Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rome, Italy

Happy Halloween from Rome! We made it safely to Rome on Friday afternoon after a four hour train ride from La Spieza near Cinque Terre. We left the coastal town of Riomaggiore population 2,500 and arrived in Rome population 2.5 million not counting the hordes of tourists. We went from the sound of crashing waves against rocks to the constant sound of cars, buses and vespa scooters making mad dashes through the street. We have learned the dangerous art of playing “Frogger” (an old Atari video game where the frog character dodges things trying to run it over). Mariella and I both agree that we would rather be meandering the Cliffside towns of Cinque Terre than dodging people and cars. Maybe we will find ourselves living in a smaller town in the near future. After walking around Rome for a day and a half it is easy to imagine what a great city this must have been. Today we went on a marathon walk that started at the hostel we are staying at near the central train station. First we walked to a church called Santa Maria Maggiore where there is a statue of Moses carved my Michelangelo and the chains supposedly warn by the Apostle Peter during his imprisonment. From there we made our way to the Coliseum and ventured around Palatino Hill. Next we walked to Piazza Del Campidoglio, which was designed by Michelangelo. Eventually we made our way to Trevi Fountain, depicting Neptune’s chariot being led by Tritons, with sea horses representing the moods of the sea. After this we walked to the Pantheon where the artist Rafael is buried. Finally we visited Piazza Navona where the fountain of four rivers resides. We tried some great gelato at Tre Scalini, recommended by Aunt Renee. The gelato was the best we’ve had so far. Better than the place we tried and hour before : ). Eventually we walked back to the other side of town to where we are sleeping. We knew we found the right street when we saw the car accident marking the location. There was a car accident on the same cross streets the evening before at about the same time. Crazy Rome! It’s off to Vatican City tomorrow morning.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Manarola, Italy

Yesterday we left Vernazza in the afternoon and walked toward the towns of Corniglia and Manarola. We hiked up and down mountainsides near the ocean. We weaved our way through fields of grapes and olive groves. The locals were harvesting the olives in some of the fields we passed. After a couple hours of hiking we arrived in Corniglia where we ate gelato at two different places. Oh, the gelato is so good! We continued on another hour and a half to Manarola where we headed to the harbor for a swim. On the way, I saw a fisherman getting ready to head out to sea. I asked him if I could go with him. He look a little put off by the question. He got in his boat and organized the gear and as he was about to shove off I said Si (yes) or no. He motioned for me to join him. Mariella also gave me the thumbs up so I dropped my bag at the dock with her and jumped in the boat. The Italian man said one hour that turned into about three hours. We fished for squid and caught four. He was happy with our catch. We arrived back to the harbor after sun down. I thanked him many times before parting ways. Mariella and I left the harbor in darkness looking for a place to sleep. We ended up staying at a hostel on the on top of the hill near the outskirts of town. Mariella is in the female dorm and I in the male dorms. From the window we look down on the church, out to some vineyards and down to the ocean. The towns have great character and have not lost their character even as tourism has grown. In the next couple days we plan on heading south to Rome.

Vernazza, Italy

Written Tuesday, October 7th 2009
In the morning we packed our bags and walked down to the ocean. I went for a swim while Mariella enjoyed a cappuccino. I purchased some swim goggles and was able to explore the underwater world where schools of beautiful fish were in abundance. Later, after some good conversation with Brett on the beach we said goodbye and Mariella and I started hiking down the coast. Next stop; a town called Vernazza, a two-hour walk to the south. We arrived to hundreds of the town people filling the piazza near the church. We noticed that there was an eerie silence in the piazza. In other towns we experience loud noise and commotion of town’s people and tourists. We noticed that all the shops and restaurants were closed and the church was also filled. It turns out that a memorial service was being held for one of the teens from Vernazza who died in a car accident. We had no place to stay so we decided to go swim in the harbor. Eventually the memorial service ended and we walked through the middle of town asking people if they had a room we could stay in. We eventually found a man who after bargaining about the price led us up four flights of stairs to the room facing the main street. Luckily, it is a slow time of year for tourism which gives us the ability to just show up to a town and bargain on the price. The Lord has been faithful in providing our daily bread and daily bed.

