Monday, September 29, 2008


sorry to report that the blog recap of europe is facing a brief postponement. i leave tomorrow for new york city.

am i excited? YES. this is my first time back to the city since my internship, so i'm pretty pumped to get back. not to mention i get to see one of my favorite girls on the planet.

am i feeling totally grossed out by the fact i have to get on a plane AGAIN? yes.

paris to frankfurt to los angeles to new york city in one week. what.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

more fun in munich

as mentioned, we spent our first munich dinner at the legendary hofbrauhaus. this place was everything i had hoped for in a bavarian beer hall -- big tables with long benches, huge mugs of german beer foaming all over the place, crazy foods and of course these guys:

back to the hofbrauhaus:

the atmosphere was perfect. brandon ordered a pig's knuckle (nasty...looked more like a shoulder or something) and he LOVED it. maybe a little too much.

it came with cabbage and a thing called knodel, which are very tasty german potato dumplings that i love.

i, on the other hand, wasn't exactly starving so i decided to try for the regional favorite: bread, meat and cheese plate. safe enough, right? especially because all of our hotels thus far had provided fantastic continental breakfasts for us -- which, for germans, consists of the following:

- hard rolls
- cheese -- usually swiss or provolone
- meat -- salami or ham
- pickles
- yogurt (ALL of their yogurt tastes like pinkberry. it was fantastic. apparently they use a whole lot of bacteria -- some varieties aren't even legal in the states!)
- various condiments including but not limited to butter, jelly, cheese spread and nutella (you KNOW i'm in the right country when they serve chocolate for breakfast!)
- occasionally eggs, bacon, sausage etc.

we had been big-time loving these breakfasts (even more so because i'd make an extra sandwich and stash it in my purse -- perfect second-breakfast snack later on!), and german meat and cheese just tastes SO much better than american, so i figured all would be well.

unfortunately i hadn't accounted for the fact that we were in bavaria and ended up with this nice little tray of mystery meats:

it consisted of weird-smelling cheeses, some spreadable meat, other slices of meat that had THINGS in them, and some grossly unidentifiable "black and white pudding" that was actually a meat. yuck. i stuck to the ham slices and bread with butter, and snuck bites of knodel when b wasn't looking.

we drank big mugs of apfelschorle, a nice hybrid drink containing half apple juice and half bubbly water. did i mention that water isn't free in germany? you always have to pay, and even then you usually get bubbly room-temperature water. i filled up my water bottle every morning in the hotel room and tried to stay hydrated (i'm used to drinking at least a gallon a day, according to b).

for dessert at the haus, we had authentic german apple streusel with warm vanilla sauce. HEAVEN! this picture's for you, mom:

and yes i know i talk about food all the time, but there was just so much to try and it was (mostly) so delicious! one more recap of one of my all-time favorite german treats:

i had heard about "spaghetti eis" since we got there and was dying to try it. "eis" is their word for gelato, and i am always intrigued by clever food items. so while in munich i got to finally try it.

looks like a plate of spaghetti, no? here's the deal: they squeeze vanilla gelato out of a press so it looks like spaghetti noodles, top it with raspberry fruit sauce and white chocolate shavings (to look like sauce and parmesan cheese) and give it to you on a plate. it was adorable and truly one of the best things i ate on our trip. HOW has this not caught on in the u.s. yet??

and lastly, we couldn't go all the way to germany without trying on lederhosen and dirndls! excuse the stealth-mode pictures (we were in the c&a dressing room, trying not to get kicked out for too much laughing) but here's a glimpse of how b & i would look as true germans. i WISH we could have brought these home but they were a little pricey for the souvenir budget...although they'd be perfect for halloween costumes for life!

cute, no? we had a blast in munich; it was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


finally we are back. i have never been SO excited to see my own kitchen, bathroom, bed, etc. everything is still standing and just as we left it (even with the mail on the table -- thanks mcmullins!!).

