We're back! The girls aren't as travel weary as Sherri and I are, so they've been cracking the sight-seeing whip on us....waking us at early hours and keeping us up past our bedtimes...and certainly keeping us too busy to find a spare moment to say "Hi" to you all!
So, since the last time we said hi, we've explored a little more of Germany. As Sherri said last time, Mom got to revisit some childhood places. What a great experience that was. She was so blessed by God the way that each memory and each place unfolded. She didn't stop smiling for days and Erika and I really got some unique glimpses into her life before us.
The evening after visiting her old apartment, we tackled another exciting adventure on my "life list," something that none of us other than Sherri had ever done before....a hot-air balloon ride! We took off from the country-side near Munich after helping to prepare the balloon, and floated over fields, small towns, forests and lakes. Aside from Munich and the Alps in the distance, the scenery below looked a lot like home... It was so beautiful and picturesque...What a great time. We landed in a field that appeared to be growing nothing but mosquitos, and had to help deflate the balloon and pack it and the basket back up again. By the end, the mosquitos were quite fat and happy!!! But, the balloon folks drove us back to the biergarten (beer-garden) where they had champagne waiting for us. After that and a great dinner, we were just as fat and happy as the mosquitos!!!
While in Germany, we also visited Fussen where two great castles, Neuschwanstein and Hohenshaungau (I really have no idea how to spell these!!) are located in the forested hills where they have beautiful valley and lake views. Neuschwanstein is the famous castle that the Disneyworld castle is modeled after. We took a tour of Hohenshaungau, which was pretty interesting and a new experience. The four of us girls also rented bikes while mom had fun shopping in town, and we biked the georgeous paths along one of the many lakes in the region. That is, until a torrential thunderstorm caught up with us and sent us racing back into the town in a downpour. We were soaked!!! Sherri and I were riding with our rain ponchos on, which did little more than catch the wind and make us look like blown-up jelly fish! Ah, fun times!!!
We left Fussen after two days and headed for Italy on the night train. Don't let any romantic images of train travel delude you...night trains are certainly the exception to any sort of romantic notion. They are cramped...imagine 6 people, in 6 small cots stacked 3 high on two walls, in a room the size of your bathroom...and that is a pretty good picture of our room in the sleeping car. Add to that, the sway of the train, the abrupt stops and starts (no wonder they put crash rails on the bunks to keep you from rolling out...it is a distinct possibility), and random people in the same room as you...some of whom snore. Loudly! This is why ear plugs were invented!
We landed in Florence and spent 3 great days there. Florence is a beautiful city overflowing with history and ambiance and interesting things to see and do. It certainly redeemed Italy in our eyes after our Varenna experience. Some of the highlights included seeing Michelangelo's David in person, climbing inside the dome of Florence's Cathedral and seeing the view from the top after climbing 463 steep stairs, the beautiful candlelit restaurants that we dined in, and shopping in the local outdoor market place where you could find inexpensive but beautiful and authentic Italian goods. It brought out the shop-aholic in all of us!! Especially Mom Liz!
Ok, the internet cafe that we landed in tonight here in Cinque Terre, our second to last town on our European adventure, is almost closed. Time to sign off so we can get some pictures on here for you!