Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Venice, Italy

This past weekend, Nate and I enjoyed a romantic rendezvous in Venice.

When we first arrived on Thursday, it was raining and a bit chilly. This did not make me happy. I certainly don't do well when I'm cold, and I was wearing an adorable little knit dress and flats. Everyone else had on warm pants and rain jackets. Not only was I cold, but I felt stupid for not paying closer attention to the weather reports. Wishful thinking I suppose. Can you tell that I REALLY want warmer weather? I've been deprived here! Work with me seasons!

Anyway, we bought umbrellas at a tourist stand, mine being a corny Venice painting one, but hey, it was either that or the ugly plaid one Nate got. Oh well, at least we were now out of the rain.

We then checked into our hotel (a bit gaudy, it's Italy, but still awesome, don't you love the pink bedding and walls? The walls were actually fabric covered and somewhat soft....hmm), I changed, and then we went to explore this mysterious and beautiful city.

Venice is interesting. It's extremely old, crumbling before your very eyes, über-touristy and yet totally unique. It's often imitated, but never duplicated. There is nothing like Venice. Sure, it's a bit dirty, overrun and overdone by tourists from all over the globe, but it's absolutely amazing. The architecture, the narrow (and I mean narrow!) twists and turns of every "street", nothing is straight, vertical or horizontal. Everything is sinking, and unevenly at that.

Cars are no where to be found. Boats take their place. Perhaps this is also what adds to the ancient feel of the city (er, should I say, town. There are only about 30,000 residents, the rest are all tourists). The modern invention of the car does not work here. This just adds to Venice's charm.

By Friday however, the weather had changed into beautiful, warm, spring days. Hooray! Nate and I explored as much as we could. We got lost on purpose, always finding some little store or plaza just around the bend.

Good thing we did so much walking too, because we ate like pigs. Venice is known for it's seafood dishes and so we tried the local specialites like sardines in saor (whole sardines in olive oil, onions, raisins and pine nuts), nero di seppia (cuttlefish cooked in a sauce made with it's own ink, it's better than it sounds), and the amazing, the delicious......risotto al mare. This is risotto cooked in a fish stock with other goodies from the ocean, like mussels, shrimp and clams. Yum. It was so, so, so good.

Of course, since it was our first time in Venice, we HAD to do a gondola ride. And it was fun, a great way to see the town.

At one point during our ride in the gondola (with, might I add, a gondolier who looked sort of like a younger Ricky Ricardo with tatoos), we passed the back entrance of the opera house. As we turned to look, a very nice private water taxi pulled up to the steps, simultaneously Nathan looks to the bridge ahead and comments about all the men with "really nice" cameras. I say "they sort of look like paparazzi" just as this beautiful woman in a suit leaps out of the taxi, cameras clicking and flashing away, and into the opera house. Our gondolier says that it was someone famous, but with his accent, I did not understand the name, something like Charlene blahblahblah. Come to find out later that Salma Hayek got married that weekend (actually the DAY we were on our gondola ride) in the opera house and Venice was full of celebrities. And I didn't see a single one. Except of course for the woman jumping out of the water taxi, which I'm now guessing was Charlize Theron, who was a guest at the wedding. Just goes to show you that in that small little town, so tightly packed with buildings, you can really hardly see anyone. D'oh!

We really loved Venice. Nathan and I have decided to go back. Someday.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Grellmanns Part 5 - End of the Visit

As my parents' visit came to a close, we just enjoyed the beautiful weather, the beer gardens and a relaxing Easter Sunday; even though my father wandered off at one point, and ended up having lunch with our neighbors. All in all, it was a good visit with the parents.

One day we rode the paddle boats in the lake at the English Garden.

The Easter carrot cake that our neighbors kindly made us. They are so sweet. They even took care of my dad, whether he needed to borrow a bike or became separated from us for an afternoon and needed entertaining.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Grellmanns Part 4 - (How many of these are there??) Olympic Park

Back in 1972 Munich hosted the summer Olympics. Many know this mainly because of the tragedy that befell the Israeli athletes, which makes this place all the more awe-inspiring. At least for us non-sport lovers, such as myself. For my parents however, just being the site of world competition in a multitude of athletic events makes it worthy of seeing.