between a long long flight from germany (on lufthansa -- seriously, the best airline i have ever flown on. EVER. between the hot towels, gourmet in-flight meals, clean bathrooms, extensive entertainment options -- i'm almost ready to move to germany just to fly on them all the time) and a delayed flight from chicago, we finally got home at 2 a.m. this morning. i had one brief meltdown in chi town when the stupid flight attendants told me my bags were too big -- but hey, you would too if you'd been awake for 24 hours. (i tried hard to stay awake the whole flight from germany.)

happy to report that my ingenious system of double-packing our four boxes of cereal worked like a charm -- no stale cereal! you better believe i've been counting down the minutes for the past two hours until trader joe's opens, so i can run down there and get some milk. YAY cereal! i have missed you. (i also already ate some peanut butter right out of the jar...something else i missed way too much.)

the comp is back up and running, so hopefully later today the photo blogging will resume. that is, after i finish catching up on tv (PR, survivor AND the office??? i missed so much! and pushing daisies starts on wed.!!), watching football, painting my nails and a bunch of other things i have missed out on for the past two weeks.

i love pasadena and i am SO happy to be home!!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

back home in the states...

and another thing. i leave the country for two weeks and look what happens! a train crashes in simi valley, the credit market for the whole nation freezes, my poor cousin has to evacuate galveston indefinitely -- and dj am and travis barker get in a fiery plane crash???

i think you people need me to come home.

tired of traveling

so today is sunday and we have been homeless since 9 a.m.

we had to check out of our hotel this morning but are taking a night train to switzerland tonight, which doesnt leave until midnight. (for some reason i was really excited about taking a night train on our trip, but in retrospect it doesnt seem like the greatest idea anymore.)

now here i am, stuck in a city that has lost much of its tourist appeal after the completion of the (otherwise fanTASTIC!) sound of music tour, trying to stay warm and entertained for 15 hours without a hotel room to go back to.

we took some tours and had a long lunch and spent two hours holed up in burger king reading. later we will go to a ridiculously overpriced mozart dinner concert, partially to enjoy the authentic food and beautiful music but more so because it will give us something to do for three hours.

also i think i blew up my straightening iron. it didnt adapt well to european power, apparently, because it made funny noises every time i turned it on and then yesterday it started smoking and still smells like fire. also b's computer crashed this morning so no more wonderful trip pictures till we get back to the states. this means also that i have to succumb to paid-for european computers for the remainder of my trip, which still have y's where the z should be and vice versa and it is driving me CRAZY.

i think i am tired of traveling. after a while i just get bored with walking through museums and trying to navigate public transportation systems and wearing the same h&m sweater every day because it is freezing. and all i want is a reeses peanut butter cup but they do not combine chocolate and peanut butter ANYWHERE on this continent and it is making me crazy.

okay sorry for all the whining. this is truly an amazing trip and i am lucky to be here. i think i just need a nap. maybe ill head over to mcdonalds...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

munchen land

time to recap our visit to munich! we arrived on tuesday and had a great time. munich just feels like a cool city, or maybe thats because the people were dressed so was like walking through the sartorialist.

we had dinner the first night in the hofbrauhaus, the most famous beer hall in the world. watch out for a separate post with details on that!

day two was busy. we spent the morning at the deutsches museum, a huge collection (more than 10 km of displays) on everything technology. i learned all about air and sea travel, textiles, agriculture, trains, etc. etc. we saw the original german u-boat from wwI and learned how they blasted out tunnels for the speed trains. nothing like a museum to show you how LITTLE you know about the world.

from there we hopped a train to dachau, a surprisingly cute city home to the gruesome first nazi concentration camp. we signed in for our english-language tour and followed our cool british guide through all of the displays and memorials.