Monterosso, Italy

Written Monday, October 26th 2009
After many hours of train travel from Switzerland to Italy we arrived in Monterosso. Monterosso is the northern most town in Cinque Terre. The five towns that are along the seven mile costal walk are small, car-free and on or near the ocean. The area is fantastic! The warm, sunny weather is great and observing people swim in the ocean makes me want to join them. All I need is some snorkel gear and a speedo. Right now we are waiting in a lush tree covered patio area with Brett from Washington. We were told to come to this location for the most affordable place to stay in Monterosso. Unfortunately there is a sign on the door that says, “Will be back later.” So for now we wait. Maybe we should sleep on the beach. Bye for now.
So this is what happened… Mariella and I went to look for food as it was dinner time. Brett stayed at the hotel and watched the bags. While purchasing brushetta (sp?) at a near-by eatery, Mariella learned of an open apartment from the lady selling us food. Luckily Mariella is able to understand enough Italian because of the languages similarity to Spanish. The store owner contacted a friend who led us to her apartment, which we rented out for the night. The apartment was on the second floor of a building facing the town square (Piazza Garibaldi) and a church. Nice! We split the cost of the apartment with our new friend Brett. Later that evening we walked around the sleepy town.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hiking to the Glaciers

This morning I coaxed Mariella into another hiking day. The day started out a little rough, with a conflict. The conflict arose out of marital communication challenges. Can anyone relate? The day started out bumpy, but God redeemed it as he always does. I will start off by saying Mariella was a climbing champ today. The plan today was a hike to the two nearby glaciers. We started by walking ten minutes from the hostel to a gondola, which was a five minute ride to Pfingstegg trail head. We started hiking toward Lower Grindelwald Glacier. A quarter of the way into the hike we came to a sign that read something like, “Trail Closed Avalanche Danger.” This is what we deciphered from the Swiss writing. We turned in the other direction and decided to hike around the mountain to the Upper Grindelwald Glacier. After an hour and a half of hiking, we came to a steep part of the mountain that had ladder like steps weaving up the cliffside. After getting to the base of the mountain we read another sign that said closed. We noticed that about ninety-eight percent of the railing was disassembled. So…we interpreted the closed sign and missing railing as the trail being closed for those too scared to hike up ladders and steep steps without railing or cables. I knew if my friend Wes was with me he would not hesitate at attempting the somewhat calculated risk. I was surprised that Mariella was the one first up the latter trying to get a better view above the trees. We were grateful to find that we were the only ones at the top of the mountain side looking one way to the valley and the other way to part of the Upper Grindelwald Glacier. Stunning! We slowly made are way down the stairs and ladders and made it back to Grindelwald safely and even before dark. Great day! Waking up early tomorrow and catching a train back down to Italy. We are heading to the Cinque Terra coastline (north of Pisa) and hope to walk from fishing town to fishing town along the coast. I believe the Italians call the walk to the towns along the ocean Via dell'Amore (Path of Love) hopefully that means we will start our day a little differently and without conflict. 

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Another great hiking day

Two days ago we were blessed with the parting of the clouds, revealing the snowcapped mountains. We hiked from Grindelwald to Bort then we took the gondola to a place called First. Once we arrived at First I (Craig) hiked 50 minutes to Bachalpsee Lake. Yesterday it was raining in Grindelwald and snowing on the mountains, so we decided to have pajama day and recovered from our hike at the hostel.
Today, the weather cleared up. We did a marathon hike up one of the mountains in the pictures we posted a couple days ago. We hiked four and a half hours from Grindelwald to Alpinlen to Mannlichen. The hike back down the mountain was about two and a half hours. Most people pay the $16.00 for the gondola ride to the top. We enjoyed some coffee and bowl of soup on the top of the mountain instead. We rested a bit in a hammock at the top and took photos of the majestic mountains.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Swiss Alps!