We saw everything we could. Most of the big stadiums were closed due to renovations. Of course. They are always renovating in Europe. Which was a bit disappointing, but my parents were ok with it.

The park also has a 290 meter tall tower (951 feet) which overlooks the entire facility. It gives nice views of the entire city and a birds eye view of the stadium.

In the same area as the Olympia Park is the BMW headquarters where they have a museum of sorts and public showroom. My father, being into nice cars HAD to see this. And we did. We saw lots of different models of cars, motorcycles, and other machinery (forgive me, this is REALLY not my thing and I have no clue what I'm talking about). There were displays on paint, interior upholstery, speed, balance, the BMW factories around the world, and of course video racing games that any young boy would drool over. Again, not really my cup of tea, but it was fun getting to ride in some of the sport cars and motorcycles.

This car was his favorite. It's #1 in his book. That's why he's holding up 1 finger. It's an SUV. Of course.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Grellmanns Part 4 - Salzburg

One day, we took a day trip to Salzburg, Austria. This trip did not include Nathan, which ended up reverting us back to "The Grellmanns". Dad, Mom, Shera and Merissa. It also meant that we had colorful emotions that day trying to decide what we wanted to do.

First we went on a walking tour of the downtown area. We saw Mozart's birthplace, some churches, cute alleyways and the outdoor concert hall. After this, it was the girls vs. Dad. Insert some heated discussion, a storming off by one party member, a peacemaker compromising and then we cordially parted ways. My father hiked up to see the medieval fortress, while the rest of us sought out some Sound of Music locations, a different view of the city and finally decided to stop for coffee and ice cream in an old café. Everyone was happy.

Mom was SO happy about her ice cream. Merissa and I got amazingly delicious coffee. Austrians KNOW how to do coffee. Thanks to the Ottoman Empire.

Since it was before Easter, there were eggs EVERYWHRE. The Germans/Austrians (they'll hate me for lumping them together like that) love Easter and decorating eggs. It's this tradition that is taken very seriously by decorators. Here are some pictures of an egg store where you can buy the intricately decorated eggs. Hey, why make your own when you can buy PERFECT ones? Germans love perfect.

End of the day, and back to Munich.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Grellmanns Part 3 - Schloss Nymphenburg

The Sunday before Easter we went to Schloss Nymphenburg, the Bavarian royal family's summer home. It's sort of like the German version of Versailles. We bought the ticket for the ENTIRE park, meaning we visited over 4 different buildings all over the grounds. But hey, we got our money's worth!

We began in the main building where King Ludwig I had a gallery of "beautiful women" where he had his artists paint the most beautiful women in his kingdom. We found one that looked somewhat like Merissa.

Then we went to the quiet chapel down the road. The floor was so old that the authorities make you wear these gigantic, gray, felt slippers so you do not damage the floor. We had fun shuffling around.

Then there was the recreation pagoda where the royals would go to rest after hunting or to play cards and other games. Who knows what went on in there!

We then continued on our walk to the Queen's private quarters where she escaped her husband.

This place was by far the most beautiful. Definitely decorated for women.

The kitchen.

Pretty tiles.

Then came Ludwig's bathhouse where he bathed. Although who knows how often. It was just a giant pool indoors. Talk about wasting water!

About this time, I started to get really bored. Merissa happened to capture it. Thankfully, I had an ice cream cone.

We then went to the final building on the property, the carriage house. This place housed all of the royals' carriages for coronations and such. There were also paintings of all of their horses too. Dad had to search for his most favorite horse and get a picture of just that one. Here he is searching.

The winner is......


Here is a picture of one of the carriages.

Our favorite quote from my dad of the entire trip went something like this:

"Joyce, just look at these carriages. Don't they remind you of the Chronicles of Narnia? Like the witch's sleigh? So ornate..........it's like..........yuck! I HATE it!!"

I hope that's as funny in print as it was when he said it. Nate, Merissa and I are still laughing about it.

These last ones are just more of the gardens. Again, a tiring, but chock-full day.