i have had a big interest in world war II from an early age, so i was pretty excited to see this place firsthand. i felt prepared going in that i knew what to expect, so i wasn't very shaken up by anything. it was, of course, disturbing to see up close the tiny barracks where they squeezed people together to sleep, the shower room where they tortured prisoners, the roll call square where everyone lined up each day to wait for their assignments. it left me pondering how humans can be so cruel and horrible to each other...especially when things somewhat like this still go on today.

we also visited the crematorium, a place i did NOT like at all. it was right next to the execution wall where prisoners were shot. definitely a bad aura around there...couldnt get away from it fast enough.

by the time our three-hour tour was over i was ready to go. dont get me wrong, it was all very interesting and educational, but im not really one for dwelling on depressing subjects for such a long time. im glad i went and im definitely affected by it, but i am happy to be alive and to move forward.

Friday, September 19, 2008


today we arrived to a sunny and WARM salzburg!! yes, that means tomorrow i will be taking part in a lifelong dream of the official sound of music tour.

cant. wait.

in the meantime i am typing this from a laundromat-internet cafe hybrid shop in a dirty mini mall. we are doing laundry and i was desperate for my gmail. i have exactly 14 minutes to finish this post and read all about baby vandermyde on my google reader before im shut down.

we are staying in a delightful farmhouse just outside the city, complete with cows, tons of green fields and a beautiful room (plus the cleanest bathroom ive seen yet in europe). unfortunately not complete due to lack of internet.

and while im whining, can i just say that europeans are wack. two things i thought were completely free to the human race -- water and peeing -- are two things that are CHARGED for here. and not just a little -- it costs more to order a glass of tap water than it does for a glass of oj. not to mention they then serve it to you in a shot glass. and ive had to pay twice to use the bathroom, both times which were totally disgusting. youd think the money would go to good use.

pray i find free wi fi soon :(

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

our only sunny germany day so far...

and just for are a few pictures of our sweet (free upgrade!) rental car:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Deutschland ueber alles!

This is Brandon making a cameo post. I felt the sudden urge at 11 pm to publish my thoughts and experiences of returning to the mission field that I left 5 years ago (wow, time flies). It's funny how all the good memories from past events stay with you and all the not-so-good ones seem to be locked away in your a memory archive where you can't retrieve them. Returning to the mission field in Frankfurt really opened the flood gates for my whole mission experience -- both the good and the bad.

First, almost everything looks the way I left it. I can still remember how to get to different places in the car without using a map (and enjoy doing so at 100+ mph on the Autobahn). I am mostly still fluent in the language and understand the culture. I love the people and their way of life especially the chocolate, doener kababs, apfelschorle, milk, knoedel and yogurt. :)

I wouldn't change anything about my mission experience, however, returning made me realize how glad I am to be back in the States. First off, it got very tiring to see Eurotrash-types everywhere we went. Seriously, this picture I found of the guy with the molester-stash and mullet is the "in" thing for most teenagers and young adults right now. Let's just hope it doesn't catch on in America. Also, I think I might come home with emphysema - I forgot how much EVERYONE here smokes. Everything stinks like cigarettes - the hotels, trains, streets, etc. And while we're on the topic of stinking, seriously guys, do we need to lower the price of deoderant so it can be a norm over here? I also forgot that Germans wouldn't know what customer service was if it slapped them in the face (except for the nice lady in the restaraunt on the train who gave us free chocolates after our lunch - bless you!). Lastly, I would die without college football - soccer just doesn't do it for me (and no, it doesn't matter to me that soccer is the most popular sport outside in the world, give me college football or give me death!).

Don't get me wrong, I'd like to think that I see more good than bad here and even though they practically had to drag me back home kicking and screaming after my two years were up, I'm glad I returned to my roots. I think as a missionary you are on such a spiritual high that you begin to view and love people the way God views and loves them (which is why maybe I didn't notice as much Euro-trash back then). Now I am just a normal American tourist - a spectator on the sidelines, if you will. I feel the urge to knock doors and do street contacting, but I know that there is a season for everthing, and that season has passed.