WOW! What a day. Craig and I decided to take a “little” hike yesterday. It turned out to be a little bit more than a “little” hike. The signs on the path said “easy trail and sport trail” always pointing in the same direction so we didn’t really have a choice. We quickly learned that getting anywhere in Switzerland will have to be either straight up or straight down. I have forgotten the formula for figuring out gradients so, you will just have to take my word for it, it was super steep. We left Grindelwald and headed for the trail. It was about 1 hour and 20 minutes of straight up, with a few rests in between, but the view was my “dangling carrot”. I need these carrots when exercising; I love the treadmill because it is constantly giving me my much needed positive reinforcement, in the form of calories burned, miles gained and most importantly time remaining. So, we continued up and up and up. After about an hour, Craig gave me the ultimate reinforcement “ok mud, when we get up to that point, we can take the gondola the rest of the way.” YES! So we took the gondola for what would’ve been another two hours of uphill-upmountain hiking. We arrived at the top and started up towards the lake. After soaking through shoes and socks and freezing toes and more snow further ahead and a tantalizing coffee spot, I decided to allow Craig the joy of hiking alone for another 50 minutes to the lake, I enjoyed my hike to the warm restaurant and warm latte in hand. As you can see, Craig got some amazing pictures of the lake, incredible reflection shots. He returned after about 2 hours and we headed down, no gondola this time. We started our descent at about 4pm and finished at 7:30pm, not stopping a ton, except for a couple of serious photo sessions. We were definitely hurting by the time we got down, but what a day, we couldn’t have asked for better view, while we went up, the clouds were covering everything and we were a little bummed, thankfully only a few hours later, it all cleared up and it was absolutely majestic. Enjoy the photos, video coming soon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Grindelwald, Switzerland

We left Venice today and arrived in Grindelwald this afternoon. Grindwald is near Interlaken. The mountains are crazy beautiful. A woman I was talking to on the train today said that when she looks at the mountains at times she is moved to tears. Wow! The beauty of creation and the creativity of the Creator is indeed emotionally moving! The travel book reads, “Welcome to the fairy-tale alpine creation they call the Berner Oberland, a place so silverscreen perfect you’ll think you’re conjuring it up. This place is like having your cake and eatin’ it to. Not only can you spend mesmerizing hours staring at the sheer, outrageous beauty of those snow-white, jagged, craggy, so –big-they’re-going-to-swallow-you mountains found everywhere, you can also play in them.” We can't wait to go hiking!

Photos from the train and walking through town:

Venice, Italy

We said goodbye to our friends Brad, Laurel and their son Landon. The time spent with you guys was spiritually refreshing. Thank you for letting us be with you. We departed early in the morning from Ljubljana in a van filled with nine people. The night before we tried to find someone to stay with using couch surfing, open invitations for travelers to stay in the town they are visiting. We emailed an Italian guy who lives near Venice and enjoys mixed martial arts. We hoped staying with him would work out. After a few email exchanges and a request to spar with him as conditions of the stay, we respectful explained that it would be best if we found another place to sleep. During the ride Mariella became aquainted with the person sitting behind us. It did not take long for Mariella to make friends with Yolima, a fellow South American from Colombia. Yolima was also heading to Venice so we decided to venture into the city together. We looked for a hostel that was recommended by an Italian girl riding in the van. After about an hour of trying to find the hostel we gave up and decided to go to a hostel that I read about. After weaving our way through the alleyways and bridges like the marble in the balancing maze game we arrived in the vicinity of the hostel. The hostel was booked up so we decided to go to the bookstore we passed earlier that had a bread and breakfast sign. Unfortunately the bed and breakfast room was filled, but the 15 euro a night storage bookroom/apartment was open. The girls took a tour of the room which was in the back area of the bookshop and we took it. Mariella, Yolima, a young German couple, and I shared the living space which included a courtyard surrounded by brick buildings. Oh, and we later found out that a couple of other people were living there as well. It was an interesting space for a great price.

Venice was great for the few days we were there. It is a fantastic city overwhelmed with tourist and we were there in the shoulder season. It must be crazy there in the summer. A highlight was the taking bus boat #2 for a tour of the Grand Canal for a cheap 6.50 Euro. We were blessed by Yolima’s presence in Venice. She brought renewed excitement and sense of adventure for exploring a city. We also found out that Yolima likes taking pictures as much as I do. Thank you for hanging out with us Yolima, nuestra amiga Colombiana, ciao bella!

Top Ten things Mariella learned while visiting Venice...

Top Ten things I, Mariella, learned while traveling in Venice, Italy:

There are signs everywhere, but somehow your tourist eyes will glaze over these signs and you will find yourself being yelled at by a man waving his hands and shouting “no toche, no toche!” A bit embarrassing.
This, by the way, must be said while waving your hands and opening your own personal wallet and patting your back pocket in reference to your giant, money-filled wallet. We heard this several times while in Italy, so … we thought you men should know this bit of information.
Not referring to love as in feeling loved, but sex. “I know that men everywhere want sex, but Italian men have a passion and NEED more sex than normal.
they aren’t yelling at you, that’s just how they communicate.
Don’t expect your typical Southern California customer service, the customer is not always right, in fact, your aren’t even really important in a city where tourists flock to year around, you are totally dispensable. Every now and again, you might be sweetly surprised by someone’s kind and generous customer service skills, be grateful.
No joke guys, this stuff is…totally unique. Believe us, we’ve had ice cream in many countries now, it’s what we do, and Gelato in Venice, near the Bridge of sighs, is perhaps why the prisoners sighed, because never again, would they enjoy the wonderful gelato-seriously!
Don’t ask this question, especially if there is a sign saying “Café con Panna” and directly below it “Coffee with cream”. This really annoys the servers, and I could see why, they get a ridiculous amount of tourists a year and I am sure I am not the only one to ask this question, hence the clearly posted sign I failed to see. 
It would be wise to work the legs out a bit, or else you have to touch the scary walls surrounding the scary toilet. The toilets are lower than at home, so prepare for that too. You could go to regular WC’s around the town, instead of in restaurants but it doesn’t come cheap, about 1.50 Euro, that’s about 2.25US…to go pee. INSANE!
While standing at a bar, waiting to order your cappuccino, don’t wait for someone to politely ask you what you would like. Be fierce. You might even have to shout out a bit. It’s kind of like training camp for the first day of junior high, to toughen you up a bit.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Back in Ljubljana

Yesterday (Friday) we departed Bled via bus and went back to Ljubljana. We arrived in the city as our friends, Brad and Laurel’s, Slovene class was ending. The class is held near the bus and train station, so we were able to walk over to the classroom to meet them. We are brainstorming the travel plans for the coming days. We will go to Maribor, Slovenia tomorrow and spend half the day there. I hear the town claims to have the oldest living vine in the world. Our friends Brad and Laurel plan on moving to Maribor in the near future. Mariella and I are hoping to catch a bus at the beginning of the week to Venice, Italy (3-4 hour bus ride). We will spend a couple days there then take a train to Interlaken, Switzerland if it is not snowing. We may spend a few days there before heading back down to Italy to the Cinque Terra coast. Mariella and I are thinking about hiking town to town down the coast line. Eventually we want to make our way to Rome and maybe the Amalfi coast near Pompei and Sorrento. We make our plans, but God directs our steps.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lake Bled Videos and Photos

Tour of the Room and View

Hike above Bled Lake


Mariella and I took bus ride from Ljubljana to Bled. Bled is located in Slovenia’s Julian Alps. “With its emerald-green lake, picture-postcard church on an islet, castle clinging to a rocky cliff and some of the country’s highest peaks as backdrops, Bled seems too good to be true.” -(Lonely Planet). I decided that I would go outside of my “stick to the budget box” and surprise Mariella with a three-day romantic getaway in Bled, Slovenia. I found a great off-season discount at a small posh looking hotel near the lake shore. I called and made the reservation. The hotel was out of the cheapest rooms, so the person promised me a suite at the same price. Nice! While waiting at the bus station in Ljubljana I told Mariella that I was taking her to a nice hotel near the lake great breakfast and dinners included. Of course she did not believe me. When we arrived in Bled we walked to Vila Preseren (mini-hotel). The receptionist told us that their hotel was booked up and we had reservations at a sister hotel on the other side of the lake. We were a little confused, but were flexible knowing that unplanned situations arise frequently. So we walked around the lake and saw a sign to Vila Victoria Bled, the hotel we thought we were directed to. It looked run down and was closed for the winter. At this point I was not happy and my plans were not shaping up as I expected. Mariella and I walked up the street to another hotel to see if they could help us out. We explained our situation to the receptionist at a different hotel and she translated to her boss. Eventually the four of us realized we walked to the wrong hotel, both have a similar name, Vila Victoria Bled (wrong hotel) and Vila Bled (correct hotel). We needed to walk further around the lake. We eventually found Vila Bled and were surprised by the huge rock walls surrounding the grounds and the four stars under the sign. WOW! We walked down the gravel road and up the red carpet wearing the clothes we wear nearly every day and carrying our backpacks, feeling a little uncomfortable with the high class atmosphere. I repeated our situation to the receptionist and she confirmed that we had a reservation at their hotel, the former residence of a Slovene president! I told the receptionist that we were promised a suite at the price found on the internet. She told me I should not worry as the room we would stay in is quite nice (regularly 320 euro a night =about $480 U.S.). We were astonished to find that we received a huge room with a fantastic view, wrap-around terrace, robes, slippers, L’OCCITANE beauty products, fresh fruit, breakfast each morning and three-course dinners. We are not sure how this came to fruition, but are grateful for God’s providence. After exploring the living space, we had a little lunch in the living room and then went on a nearby hike to Osojnica overlook. We watched the sun set on the mountains before heading back for dinner. What a day!
: )

