Thursday, October 30, 2008

Viva Europa: Alps hiking

When the chick from “Sound of Music” sings about the hills being alive, she must have been looking at some other “hills” than we were because these things were HUGE! Way bigger than any “hill” I’ve seen! On our Alp hiking day, we left “home” before the sun came up (we even got to see the swans sleeping in the river!) and made the ten minute walk to the train station. We took a train to Lauterbrunnen, then a bus to Stechelberg, then finally a cable car up, up, up to a tiny town called Gimmelwald. The town had no cars, just wooden chalets with simple shingled roofs. It didn’t even have a grocery store. Just a simple life. But who needs anything beyond simplicity when you all the entertainment you could want is the panorama outside your front door? What a sight!

The snow-capped Alps jutted into the cloudless, blue sky while the other peaks, who lacked the altitude to receive snow just yet, lumbered below. The tall Alpine trees dusted the mountain face and seemed to be the only frame of reference to show just how big these mountains were. Truly breathtaking! We often found ourselves getting angry at our camera for not being able to accurately capture everything surrounding us. We could not, however, let our awe cease with what was in front of us but had to acknowledge the beauty and the creativity of the God who created it all. I once heard someone say that we don’t go to the Grand Canyon to feel good about ourselves but to be in awe of true beauty entirely external from self. As we sat in admiration of it all, we couldn't help but to glory in the source of true beauty: the God who created it.

Though the morning temperatures required my five shirts and three pairs of pants, the layers came off quickly as the hiking began. We had intended to make a five hour hike to the summit called Schilthorn but ten minutes into the hike, we realized that it was going to be a LOT more work than either of us had bargained for. So we settled (but can you really “settle” for anything when hiking in the Alps?!?!) for a simpler hike to a few of the surrounding towns. Now that I've figured out how to load videos (a grand conquest in my technologically challenged pea brain), you'll be getting a whole lot more of them! Here is a video of my favorite thing in the Alps:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Viva Europa: Interlaken

Things were just going a little too well after we left Switzerland. The cold & the rain were the only kinks we’d hit so far, so it’s only logical that something had to go wrong soon. And oh boy did it! I’ll let the video explain:

So it turned out our first mistake wasn’t so bad after all, just a little ding in the budget. Needless to say, we started day two with an extra amount of energy.
(Mom, this picture is for you & Uncle David!)

The name Interlaken means “between the lakes” and there is a pleasant stream that runs through the heart of the city connecting the two lakes. We wandered around town and up and down the paths following the river. We finally ended up finding a campsite called the River Lodge. At the end of the trip, we decided that it was by far our favorite place we stayed. It was very small and we ended up getting to know most of the people there (the English speakers at least!) In fact, we met a group of four Aussies who were just as sick as dogs. It turned out that they had drank some of the water from the river the flows through town. Their rationale: all the bottled water says it comes from the Swiss Alps! At least they had a good sense of humor so they could laugh & puke at the same time.

Our campsite even had a community kitchen where we could prepare our meals. Hot food ended up being quite a luxury on a shoe-string budget. Our tent overlooked the river, and there was a lawn area where we could relax, read, and enjoy the first bit of European sunshine.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Viva Europa: Zurich

The thing you need to know about Eurail passes is that you don't purchase trips; you purchase days. So you can ride the train as much as you want to in a given day. If City A and City B are seven hours apart, why don't you ride the train for three hours, stop and wander around a city for a few hours, then get back on a train for four more hours? Less train claustrophobia and more European fun (most of the time!)

That is how lovely Zurich fit into our itenerary. We left Munich and headed south, making a pitstop here. I had printed out a guided walking tour before we left the States. It led us down Bahnhofstrasse, one of the world's most exclusive & expensive shooping streets. We stopped and shopped along the way, picking up a Louis Vuitton purse for me, an Armani suit for Kevin, and paying for it all out of the new Swiss bank account we opened. Then we placed our purchases in our backpacks...oh wait...this is supposed to be realistic account of our trip. No fiction. OK, OK...

It was a very clean road with cobbled streets and no car traffic. It eventually led us all the way to Lake Zurich. It was a beautiful, sunny day, which was a welcomed change from Munich. We really enjoyed the expanse of the lake. It reminded me a bit of Chicago but...Swiss.