So far, this has been a great trip - a much needed trip to help me know that the people I came to know and love are still the wonderful, amazing and most interesting people that they were five years ago. In otherwords, I think I've been able to have"mission closure" - while creating lasting memories with my cute wife in the old stomping grounds.

visiting friends in frankfurt

one of the major motivators in planning this trip was the chance for brandon to revisit his motherland. he lived in frankfurt for two years while serving a mission for our church, and has loved the area and the people ever since.

on saturday, we drove to the blacoe's home in rothenberg. (does that not sound like a location from lord of the rings?)

bro. blacoe is from ireland so (luckily for me!!) he speaks perfect english. he is an amazing scholar...he's written books about the new euro system, various commentaries on the new testament, etc. etc. sis. blacoe grew up in germany but speaks great english as well. her family escaped eastern germany when she was only three years old. she is maybe the sweetest woman i have ever met.

they have three kids (only william is pictured here) and taught us all about delicious german chocolate milk that doesn't need to be refrigerated. brilliant! we also had taco soup for dinner the first night we were here (an "american recipe," sis. blacoe told me sheepishly :). brandon served in their ward for six months during his mission and got to be great friends with this family.

we stayed with them on saturday and sunday night, and went to the international frankfurt ward with them on sunday for church. elder robert c. oaks (the european area authority, for any fellow LDS nerds like me) is in their ward and sat right in front of me in sunday schule.

that night for dinner we went to altenstadt to visit the egidis. they were VERY welcoming, very hospitable...and very unable to speak english. seriously. we're talking not one word i could understand. (okay, i take that back. sis. egidi can say "i love you" in english.)

the egidis have two very cute boys, christophe and kai, and an older daughter elizabeth. we had homemade pizza and nussecken (my fave!) for dessert, but i just sat and smiled and nodded the whole time. kind of tough to stay interested in a conversation when you have no idea what is going on! i felt sort of isolated but tried to follow along the best i could. b translated for me once in a while but overall i just observed. brandon taught this family while he was in germany.

gotta give a special shout out to the nussecken...mmm. it's like a chocolate-almond pastry type thing that b got me hooked on in the states. even better when it's authentic!

and lastly, on monday we took the train to hagen to visit the gensters. simon genster is full-blooded german and was one of b's favorite mission companions. he and his great wife katrin live up north while they're finishing school.

that's us riding the bus to get more doners for dinner. this was also an opportunity for me to complete my quest for riding every possible mode of transportation on this trip (so far we've done plane, train, car, boat and bus...get me a motorcycle and i might be done). the gensters were great and let us stay in their lovely little flat one night.

we woke up to church bells ringing throughout the morning -- could europe be any more authentic? also, here's the view out their kitchen window; so pretty:

it has been so fun for me to see all of brandon's old stomping grounds and to meet all these kind people who mean so much to him. thanks to everyone for their amazing hospitality!

rhein river cruise

on saturday, we picked up our sweet skoda rental car and drove to the rhein river valley where we boarded a koln-dusseldorfer ferry. definitely the coolest way to experience this region, which is gorgeous of course. green hills terraced with vineyards, fog settling in over the castles (i saw at least five castles and we were only on the boat for an hour)...loved it.

we boarded in st. goar and floated down to bacharach. these little towns sit right on the river and are famous for their wine and tourist shops.

this part of the river has been a major trade artery for centuries, hence the castles built all along its banks to regulate shipments of goods.

we explored the little towns for a while. cobblestone streets, traditional fachwerk german architecture (thanks for teaching me the word for that, sam -- i had no idea it has a title!), fun little shops. and st. goar is home to the largest hanging cuckoo clock in the world, in case you were wondering.

did i mention it is FREEZING here?? so much for planning to come at a temperate time of year. i already had to take an emergency trip to h&m to get more sweaters; it is seriously frigid. have to give a shout out to b, who took most of the river pictures from out on the deck while i sat inside sipping hot chocolate by the window :)