"One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Germany on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878." Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad



Although it appears that I have forgotten about this blogging business, that is far from the truth. I actually have tons of photos and anecdotes to share with you about the adventures with my family over the past week, but for the time being I am on a technology retreat. Our tiny apartment wouldn't hold all of us, so we are renting a large apartment in the Heidelberg Altstadt during their visit. The 17th century building has lots of quaint characteristics and an amazing view of the city, but there is no internet to be had within its walls. So here I am in this internet cafe, stealing away a few minutes to write this before we move on to another adventure. Hope you had a very merry christmas, and I will meet you here in the new year...


Church Poses

We went to our little English church for the service Sunday morning. Here are some pictures we snapped after the service.

the little family three

grandmother and granddaughter

the gals

chasing after teddy (a.k.a. smile inducer)

in front of the nativity altar

close up of the nativity scene (apparently the shephards were really German countrymen)


Zum Gerburtsag Viel Gluck

Or, as I prefer to say it, "Happy Brithday."

I had the pleasure of celebrating my 29th birthday with my mom in Heidelberg. She came all the way from Jakarta, Indonesia to celebrate with me. (Oh, and she came for Christmas and New Year's too).

'The father' gave me some local chocolate delicacies (you can never go wrong with chocolate!), and my mom brought me a nativity scene made from bamboo by a local artisan in Jakarta. (Like all people born close to Christmas, I tend to abhor mixing my birthday with Christmas, but I decided to let it slide this year because I immediately fell in love with this nativity scene.)

My favorite part is this animal. I think it is intended to be a lamb, but it resembles a wiener dog more than a sheep.

After opening presents we went for a walk along the Neckar River and enjoyed the newly fallen snow.

It was so cold (15 degrees F), that our feet were immediately numb and it even hurt to breath the frigid air. We tried our best to keep Penelope warm. If you look closely, you can almost see her beneath all the layers of clothes and blankets.

Trudge, trudge, shiver, shiver...

We then walked over to the Neuenheim Market. The stalls were covered in plastic to keep the produce from freezing. We bought some fruit and lettuce, but by the time we got home the lettuce was frozen solid.

Here we are 'kissing' under the mistletoe for sale.

After spending a few hours back at home defrosting our limbs, we ventured back into town for a Christmas carols sing-a-long concert at the Providenz Kirche (church). The words were in German of course, but we managed to follow along as best as we could from the song sheet and pretend like we knew what we were singing. We did at least get the chorus of "O Tannenbaum."

We snapped a few photos of the town all lit up for Christmas while walking to the church. Here is a view down the Hauptstrasse (main street/pedestrian walkway).

And the Christmas pyramid atop a Gluewein stand at the Christmas Market in the Marktplatz.

This was definitely the most unique and the coldest birthday I have celebrated yet.

(P.S. Thank you, Lindy, for the coat. I may look ridiculous, but it sure helps keep me warm!!!)


A Snowy Arrival

Bring on the holiday visitors!

Grandma arrived on the train today all the way from Jakarta, Indonesia. Penelope and I spent the afternoon at the train station waiting for her train to arrive. When we left for the station it was just starting to snow. By the time Grandma arrived the ground was covered in snow, and it was a bone-chilling 17 degrees F.

After all the waiting, Penelope's eyes lit up when she finally spotted Grandma coming off the train.

Penelope is used to seeing Grandma on the computer screen while Skyping, so she had to reach out and touch her to see if she was the real thing. Yep, 100% Grandma.

Grandma was pretty excited to see her granddaughter as well.

Then it was time to face the cold and snow. We couldn't help but stop for a mug of Gluewein to sip during the walk home.

Lebkuchen Creation

Christmas isn't Christmas here without Lebkuchen.

Lebkuchen is the original gingerbread. It's a little spicier than gingerbread as it contains a bit of pepper. The texture is a little different too--hard on the outside and spongy on the inside. It can come in different shapes and usually has almonds pressed on top.

The University Guesthouse, where we currently live, organized an afternoon of making and decorating gingerbread houses for the children. Penelope and I decided to try our hand at it. Let's just say that making a gingerbread house while entertaining a baby isn't the easiest thing I've ever done. Here's the pathetic result:

I intended to add a top to the house, but I ran out of patience. Penelope wasn't very impressed with the overall result either.

We did manage to heap on lots of candy--isn't that the point of making a gingerbread house anyway?

Let's just say that 30 seconds after this photo was taken there was no gingerbread house. Just a pile of candy pieces and cracker crumbs.


8 is Great

Penelope is 8 months today. Time sure flies when you're having fun! In honor of her eight great months of life, here are eight of her quirky characteristics:

1. Instead of crying like a normal baby does, she grunts with her mouth closed. It sounds something like a cross between a seal and a dying dog--very ladylike.

