Thursday, December 29, 2011


One of our favorite German staples is Glühwein. Served only in the winter (it replaces local wine at the stands at festivals and markets), Glühwein is the German way of staying warm outside AND getting buzzed...which they do... virtually everyday (they are ALWAYS outside and ALWAYS drinking!). We drank our fair share at the Christmas Markets, but during a local Kasel festival, saw Svenja (one of the local wine maker's daughter) make it, so we decided to give it a go. We asked Svenja to ask her Dad for the recipe which he only kept 'in his head,' but wound up making a recipe we found online (the Germans measure a bit differently). It turned out DELICIOUS. Better than the Glühwein you buy at the Christmas Markets - much better in fact! Having Glühwein at Halloween/pumpkin carving weekend, Christmas, and New Years will become a tradition of ours, whether we're in Germany or the States.

A's first attempt at Glühwein - delicious! We've been hooked ever since!

Cute little Swiss stand at the Luxembourg Christmas market

Luxembourg's Christmas Market Boot

the start of the cute little Glühwein mugs from Christmas Markets we've visited. But we forgot to get on in Brussels, Bratislava, Munich, and Bernkastel! Oh well, a mini collection!

Glühwein Recipe:

1 Bottle of Wine
3/4c Water
3/4c Sugar
1t Ground Cinnamon
3/4t Ground Cloves
Juice of 2 Clementines or 1 orange

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Porta Nigra

WE LOVE TRIER. Just love it. And with cities we love, we keep our eyes peeled for related art to purchase. We have a few of Blacksburg, Venice, Prague, Rovinj, etc. Trier is even more special to us because we've lived here for 3 years, so we have been looking at art portrying Trier.. for the whole three years... with no luck. Yes, there are a few pictures we've found, but nothing awesome, nothing that we were so in love with we had to buy. So on Christmas Day, we went into the city to take a picture of the most photographed thing in the city - Porta Nigra - with the idea that I would play with it in photo shop, try to make it more artsy, not just straight photo. Here is what we came up with that we liked... thinking of framing them and matting them in black or white, or both... And now I'm thinking we could take a few more pictures around town, the walkplatz, and the Kaiserthermen (more Roman ruins) and do the same sort of thing, place them in a 3-framer, or something like that..

Monday, December 26, 2011

Weihnachten 2011

Well, I must first start by saying I am SO thankful A was home this year to celebrate the Christmas... and Thanksgiving... and New Years.. and our birthdays.. and just here! WOO!

This year, the Christmas season started with our live, little Charlie Brown Christmas tree. We got him at a German nursery and plan on planting him in a few days... and hopefully this year Axel won't cut it down like in 2009! Then we made a gingerbread house... home - made... no kit! Yes, that was some architectural talent. And then Christmas took the back seat while Jesse and Shannon visited and we traveled to St. Anton and Brussels and day trips around the area. But on the 22nd, the holiday picked back up again with lots of Christmas baking and music!

On Christmas Eve, we made Snickerdoodles (which are now gone!), sweet potato black bean enchilladas (which were AMAZING - we both gave them a 10), and skyped with the Rapaljes (at 11pm!).

Yesterday, Christmas day, we woke up and opened our stockings! Then we made homemade blackberry jam and blackberry pastries for breakfast. We got to Skype with Brett, Ali, my Mom, and Shea while they opened their presents! Then we opened the rest of our presents and started the baking for Christmas dinner. Matt decided on a Christmas Market themed dinner so we had Reibekuchen, Mushrooms with Garlic Cream Sauce, Brats, Kasewurst, Red Cabbage, Sweet Potato Casserole (not German!), Rosemary Potatoes, and Pecan Pie - only missing the Pommes Frites mit mayo! After everything was almost ready, we headed into the city to take a few pictures. We have been on the hunt for a picture of the Porta Niga, but have not found one we like yet. A had the brilliant idea that the city might be dead (he was half right) and we could take our own to play with. So we took the dogs down and did just that. I took a ton of the Porta Nigra alone and a few of all 4 of us... wearing Virginia Tech gear, of course, which we would NOT sport on a busy Trier day! After, it was time for everyone to come over. Micael and Matt (of course) were over, as well as Joenan and her two daughters, and Jill, for a bit. We wish Mark could have come too, but he's in Afghanistan right now :( We ate, and talked, and ate, and drank, and ate and ate some more! The dinner was delicious (very German, lots of potatoes!) and the company divine. All in all a great Christmas. We will very much miss Germany's amazing Christmas season next year. Frohe Weihnachten!

A's Christmas purchases to decorate the porch!

Charlie Brown style Weihnacht Baum

Bos & Riva laying on their Christmas presents

Gingerbread House

Porta Nigra, practically deserted. I plan on playing with this one.

