Back from Europe with some BIG news!
Kristin and I are back from Europe. We had a fantastic time in Spain and Germany. This trip was a little more special than Kristin originally thought it would be. But before I talk about that, let me back track and talk a little about our trip.
We started off by staying in the town I used to live in when I studied in Germany. Tubingen is a quaint little town that really reminds me of Fredericksburg, VA. I think that is part of why I like where I live so much. We arrived around lunch time and checked into our hotel. After resting a little bit, we walked around the town and then had an earlier dinner followed by a good nights rest. The next few days we spent visiting a nearby castle called Hohenzollern, and walking around the city of Tubingen. I also saw several of the people I used to live with in my student dorm. They all remembered me and we talked for a little bit.
After 4 days in Germany, we flew to Spain to visit my friends Javier and Ruth in Valencia. The holiday "Fallas" was going on while we were there and we were looking forward to seeing what the holiday was like. I'm not sure how to describe all of the festivities, but some nights it seemed like we were in a war zone. Part of the fun for some people was in lighting large firecrackers and throwing them very close to people. It usually sounded like a bomb was going off. My nerves were pretty shot after constantly looking over my shoulder for firecrackers. You could hear them going off at all hours of the night from our window. The more incredible part of Fallas were the statues. You cannot begin to understand how beautiful some of these sculptures were. They are built from wood, foam, and various burnable materials. At the end of the festival, they burn all of the statues by setting them afire with fireworks. It is quite a spectacle. Walking around and looking at them, you quickly forget that these are limited time statues and they are only around for a few days. It is almost heartbreaking to know they are all going to be burned.
We visited the Valencia Oceanographic and Science complex, which was awesome. We took in an IMAX space movie and the next day enjoyed the dolphin show and the aquarium. It's the largest aquarium in Europe and probably one of the largest in the world. It was a nice relaxing day. One of my more favorite days in Spain was our trip to Peniscola, to the north of Valencia. This was a small castle on the Mediterranean coast that a pope lived in during the 13th century. It's amazing to see things that old when our continent hadn't even been discovered by the Europeans. The area was beautiful and the weather was nearly perfect. We had a nice time walking up to the castle and taking in the great view. Afterwards we drove to Ruth's father's mountain house to pick a few oranges and see the remodeling they had done since my last visit. Later that night we took in a few more sights and sounds of Fallas and told the families goodbye. But not before having an American hamburger at a back alley restaurant we found.
We flew to Munich the next day and checked into our hotel near the city center. I love Munich and the history there. It has a very dark history in being the city where Nazi Germany started. We visited the Hofbrauhaus restaurant where Hitler and his early Nazi buddies used to meet. Then we wondered around Marienplatz and took in the beautiful Rathaus (town hall). Munich left Kristin feeling a little inadequate because of the fancy clothing stores she spotted. I thin that is pretty funny considering she dresses much nicer than any girl I've known.
The last day in Munich we took a train to the outskirts of the city to Dachau Concentration Camp. Kristin told me that she wanted to go there to just experience it. It's very difficult for an American to understand the horrors that went on there. We've only seen them in moves and read about them in books. But to actually walk in the footsteps of those poor souls that endured such suffering, weighs very heavy on the heart. Dachau was one of the first camps created and the only one that lasted the entire length of the war. The main gate, building, and crematory are still standing. The barracks are reconstructed, but the insides contain original toilets, lockers, and washbasins. It was very crowded the day we went there. A lot of school groups had come to take tours. We quickly walked through the main building and looked at the exhibits that caught our eye. If you looked at everything on display, it would easily take you 4-5 hours. There is just so much to read. Before we left, we bought the exhibit book so we could read it and see the things we missed. I think it's great that we went to Dachau, but it's tough leaving there and feeling the same about Germany and what happened during WWII.
Later that day we boarded a train and headed south for the Alps and Castle Neuschwanstein. This is one of the most beautiful areas in the world to me. The rolling country side meets the jagged peaks of the Alps in the small town called Schwangau. We stayed in a beautiful hotel called Schloss Lisl. We were able to see the castle out of our window, which was an added bonus. Kristin was really excited when she saw the castle and the beautiful mountains. We took it easy that night because of the long travel day.
The next day we visited both castles in the area. The first castle is Hohenschwangau, build by Ludwig II father and where he spent most of his childhood. It's a beautiful castle with very detailed artwork and statues. Afterwards we ventured up the hill where Neuschwanstein sat. This castle is simply beautiful and picturesque. It inspired the Disney castles and is one of the most photographed buildings in the world.
This particular day was special for a few reasons. The first was that it was the day before Kristin's birthday. The second reason was that I had something very special planned. I had been planning it for months. Since October in fact. To give you an idea, it involved a ring. :-) After we saw the castles, we went for a nice walk around the nearby lake. The weather was beautiful. Not too cold, not hot at all. Beautiful skies and we both felt pretty good (we had been sick with a bad cold for the majority of the trip). After a nice walk and an increasingly serious talk about life, I proposed to Kristin. We're ENGAGED!
We are both very excited and extremely happy. I was so nervous that I barely slept the night before, so I was extremely relieved. The whole trip was really based around proposing to her. I'm so glad she said yes. :-) In the following days we contacted our families and told them the good news. Everyone was so happy for us. Facebook blew up with congrats messages and well wishes.
Our last full day in Germany was spent back in Tubingen, enjoying a nice Germany meal and a Tiramisu gelato ice cream. We flew out of Stuttgart early the next morning and arrived back in the US around 7:00pm.
So now that we are back in the US, we are talking and planning about our big day. We'll be launching a website soon with all kinds of information, but it will likely only be open to those that will be attending the wedding and special guest. I'll write more about the website as soon as I've finished it.
Our trip was a great experience and we are happy to be home. I feel like it was a big adventure that ended with the start of another adventure, an engagement.
More to come in the coming months!
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