Monday, October 12, 2009

Slovene Home Remodel

I, Craig, am having a difficult time typing. My hands, arms, back, and neck are numb. Mariella and I had the opportunity to assist Brad and Laurels friends with a home remodel. We did some demolition on some massive walls. Most of the older homes in Slovenia are built with huge bricks and a bunch of concrete. We had a good time with Josh and Kristi. I think my arms are still bouncing from the jackhammer. I knew I was tired when I swung the sledge hammer and missed the wall and watched it go sliding across the room. I think I should lay off the chocolate chip croissants and start exercising more. The view from the house is great. An old rustic church can be seen just below their house. We watched the sunset between the earth and the storm clouds. The sun lit up the valley and snow covered mountains beautifully. Thank you Josh and Kristi for letting us be with you.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

English Camp

Road Trip!

What a great weekend with some wonderful Slovene youth. We drove about an hour from Ljubljana to Fiesa near the town of Piran (population 4050). Upon arriving we were taken back by the beautiful location of the English Camp. The view from the hotel window was spectacular. We could look down at the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic Sea and watch people diving, fishing and swimming. In the distance we could see the mountains of Italy. The students and I (Craig) enjoyed swimming in the inviting waters. On Saturday Mariella and I woke up to the sound of rain and laughing teenagers who were running down to the water for an early morning swim. The high school aged students participating in the language camp attend a private school in Ljubljana. The students were very intelligent, well mannered, and spiritually introspective. Unfortunately our time with them was too short. Mariella and I would have preferred a week-long camp. I suspect the students would also vote for staying a week, but they must return to school tomorrow morning. The students English language ability grew as did our knowledge and understanding of the heart and ways of Jesus. We were all blessed and encouraged by our time spent together, each of us growing closer to one another and to Jesus. On Saturday afternoon we enjoyed a walk to the small town of Piran. Jane, the student’s teachers, led us around the city explaining the history and lay of the land. We enjoyed the impromptu singing of a song in the church overlooking the city. A highlight was walking to the top of the church bell tower where we were rewarded with great views of the town and the Croatian and Italian coastlines. We said goodbye to the students Sunday afternoon. We parted with the students singing us a Slovene song of thanks. Great kids! Great location! Great weekend! Thank you Jesus! We love living and are grateful for Your good gifts.
Pictures to be posted soon.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Arrived In Ljubliana, Slovenia

Yesterday, we arrived in Ljubliana to meet up with Brad, Laurel and their son, Landon. Mariella and I enjoyed long train ride through Germany, Austria and Slovenia. The scenery was breathtaking. Brad and his son Landon met us at the bus station. Later in the evening we enjoyed a walk through the city and a pizza dinner near Ljublianica River. Today we are preparing for a weekend English camp for high school aged students. Mariella and I will be teaching a class where we will lead the students in conversational English. The camp will be held in a town near the Adriatic Sea. We are excited about assisting the students with their English language development and building relationships with them. We will keep you guys posted as we are able.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Heidelberg and Heidelberg Castle

Today we took a day-trip to the town of Heidelberg. We explored Heidelberg castle with our friend Juliana’s parents. Juliana works with military youth through a youth ministry called Malachi. Her father was in the military for twenty years. Juliana and her family spent many years living in Kaiserslautern near Ramstein Airforce Base. Last night we had the honor of making dinner for the volunteers who love on the military youth. Mariella made some great salsa to complement the burritos. Tomorrow we catch a 6am train to Slovenia, about a ten hour train ride.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

ANybody out there?