2. For the first several months of her life we were convinced she was going to be a thumbsucker. Now she wants nothing to do with her thumb and only cares about the pacifier. She has an uncanny ability to find them around the apartment. Just when we think we've hidden them from her, we turn around and she has another one in her mouth.

3. When she is tired, she tells you by head-butting you and then burying her head into your chest.

4. She will eat almost any food you give her--parsnips, cauliflower, prunes, you name it. And when she is full she tells you by spitting out the entire mouthful of food and smiling.

5. She can do amazing things with her tongue. As I documented in the October post "The Tongue", Penelope has an extrememly long tongue. Lately she has fingured out some new uses for this extra appendage of hers. She can use it to make an extremely loud clicking sound. And she can concentrate much better on what she is doing when she sticks her tongue out halfway. Yes, so very attractive.

6. She disovered her two bottom teeth. This has enabled her to break off pieces of crackers and rice cakes, which I have discovered buys me a few minutes to do something for myslef while she is preoccupied. Unfortunately this has also led to some very, very painful nursing sessions. And when I cry out in pain and say "NO!", she looks up at me and grins. The nerve!

7. She loves getting into her crib for nap time. I'm pretty sure this is because of her pacifier collection that lives there. When I set her down in the crib she immediately puts one in her mouth, grabs another for each hand and then smiles and claps them together with a look of pure glee on her face. She plays quietly with them for a few minutes in the dark and then conks out, still grasping a pacifier in each hand.

8. She can now say her first word: Dada. And even better, she finally made the connection between the word and the person! (This isn't exactly a 'quirk', but just me bragging what a very intelligent daughter I have.)


Bad Wimpfen

On Sunday we traveled with some friends to the picturesque town of Bad Wimpfen to visit their Christmas market. It's one of the oldest in Germany, in existence since medieval times. The town is about an hour trip down the Neckar River from Heidelberg.

Here is our gang: Kathleen (American studying at Heidelberg University), little Maarti, Nina and Juha (from Finland, Nina is also studying at the University), and me with Penelope. Plus the father on camera duty.

Bad Wimpfen is known for its half-timbered buildings, winding cobblestone streets and medieval fortifications. The town was of course decked out for the holidays. There were miniature fir trees mounted on most of the buildings and decorated stalls lining the streets selling local food and handmade items for purchase. The stall in the left of the picture was selling local honey and beeswax candles--hence the wicker 'beehive' atop the stall.

Very skinny half-timbered house.

The market keeps going and going...

The town church. Built in the 13th century, its interior is one of the most colorful we've seen. We're not sure, but we suspect that the frescos on the walls and ceiling had been recently restored. Two of the coolest things in the church are the Apostle's Creed that is painted line by line on each wall of the church with an accompanying apostle above it--for a touch of comedy the face of St. Phillip is the face of Martin Luther!

The other striking feature is the 14th century crucifix. First, it is one of the more graphic crucifixes with its exaggerated wounds and unrealistically gaunt and veiny Jesus. They also gave him real hair (still the original stuff!). But the best part are the moveable arms. With these you can take Jesus off the cross, lay him in a tomb, resurrect him, and then reenact the ascenscion. The ascenscion is the best part. They would actually run a rope through the ceiling of the church and lift Jesus through a specially designed opening at the top. This must have been high drama for the Middle Ages!

Christmas stalls below the church.

Funny old man advertising his "Punch and Judy" puppet show taking place that afternoon.

And off he goes with his gorilla

Crowded streets and mistletoe.

Baby, it's cold outside!!!

Penelope went on her first carousel ride.

The lights were a bit overwhelming for her.


Nina and Maarti tried it out too.


The chilly temperature gave us an excuse to keep the Gluewein flowing. Here is Kathleen trying out the Feuerzangenbowle (mulled wine with carmelized sugar and rum). Tasty!

Penelope felt the market was much better from this perspective.

Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas!

What really made this trip fun was the first snowfall of the year. There were huge snowflakes falling most of the day. Not much stuck, but it sure was pretty to look at. Unfortunately, the camera couldn't capture it, but if you look really close, you can see a snowflake or two!

Is that dandruff or snow in his hair?

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!


Rub a Dub Dub

Guess what time it is.....

That's right. It's BATH TIME!

Penelope still loves bath time just as much as ever, and she is still inseparable from her rubber duck, Gossie. But the latest development is that this little one is no longer afraid of the water hitting her face. In fact, she rather enjoys it.

See, look how proud she is of herself. "Hah, water! I laugh in the face of water!"

Now she's working on figuring out just where the water comes from.

She'll have to get back to you on that one....