Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Toddler Adorbs

I saw this article on Yahoo! and the video is totally adorable.  

"While retiring defender Paulo Ferreira spoke to the Stamford Bridge crowd after Chelsea's final match of the season, backup goalkeeper Ross Turnbull's two-year-old son Josh became one of the highlights of the year. Wearing his full kit, Josh dribbled a ball towards goal all by himself. He stumbled on top of the ball at one point, but continued on as the crowd urged him to shoot. When the ball finally passed the goal line, a cheer erupted and after a brief hesitation, Josh turned back toward the players and their families in the center of the pitch and raised his arms in triumph."



Sunday, May 19, 2013

Strawberries

Pippa has had strawberries before, but this is the first time we took photos of her eating some.  Usually, I am not a fan of photos of messy babies eating.  However, I feel like this mess isn't extreme and Pippa is a pretty funny girl.

She starts by crushing the strawberry in her hand to make sure it is dead.  When she sees the strawberry bleed she knows it is safe to eat.


She then looks to me or T for verification that the strawberry is, indeed, dead.

The first bite of each strawberry is huge.

She tries to fit it all in her mouth at once or it might escape.

Oh, no!  This one might not be all the way dead!

(These two faces crack us up.  She makes them every time she eats, even if it is something we know she likes.)

She is not amused that T and I mislead her about the dead / alive status of the strawberry.

But all is forgiven when we offer a new strawberry.

Bring that good stuff here!  It's lip smacking good!


And one from the strawberry clean up.
 I brought T two washcloths for the bath and dropped one on Pippa's head.  It stayed there all of bath time until it was time to wash her hair.  I'm not sure if she didn't notice it all or if she was practicing keeping her head up like a princess.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau aka some pretty castles

Because T had the day off, on May Day we took a day trip to Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau.  I know we haven't done many touristy things around Munich yet, but I'm pretty sure that even when we have these two castles will still be near the top of our favorites list.  Besides being gorgeous these castles are only a two hour drive from Munich!

Prepare yourself for a bazillion photos and a recap of our entire day.  I am terrible at narrowing photos down, so you get all of them. If you don't want to look at all of them here are the two money shots (albiet without any of our cute faces):


Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles are only about 1.5 kilometers apart.  Neuschwanstein was built by Ludwig II in 1868 just across the gorge from Hohenschwangau, which was built by Ludwig II's father in 1837.

Neuschwanstein is the castle on which Walt Disney based Sleeping Beauty's castle (both in the film and at Disneyland).  So you know it's going to look pretty good in person.  It did not disappoint.

It was only a two hour drive, but it got rural fast.  We knew we were right by the mountains, but it was so foggy, only the base was visible.


A quaint Bavarian town.  Germany is VERY green right now.  It's also green in the tree hugger sense - check out those solar panels.

The forest gets so dark and dense so fast.  No wonder the Grimm Brothers wrote creepy stories about things in those woods!

View out of the car on the left as we approach (Neuschwanstein in the middle right of the photo, just beneath the fog).  We were very hopeful that the fog would burn off and later in the day it did.

View out of the car on the right (Hohenschwangau) as we approach.  Yes, those are THE Alps in the background.  After living for two months in a city where we supposedly can see The Alps on a clear day and not ever seeing them, we finally saw The Alps.  Ta-Da!

Pro Tip: (HA! Like we are pros at anything in Germany!)  Drive all the way into the little village.  There are four parking lots and the closest parking lot for walking to the castles is the furthest in - once the road turns to pedestrians only the parking lot is to the right.  This is the view of Hohenschwangau from the parking lot.


Looking the opposite direction:


We left the stoller in the car and just used the Becco Gemini baby carrier all day.  You could push a stroller up those hills, but strollers aren't allowed in the castles.  It was just easier all around to carry Pippa.

Just past the parking lot in a biergarten there was a traditional Bavarian Band playing some tunes.

We headed down to the info center to get tickets.  Looking around is free, but to go inside the castles requires a paid timed ticked for a guided tour.  (Tours are in German, English, or audio tour in 11 other languages.)  T got in line and I hung out with Pippa on the grass.  I'm glad we got there when we did (around 10 am) because the line doubled in size just minutes after T got in it.

Pro Tip:  For an extra fee you can buy your tickets in advance online.  We didn't do this because we bought a Castles of Bavaria membership in Munich while visiting the Residenz and weren't sure if the online system would accept our membership number so we wouldn't have to pay the ticket fee.  (P.S. the Castles of Bavaria membership includes Neuschwanstein but not Hohenschwangau.  No clue why they are not both included.)

Another Pro Tip:  Make sure you have at least two hours between your tour times.  Each tour is about 30 minutes, but you'll want to take photos, then you have to walk down from one castle and up to the other castle and it takes time.  Our tours were exactly two hours apart and we missed our second tour (by seconds! they had just closed the gate when we were 10 steps away) but they were nice enough to let us join the next tour - even though it was given in German.