Porta Nigra pic

Taking advantage of the (almost) empty city to take a family picture.. in our 'WE ARE AMERICANS!' clothes

Joenan modeling her Afghan wear, sent from Kabul. We wish Mark would have been able to come!

the home-made Gluhwein master himself

w/ the Krautheim girls

the Group on Christmas

Eating the delicious Christmas Market themed Christmas dinner

Saturday, December 24, 2011

St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria

Ski Break for lunch & drinks

Perfect combo of snow & sun

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Scherf Vineyard Wine Tasting, Kasel

Living in Kasel and the middle of German Riesling country, A and I have become quite the white wine snobs. Before living here, we only drank red. Oh how things change. Kasel itself has almost 10 wineries. The surrounding area, Ruwer, has many more. My favorite however, and I am slightly bias, is the Scherf Vineyard. . It is one street over, run by the nicest family, the Scherfs. Svenja, their youngest daughter, has spent a great deal of time at our house since we've lived here and she watches the dogs when we travel. I walk over about once a week to buy our supply for that week. Remember, riesling is the German water. Never, have a I had a bad bottle, but I typically buy the same two wines. Since we have company these 2 weeks, I decided a formal wine tasting at the Scherfs would be fun and we could try some of the other wines!

Well, I have been to my fair share of wine tastings and this, hands down, was the BEST, and NOT because I just love the Scherfs! Ehrard, Svenja's dad, the wine maker, sat down and drank every glass with us. Explained every glass to us. Answered ALL the millions of questions we asked. Explained all the processes of wine making for a small wine maker (27,000 bottles/year) like himself. We have been to big tastings and heard how they make the wine, but a small wine maker is different and it was so interesting to learn about. The awesome bread, crackers, fruit, and cheese platter prepared by Frau Scherf of course helped!

We were originallly planning on tasting 6... then 10.. and in the end, we tasted 15. Is that because we asked for 15? No. It was because Herr Scherf was having fun and kept wanting us to try more! And we were having just as much fun, so we of course complied! At the end of the night, (6 hours later) he shared how much he really appreciates when people care about the process, ask questions, etc, which is exactly how our night went. We also got to hear about his old army days, in the 1950s, as a tank driver! I thought Germans couldn't tell jokes, but I was wrong! The whole gang purchased wine from him as well, so I think the evening paid for him :)

After, we planned on going to another tasting down the hill, but because our time ran over with the Scherfs, we skipped it and just had dinner instead. 9 of us headed to Paulinerhof and after all that cheese, really didn't need dinner, but ate anyways of course! To top it all off, we headed back to our place, had birthday brownies for Shannon, played games all night, and had a big sleepover at our house.. you know, the typical Rapalje weekend (when we aren't traveling, that is!).

Gosh, thinking about how much fun we had just makes me even more sad to move. Can't wait til we move back to Germany!!

Us with Ehrard, the MAN!

The most amazing cheese platter prepped by Frau Scherf. Gosh, I will really miss the awesome and affordable cheese Europe has to offer.

Our neighbors.. and dinner mates many nights of the week.

2 of my 3 favorite Germans! Jill and Svenja. Svenja helped with the tasting. She served the wine and helped her Dad with English when he got stuck. After, we went down the hill to this awesome restaurant in Kasel, Pauliner Hof, for dinner and more wine. The girls came with us! What a fun, fun night!

Monday, December 12, 2011

St. Anton, Austria Bound

It seems I have a lot of catching up to do, Vienna, Hallstatt, and I think a few other places... but, that won't be happening this week! We are heading to St. Anton with Jesse and Shannon to go skiing!! I'm picking them up from Luxembourg now!! SO excited! We will also be going to Brussels for the night for a delicious dinner and to see the Christmas Market, Burgundy, France, to go wine tasting for a night, and hitting all the cute little local towns who have Christmas Markets! Hope everyone is having a good December!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hast du Gut Geschlaft?!

Not at all related to traveling, but aren't they cute?!

Riva, always has to be touching Bos while she sleeps

Cuties. even if i am biased.

Car ride to Switzerland

Riva.. attempting to get comfy in the car.. her least fav place in the world

cuddle buddies. Boston never wants anything to do with it, but eventually gives in because Riva is so persistent!

hmm..i wonder...

... who does Riva get it from?!

spoiled rotten!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Barcelona, Spain: A Travel Recommendation

Let me just start by saying, Barcelona is NOT my favorite city. I went in college for SB one year and it just did not live up to the high expectations I had for it. It is ALWAYS on the list of places to see in the upcoming here, top destinations in Europe, etc etc. Why?! There are SO many other nicer cities in Europe - cleaner, with more to do, and more to see. Yes, it was a GREAT vacation for Winter - trading 35F and raining for 65F and sunny is an obvious win. But NEVER would I go in the summer and never would I recommend or choose to visit Barcelona out of ALL the other glorious cities in Europe. That being said, my travel recommendation is probably a bit skewed.