This is Mariella. Craig is asleep and I am sure he wouldn't let me do this if he was awake. If you read this blog, please post a comment for me, because somehow I feel ...como se dice...that we are no longer any fun :(. Anyone can comment, but be nice or else(Crystal). By the way, we are having a great time, except for when Chris (that's funny I accidentally just typed Christ instead of Chris, "yeah, well you know, then Christ skyped me..."-funny) skyped a minute ago and I picked it up and started talking and woke Craig up and it's 2am...ooops!
On Thursday we plan to leave Kaiserslautern and head to Slovenia to teach English at a camp our friends, Brad and Laurel, have set up. We are very much looking forward to it. This is so good for us, to be stuck with eachother and get annoyed and for me to learn how to fight without always crying, it's awesome. We are learning how to be buddies and everyday I feel that we are learning to understand eachother's language a little better, I guess this is part of that road, you know? We feel really blessed to have this opportunity and every now and again we look at eachother and think, what the heck are we doing? This is crazy. But, the best is yet to come.
By the way, a new really funny thing has started to happen. We have slept in so many different beds that every now and again I wake up and have no idea where I am, not like "who am I , where am I" kind of dreamy state, but a real "I know this is real life now, but I still don't know where I am" kind-it totally makes me giggle. Oh man, just think, we still have about 260'ish days left. Hey, we celebrated our 100th day on Oct 2nd-yay! Ok, it's waaaay past my bedtime now. Peace.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Our friend Larissa and her loving German family.

I met Larissa in high school, senior year. Her sister, Jennifer, was also in one of my classes. Jennifer approached me and mentioned that I knew her sister, Larissa. If I remember correctly, I laughed at her. Jennifer was tough and totally a tomboy, and sure I was sort of afraid of her, while Larissa was sweet and timid and so friendly. That year, Larissa and I ended up going to prom together with our dates and had a great time. About a year later we met up again, not randomly, at Target and so began our adventure together, we even referred to moments together as part of our “movie” because it was always a pretty great journey. It didn’t take long for us to become buddies and we were even sometimes referred to as “Marissa”, or something like this because you rarely saw one without the other. Anyway, after some time, during one of my many transitions, Larissa’s family became my “lucky” host for about a month or two… or three. Anyway, I quickly fell in love with them and I think sometimes they love me too.
The last three days were spent with Larissa’s uncle, Dieter and his girlfriend Angelica-I felt the same warmth thousands of miles away in Germany with the Walcker clan as I do back home. In fact, I felt somewhat humbled by this crazy affection I felt directed towards me simply because my buddy Larissa and her family is so incredible. We visited Oma, Larissa’s grandmother, on Saturday for a short while and made plans to visit again on Sunday. We were embraced and welcomed and as per German custom, asked about our “impression of Germany” so far. Oma had pictures of Larissa and her family all over the room, mostly stacked against the window that looks out into Tuebingen. She was trying to place me in the picture, wondering exactly what my role was in Larissa’s life. She asked if I was in the wedding, I said yes, and she exited the room and back in a minute with her pictures of Larissa and Chris’ wedding. I was really impressed by Oma and her incredible ability to recall exact dates, a trait Larissa has certainly inherited. I pointed myself out in the pictures so she separated out the photos and was so happy to have made the connection. She was the cutest little Oma. We chatted for a short while and made plans for Sunday.
On Sunday, we had brunch at Dieter’s and headed a few houses down to Oma’s house and were very warmly greeted by Tante Claudia, who was hanging her head out of the balcony window looking up and down the street waiting for us to arrive, again….so cute. I waved and she grinned from ear to ear, shouting “Mariella” with that wonderful German accent that rolls the R’s in the back of the throat that just makes me so happy. She came down the stairs and opened the door and gave me the tightest, biggest hug ever and was so happy that it stunned me a bit. She said that she was told last night that “Mariella, Larissa’s friend was in Tuebingen visiting” and that we had met in 2002 at the wedding, but she couldn’t remember so it kept her up all night. As we stepped into the house she stopped me and looked at me for a while and said “Mariella, Larissa’s best friend” and this, of course made me smile from ear to ear. She had put it all together. Again, Oma stood at the door waiting and smiling. She welcomed us in and we sat and talked. Of course we talked about Larissa and she told us how Larissa always addresses her letters to Oma Walcker, which makes her so happy. Claudia even said that she gets a little jealous when Larissa is around because she and Oma never leave each other’s side. It was an incredible thing for me to stand there and see that these people appreciate the very things I appreciate about Larissa; her loyalty and compassion, her love for her family-Oma even referring to her as the “chief” of the family. It was all a very surreal experience.