After T got our tickets we saw that we had about 1.5 hours before our tour of Hohenschwangau so we visited the tourist shops, bought a few things, then headed back to the car so I could feed Pippa in peace.  Not so much for modesty reasons, but more because it's just calmer that way and she's not distracted.

We ditched our jackets in the car because it had warmed up.  I'm so glad I remembered to bring a hat for Pippa!  Here we are about to start the 15 minute climb up to Hohenschwangau.  You can pay to take a carriage ride up, but wasn't too steep and the whole thing was wide and paved so we walked.

And we're walking, we're walking...

Pippa really loves to stick out her tongue lately.

Self photos are how we roll.  But I think we are going to have to start asking other people to take photos of the three of us because self photos are a lot harder when Pippa's head is lower than ours while she's in the carrier.

The first of many sets of stairs on this trip.

At Hohenschwangau with Neuschwanstein in the background.


It blows my mind that people were still building castles after the American Revolution.


Pro Tip:  Don't be late to your tour.  If you are late, you don't get in.  Then you have to hike back to the ticket office and hope that the rest of the tours for the day haven't sold out.

Photos weren't allowed inside the castles.  I was going to link to some interior photos of Hohenschwangau that I found on the web, but there aren't many.  Even the Hohenschwangau website doesn't have any photos of the interior!

The tour was about 30 minutes long and was pretty interesting.  There were a few flights of stairs to climb inside.  T got Pippa to fall asleep in the carrier during the tour.  He faced her in, gave her a finger to suck on, and I tossed a light blanket over them to keep Pippa from getting too distracted by her surroundings.

After the tour ended we took a few more photos of the exterior then headed back to the center of town to catch a carriage ride up to Neuschwanstein.




We went down a different way than we went up and there was a nice look out over Alpsee.  Too bad these other tourists are in this gorgeous photo.

Tyler checks out the Alps.


So to get from the center of town to Neuschwanstein there are a few options as seen on the map:

1) A 40 minute walk.  It's pretty steep and long, but the path is wide and paved.
2) Pay €1.50 for a bus ride then walk down hill 15 minutes to the castle.  (The bus drops you off by Marienbrüke - Mary's Bridge - which is the place to get the best photo.)
3) Pay €6 for a carriage ride up then walk uphill 15 minutes.

We decided to go for the carriage ride because I've never been on a carriage ride and we had no desire to do a steep climb with a baby strapped to one of us.  It was already hot, I can only imagine how sweaty baby and I would be at the end of that climb!  We had a misunderstanding about the bus.  I thought after the bus dropped you off you had to cross Marienbrüke to get to the castle.  We had seen photos of Marienbrüke and it is narrow and extremely high.  Just look at the photo we took of the bridge from Neuschwanstein and I think you'll understand:

Sometimes T doesn't do so well with heights and he didn't feel comfortable taking baby (or having me take baby) across the bridge so I thought our only options were to walk up or take the carriage.  So we waited in line for a carriage.  The line was moving so slowly and we were very nervous that we wouldn't make it up in time for our tour.  

There were huge groups of Asian tourists in line on either side of us.  They were looking at baby Pippa (can you blame them?), but when we pulled her out of the carrier to turn her around the Asian tourists went nuts taking photos of her.  Seriously, it was like a feeding frenzy.  One person took a photo then all of a sudden we were surrounded by at least 20 others trying to get Pippa to look at them to take a photo.  This is what is must feel like to be famous and be surrounded by the paparazzi.  I was trying to hold in laughing because the whole situation was quite ridiculous.  T even got pushed out of the way by an older woman trying to take Pippa's photo.     

(This only shows about 1/3 of the people.  They had seriously formed a perfectly tight semicircle around us.)

This is not the first time Asian tourists have taken Pippa's photo in Germany.  It happend twice on the subway in Berlin and once in Marienplatz in Munich.  I wonder if they think she is a little German baby.  I also wonder if the tourists get home see a picture they took of her and think, "Wow.  That is a really great photo of a baby I don't know.  I'm going to keep it forever."  But maybe they do.  They do seem to think babies are very special - maybe they were from China where you can only have one child, so each baby is VERY special.

Anyway, we finally got on the carriage and we had the slowest set of horses ever.  I know it must be hard to haul 12 people in a cart up a steep hill, but they were so slow that we were caught from behind by another carriage.  By the time we got to the drop off point it was five minutes until our tour and the map said it was a 15 minute walk very much up hill to Neuschwanstein.  T was wearing Pippa and we ran up the hill.  We were so out of breath when we got to the tour entrance.  The number for our tour was still up and right as we entered the lane they closed the tour.  We were literally 10 steps away when they closed the rope.   Luckily, the man was extremely nice and allowed us to join the German speaking tour that had started entering.