We stayed at Villa Emilia which was great. It was near Plaza Espanya, right by a metro, with lots of restaurants in the near. The hotel itself was very nice and not expensive. It was a metro to the main sights, but the metro system in Barcelona is easy, efficient, and great, so that was absolutely no problem.

Again, I would visit only in the Fall, early Winter, or Spring. NOT in the major heat. Visiting a big city in the heat is miserable. While Barcelona has a 'beach,' you do not want to go to that 'beach.' It is small, dirty, and crowded. No one goes to Barcelona for the beach.

Things to see in Barcelona include Parc Guell (a walk from green line stop Lesseps), Gaudi House, Olympic Hill, walk around the Port, Picasso Museum, La Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas, eat tapas (although you can do this in most Spanish cities), eat Iberian ham, and see an FCB game if in season. There is also an IMAX and Aquarium, but I don't travel to see those sorts of things, so I have not been! The Football Club Barcelona game was fun. The stadium is HUGE and the players are great. However, the fans were not what we were expecting. After going to an FCK game, who's talent pales in comparison and seeing HOW INTO the game the fans were, I expected more out of the FCB fans. They did not scream, chant, cheer, hold scarves, or light fires like the fans of FCK. I'm glad we went, but one game was enough. Las Ramblas is also not all that the Spanish claim it is. We have visited so many other cities with nice walking area/strips/walking platz etc lined with cafes, restaurants, and shops. Parc Guell and Sagrada Familia are definitely my favorite two things there. Everything else, I could skip.

So, from the above information it sounds like I HATE Barcelona. And I don't. But I definitely think it gets WAY more recognition than it deserves. I have been to many other cities in Europe, or even Spain, that I would recommend in a SECOND over Barcelona. That being said, we did have a great weekend there. The weather was ABSOLUTELY perfect, a great break from freezing cold Germany. A had the 'best day of his life.' We ate some fabulous food, lounged around, and soaked up the sun. It was not busy with sight seeing since there aren't that many sights - just a relaxing quick weekend getaway.

As for upcoming trips, we are sticking around this weekend, maybe heading up to Landstuhl to babysit my three favorite girls. Jesse and Shannon come to vist on MONDAY! WIth them, we are heading to St. Anton to ski, Brussels to sight see, Burgundy to wine tasting, and of course all the local hot spots we love :)

Football Club Barcelona!

FCB game!

Plaza near Las Ramblas


A at the Port

The Port at Sunset

La Sagrada Familia - Gaudi's masterpiece, still being constructed

La Sagrada Familia - Gaudi's working masterpiece

Parc Guell

Parc Guell

Parc Guell

Parc Guell

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A week of non-traditional Thanksgivings!

Thanksgiving in Germany is not Thanksgiving, but I'm certainly not complaining. As you well know, our plans got disrupted and we spent Thanksgiving in Munich, Hallstatt, Vienna, and Bratislava.. but the actual day of Thanksgiving in Hallstatt. Before we left however, we had an almost traditional Thanksgiving meal with friends, which was nice and as tradition insists, a food-coma level of filling. On the actual day of Thanksgiving, we decided to have a big, nice meal, but not turkey, that's Christmas food in these parts. It was a very nice meal and we actually had another American couple sitting behind us doing the same thing! The food was good, however, the food that followed in Vienna was MUCH better. Who knew Vienna was such a foody place?!

An early, slightly more traditional Thanksgiving with friends, which consisted of cream corn casserole, green bean casserole, rolls, sweet potato casserole, apple pie, and roast chicken (for everyone but me), no turkey here!

...followed by a riveting game of Global Domination!

Welcome to Germany! Carb loading the night before - not a good idea. Pretzels, Beer, and Pommes - the German diet!

Carb loading at Breakfast - Cheese Pretzel, Chocolate Croissant, and Coffee. I am REALLY going to miss these cheese pretzels. They are my very favorite snack here!

Earlier in the day, A had a local brew (of course) while I had...


Not just any coffee, the famous Mozart coffee - Fresh cream, coffee, hazelnut liquor, and chocolate milk served with a piece of marzipan chocolate. oh man oh man!

A toast to an untraditional Thanksgiving - Pomegranate infused Prosecco and Mango infused Prosecco - DELICIOUS. Dinner at our hotel in Hallstatt - Seehotel Gruner Baum.

I have no idea what kind of fish this was, but it was delicious

Filet over Rosemary Potato Cake

Not Turkey

* Not sure why I stuck with iPhone photos instead of the camera... if I'd taken real photos, you may be hungry now!