Eventually Craig, Claudia, and I said goodbye to Oma and headed back up the street to Dieter’s, who had a “big program” for the day. We were going to explore Hohen Uruch, castle ruins that were about 30 minutes away. Claudia was so happy all day and there was no way for her to hide it, she smiled and giggled and it was such a great thing for her because it took her mind off of some of her own burdens for a day. We all walked to the waterfall before the castle ruins, and Craig and I walked further up to the castle ruins leaving Dieter and Claudia to catch up a bit. The place was beautiful. I am sure that Tuebingen is great during the summer, but I wouldn’t want to miss its autumn season for the world. Tuebingen is covered with trees and right now they are an array of colors; light green, dark green, red, brown, orange, yellow, it’s absolutely breath taking. In Tuebingen I rekindled my love for trees and looking at them from underneath, my favorite perspective. As we sat at the bottom of the waterfall I took some time laying on a log starring up the tree and into the sky watching the leaves fall, one at a time, gliding and twirling all the way down to the earth-it was great. There were many people on the hike to the waterfall but the hike to the castle was less busy, so we were glad for the slight degree of difficulty (mostly because of the steep gradient leading up to the castle) because it meant less people. We took loads of pictures, as usual, but really, none of them do this place justice. It is best summed up by one observation: there were loads of kids there, most of which took advantage of all the crevasses, hidden rooms, winding, stone staircases, and tunnels with their sticks as swords and bandanas around their necks, a place where kids can be creative and destructive and kids without interruptions or distractions. We had an excellent picnic, packed by Dieter, packed with the essentials: knife, fresh bread, tomatoes, sauerkraut, a half of an onion, Brie cheese, Gouda cheese, Limburger cheese, and mustard. We hiked back down, were treated to an ice cream by Claudia and headed out.
Larissa and family, thanks for sharing your family with us, we had an excellent time and were given an incredible, very personal tour of Tuebingen, we have loads of stories about your dad that we will have to share with you sometime.  Danke.

In Tubingen with Dieter

Written Saturday, October 3rd 2009
Mariella and I are waking up this morning to the sound of birds and sunshine flooding the windows of the campervan. We are staying a couple days with our friend Larissa’s uncle, Dieter. We left Kaiserslautern where our friend Juliana lives. She went to Brussels and England for the weekend with her family, and blessed us with the use of “the” car for our trip south to Tubingen. I use the term “the” car because Juliana does not consider it hers. She is of the belief that what she has is God’s and she is a steward or caretaker of the things of which God has given her. This radical way of living reminds us of the ways of Jesus. We hope to become more like Juliana and more like Christ. She seems to prioritize the heart of people over things. Mariella and I have decided to use the word “the” instead of mine or ours to describe things that are under our care. It will no longer be our computer, but the computer. It will no longer be my car, but the car. It will no longer be our house, but the house. We hope using “the” will help us hold material things more loosely and bring our focus more on loving those around us with the “stuff” in our care. I once read a saying that went something like this, “too often people love things and use people when they should be loving people and using things.”
Mariella and I were welcomed in Tubingen by Dieter and his girlfriend Angelica. We enjoyed a trip to the local supermarket and the wonderful meal we cooked together. Dieter cooked the main dish called Schupfnudeln. It is a great tasting noodle mixed with potatoes, sauerkraut, onion and buttermilk all cooked in a wok. Soooo good!

After brunch we plan on walking around town to see Dieter's neighborhood.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Tubingen, Germany

Mariella and I left Kaiserslautern and drove 2.5 hours south to Tubingen. We are visiting with our friend Larissa's uncle. We will write more when we have the opportunity. We are currently in the kitchen cooking a german meal.

Dining with Juliana's Family

Mariella and I were dropped off in Kaiserslautern city center by the two older German men who gave us a ride from Frankfurt. They let us barrow their cell phone so we could call Juliana and tell her what corner to meet us at. We grabbed a small pizza from a bakery and snacked while we waited for Juliana. We were put in contact with Julian through our friends Brad and Laurel who used to work with U.S. military youth. Juliana greeted us warmly and invited us to have dinner with her family who is visiting from Lincoln, California. We ate wonderfully tasting German food at a nice restaurant. Mariella and I dined on cheese covered schnitzel and noodles (yes, just like the Sound of Music song, “Favorite Things”). We had great food and enjoyable conversation with the Law family.

A couple photos of our roomates in Weimar, Germany

Mariella's Friend Kimberly:

Kimberly's Friedly roomates:

"King" Leo, Henning, Kimberly, Mariella, Craig

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kaiserslautern, Germany

Mariella and I left Frankfurt this afternoon and hitched another ride using the German ride-share website. Thank Katie and Romy for spending time with us in Frankfurt. We are now in Kaiserslautern, Germany visiting our friend Juliana. It is late so we will add some more details tomorrow. Goodnight!