I was so tired and thirsty and shakey when we got into Neuschwanstein.  We only brought one water bottle and quickly drank what was left.  The tour starts with climbing up two stories of stairs.  (During the tour it's a total of 165 steps up and 181 steps down.)  I was so glad that T, not me, was wearing Pippa because I was so shakey and I really don't think I could have carried her up those stairs.  We didn't understand what was being said, but just looking at the rooms was incredible.  We were the last people in our tour group and we noticed that the tour just behind us was in English.  Pippa was fussing, so T gave me to her in the carrier to feed.  That conveniently held us back and we joined the English tour for the last half.

If you are really looking to save money you can skip the interior / tour and just look around outside of Hohenschwangau but the tour and interiors at Neuschwanstein are not to be missed.  For just a taste here's a photo of the throne room (from here), though the photo doesn't do it anywhere near justice.


Pippa fell asleep while eating in the carrier.  On our way out of the castle on the second floor we saw a small sign for a "free multivision show."  Pippa was asleep and the castle was nice and cool (it was hot outside) so we decided to check it out.  The movie was only 15 minutes long and actually very interesting (and understandable because there were English subtitles).  It showed the progression of the planning and execution of Neuschwanstein and also renderings of what didn't get finished.

Another awesome perk of checking out the movie is that down that small unremarkable hallway was this incredible view:
I know, right?!  It looks so beautiful and perfect it almost looks like a movie set!


Since we didn't have time to take photos of Neuschwanstein before our tour we took some after.

Yeah, we're really going to have to start asking people to take our photo.

It was really sunny and we didn't have any sunscreen for Pippa so we had to use the brochure that she chewed up to try to shade her on the walk back.

When my parents are here in the fall we'll take them to Neuschwanstien and then maybe we'll be able to get them to take some decent photos of the three of us (me, T, and Pippa) in front of the castle.  For now you get to see us split up.

We love this girl and her fabulous cheeks so much!

We have a lot of self photos that mostly show Pippa's hat.





After we took some photos around the castle we headed to Mary's Bridge.  The plan was that I would go out onto the bridge to take a photo of Neuschwanstein while T waited with baby on the path.  Then we would switch and T would see if he felt like he could handle going out on the bridge.  Then we would walk back to the castle and back down to the village.  Remember, at this point we thought to get to the bus we would have to cross Mary's Bridge from Neuschwanstein.



This isn't on Mary's Bridge, it's on part of the trail to Mary's Bridge.

Imagine my surprise when we got to the bridge and I realized you don't have to cross it to get to the bus!   T was surprised that I didn't know this - apparently HE did!  T thought I just really wanted to go on the carriage ride!

THIS is the view of Neuschwanstein from Mary's Bridge.

Quite impressive and very fairy tale like.  The view was just so beautiful I kept thinking, "How is this real life?!"


T and I did take turns waiting with baby while the other person went on the bridge.  The bridge was probably about three people shoulder to shoulder wide and did have a rails all the way up to chest height.  But you could definitely feel it shake a bit from everyone walking.  I was glad we didn't take baby on it, though I did see a woman with her baby in a front carrier on the bridge.

Pro Tip:  Here's how to do the least amount of uphill walking for Neuschwanstein:  Take the bus up for €1.50.  Walk up one short uphill segment (less than two minutes) to Mary's Bridge.  Take some photos.  Walk downhill 15 minutes all the way to the castle (well, there is one small uphill segment right at the castle).  Take a tour.  Walk partially down the path and catch a carriage ride back to the village for €4 or walk all the way down the path back to the village (35 minutes).

Pro Tip:  To do the least amount of total walking (and how we are going to do it next time):  Take the bus up for €1.50.  Walk up one short uphill segment (less than two minutes) to Mary's Bridge.  Take some photos.  Walk downhill 15 minutes all the way to the castle.  Take the tour.  Walk uphill 15 minutes back to the bus.  Take the bus back to the village for €1.00.

In the summer you will probably have to wait in a long line both directions to take the bus.  It's probably worth waiting for the bus for the way up (it's pretty steep), but if it's a nice day and you're not exhausted you might as well walk to back to the village from Neuschwanstein - you'll might even get back faster than if you had to wait for the bus.

P.S.  The road the bus takes is so narrow that only one bus can travel on it at a time.  So there really is only one bus and it just keeps making round trips.  It's probably a 20 minute wait while the bus makes one full loop.

We barely missed making the bus (they pack it extremely full and I didn't want to stand while holding baby) and had to wait for the next one.  We got on the next bus then headed straight to the car.  It had been a full day but we did everything we wanted to so we headed home.  (I'm really glad we visited the tourist shops first because by the time we got back to the village around 6 they were all closed.)

The view leaving:
So glad the fog burned off!

We stopped at Micky D's for dinner and I fed Pippa in the car while T went in and ordered for us.  On the drive back Pippa kept putting her feet on top of the seatbelt like this.  She eventually fell asleep this way.

So there you have it.  Our first Munich Day Trip.  Quite successful.