We then got back on the train and headed to...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Viva Europa: Munich

Here we are...Viva Europa Opportunity 2008...Munich, Germany. We arrived after a nine hour flight from Philidelphia to much colder temperatures than we expected. In fact, while we were on the plane, the pilot announced that it was 30 degrees where we were going to land. I secretly hoped he meant celcius but obviously that couldn't have been possible. This was the first surprise of many!

We landed in the morning after our red-eye flight and spend the day walking around town. We went all over the place, with our backpacks in tow. We eventually found our campsite and set up our European home for a welcome (yet very chilly) night of sleep. (Disclaimer: this is the best picture of me that you will see during the entire trip. When you're bathing in campsite showers in the freezing cold and wearing the same thing nearly everyday, it just doesn't bode well for looking cute.)

Day two was spent at Dachau Concentration Camp. We had visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC during the spring, which was a very moving & well-designed museum. But actually being on the grounds of where these terrible things took place was sobering. We couldn't help but be reminded of the depravity of man (not just the Nazis but all of us) and how in need we all are of a savior in Christ. This picture is of the entrance gate to the camp. It says "Work Shall Set You Free." It was an exhortation to the prisoners to work hard in hopes of earning their release but ended up just serving as a tantalizing mockery.

To make a perfect day of absolute extremes, we went to Oktoberfest that afternoon. By that time, the weather has turned cold & rainy. Germans & their beer are akin to mailmen: nor rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night will keep me from The grounds were packed with people in their lederhosen. What a sight!

Though Munich was not our favorite of stops, we of course we glad to be there. We stayed for about two days and then headed south to...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Here we are...

We've arrived at our new home in Virginia. We will be here for eight whole weeks! Our time will be spent in various classes & training sessions in order to prepare us for our move overseas. What a relief after being on the road for so long. I even unpacked our thing into drawers and onto hangers. No more suitcases or backpacks for a while! We live in a little apartment in a quad-style building. Our apartment has a bathroom, a mini-kitchen, a tiny table, and a bedroom. We've pushed the two twin beds together to made a pseudo-king bed. We share a living room/common area with two other couples and two single gals who are heading to the same area of the world as us. Our new home is an upgrade from our European home (read: tent) because it has walls, heat (oh glorious heat!), and light after sunset. Our new home is even an upgrade from our Louisville home because we have a washer & dryer. Overall, we're very thankful to be here!

I'll try to post some Europe pictures & stories over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Where have we been?

Yes, yes, I did it again. I fell of the blog wagon. I told you this would happen and I imagine that it will happen again. So you might be wondering where the past few months have found us. Let me tell you: Tennessee, Louisiana, Oklahoma, farm land east Texas, Dallas, Houston, Austin, South Padre Island, Atlanta, back to Louisville, Philidelphia, Munich, the Swiss Alps, Milan, Venice, Pisa, Rome, the Cinque Terre, Paris, Strasbourg, and back to Louisville again. Have we been busy? Not at all!

So here are the details of it all: we left Louisville and went on a spree of visiting friends and family all over the place. It was hard work doing all the visiting but we were so thankful to have the opportunity to do it. And going to sleep at night knowing that I didn't have to go to the office in the morning made things quite enjoyable as well.

In mid-September, we attended a conference with our company where we were officially appointed. It's always a joy to be surrounded by people who are in the same situation as us, pursuing the same end goal.

Then a few weeks later, we got on a plane for our big adventure: backpacking through Europe. This was definitely not a vacation! We carried everything we needed on our backs, wore the same clothes day in and day out, and slept in a tent every night. We visited Germnany, Switzerland, Italy, and France and loved everything we were able to see and do. I'll try to post some pictures & stories later.

Now we're back in Louisville, trying to recover from the jet lag and gear up for the next phase. On Monday, we will be moving east to attend an 8-week training session to prepare us for the big move in January. We're looking forward to the routine and consistency this will provide for us. We've been homeless now since the end of June, and I think the longest period of time we've slept in one location is about a week.

So that's what is going on with us. You'll have to forgive this bare-bones post but I figured it's better than nothing!