns from Christ's crown, the nail that was driven through his right wrist, and one of John the Baptist's teeth.  I'm not sure how they came across these things or why they claim they are what they are, but it definitely was skeptical at the very least.

crown of Rudolf II (1602); this was the adopted crown of the Austrian empire which was established in 1806 when Napoleon defeated the Holy Roman Empire

freakin' huge emerald (Marisa's birthstone) that was worked into a vessel

Apparently this is the nail that was forced through Christ's right wrist (take it or leave it)

15th century royal vestments, woven with gold and silver thread - be impressed by the detail

One of the world famous Lipizzaner Stallions - they supposedly jump up on two legs and do lots of sweet kick flips and roundhouses to the face, but we just saw them walk normally across their courtyard and to into their stables to eat hay and take craps like every other horse does

Mozart statue - pretty popular attraction

Randomly, we ran into the Kentucky women's volleyball team who were doing a European exhibition tour and happened to be in Vienna for a few hours while were were there.  We were able to chat for a minute with one of Marisa's former teammates, Lindsay Gray who coaches at UK now, and Sara who Marisa met at Lauren Sauer's wedding a few weeks ago.  We knew that they'd be in Vienna, but we didn't really think that we'd run into them without cell phones and whatnot - but it did help that most of the girls were all wearing royal blue and stood over 6' tall.

It's great to see familiar faces in foreign places

Later that day we ventured out to see Austria's answer to our Frank Lloyd Wright - Friedensreich Hundertwasser.  This guy is an environmentalist that can't stand conformity and straight lines, so he tries to design buildings that stand out against the norm and have loads of character.  It reminded me of Gaudy's work in Barcelona.  Hundertwasser has designed a few places in Austria, but has also shared his style with buildings literally all over the world.  He's an interesting character to look up if you like wacky architecture.
Hundertwasser Museum

Hundertwasserhaus - lucky people actually get to live here

Our last taste of Vienna included a trip outside of the city to a Heutiger, which is a strong part of Viennese culture.  Wine is pretty popular in this part of Austria, so many of the wine-making families have family run buffet restaurants.  All of the wine on the menu is made by the family, as well as the food which is self-served.  This seems to be a family event where large groups of people sit together at big tables and stay as long as they like.  We enjoyed the evening with Yu and a couple other Japanese friends.
Trying to get acclimated to wine before traveling to Italy this Summer; at 1 Euro per glass, I was definitely impressed (not sure if you can buy Boone's Farm that cheap)

Our company at the Heutiger - we learned all kinds of stuff about Japanese culture; for example, it is tradition for others at the table to keep your glass filled so you're supposed to always be looking out for everyone else - an easy way to get past your limit in a hurry

All in all, a fantastic trip and a great start to our Spring/Summer traveling spree.  Vienna, or Wien, is a beautiful city that is small enough to see in a few days with a rich heritage of royalty and the arts.  While it once was a dominant force in Europe, after being on the losing end of two World Wars, it has been reduced to a quiet and charming European capital.  I'd definitely recommend it to anyone, although if coming from the States one would want to line up at least one other stop on the trip.
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