Sunday, September 30, 2007

Day 7 - Last Day in Wurzburg

Sunday morning was a sad morning because I realized that it was our last full day in Wurzburg and the next day we would be travelling home. Ute wanted to spend the day with us and we were happy to do so - how many brides want to see their friends 2 days after they get married? I felt special. They had a lot of post wedding details to finish so we tagged along. I wanted to walk from the hotel to Papa's apartment and so Jasmine and I took another long walk and it was so refreshing. We got there in about 20 minutes and got to munch on some leftover wedding cake and help Ute & Reg begin packing for their honeymoon and trip back to China.

We then went to the cemetery to visit Opi's grave with Omi. He passed away in June and Ute took the flowers that adorned the chairs at the wedding ceremony and placed them at his grave. It was nice to be included in this private family moment, but it was also nice to see the grave as I had loved Opi very much. They tended the plot and we took some pictures and Jasmine really got into helping water the flowers and plants. She had grown quite attached to Omi on this trip and it was nice to see how they let her help. We took a trip to Lauda (the company where Papa works) to return the mini bus that belongs to the company that they had lent for wedding use. Papa gave us a tour After we dropped off the mini bus, we went to the little town where Antie's (Papa's girlfriend) cafe is located and had some cake and drinks there and enjoyed the afternoon weather and company. Antie is a pastry chef and owns this beautiful cafe which is surprisingly big (seats 140 inside and 120 outside). The cakes they make fresh were delicious and I really enjoyed the atmosphere there. After our cake snack (by the way, have you noticed the only thing I have eaten so far on day 7 is cake? Jasmine did get breakfast but then cake also!), we took a walk through the gardens and surrounding area to the cafe. It was around 5 pm and it is a nice time of day in the fall as the sun is a bit lower in the sky and the lighting is softer. Jasmine saw some ducks and we passed some pear trees, and it was a scene out of a movie. I felt very content.
After Antie was done closing, we headed back to Wurzburg for some dinner and ate at a very delicious Greek restaurant. I do like Greek food but the quality often found here in the U.S. leaves much to be desired. I had an amazing dish - it was lamb meat baked in cheese with potatoes and the Greek yogurt sauce on the side. It came with a delicious fresh salad and I was in heaven. I am still dreaming of the taste of this dish!
The close of the day had come and Ute & Reg drove us back to the hotel and everyone said their goodbyes. I got a bit teary and sad at knowing it would probably be a while before I saw these dear friends again. I felt so blessed to have been able to make the trip and I publicly want to thank my wonderful husband Lorne for making it possible and giving all he gave so we could go. It was truly a special time and gave me some time to relax and recharge. Now, back to the real world!

Jasmine and Mommy enjoying cake at the Cafe

View from my seat at the cafe

Cafe Schlossgarten

I kid you not, my first pear tree - no partridge though

Pretty fountain on our walk

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Day 6 - Walking Tour of Wurzburg

We slept in until 11 am on Day 6 since we were up late partying at the amazing wedding the night before. It was my mom's last full day in Wurzburg and I wanted her to see as much as she could! We had been given a map at the hotel and in the map was a walking tour of Wurzburg that took us around all the main sites to see in Wurzburg. Look below for the map - I have drawn in the route we walked and also the purple circle indicates where our hotel was! We put Jasmine in the stroller and loaded up on supplies for the day (diapers, wipes, jackets, scarves, etc.) and took off with brightness in our steps. It was a beautiful day, I bet it was 70 degrees. Our main goal was to make it to the Residence by 3 PM for the English guided tour. They only do English tours twice a day, at 11 am and at 3 pm and since we got up at 11 am, we were determined to make the 3 pm tour. On our way to the Residence we saw:

1. The Town Hall - Originally the office of the bishops' administrator, Romanesque tower, and impressive hall 13th century.

2. Neumunster - Romanesque Basilica of the 11th century, which is built on the burial site of St. Kilian.

3. Dom St. Kilian - Cathedral, Significant work of German architecture of the 11th and 12th centuries, one of the largest Romanesque churches in Germany - lots of bishop's tombstones.

4. Franziskanerkirche - Founded in 1221 - another church

5. Alte Universitat - Extensive complex of the renaissance period, founded by Julius Echter, built in 1582.

We got the the Residence at 2:50 pm after leaving the hotel at 12:30 pm (and stopping for lunch of course - we were starving). We were so happy to go on the tour of what is called the star attraction of Wurzburg. The Residence was the Princebishops' palace and is considered one of Eurpoe's most outstanding palaces. It was built in 1720-1744. It has amazing stucco work and frescoes and an unbelievable room of mirrors. It was fun to walk around during the tour and also through the unguided parts of the tour and imagine living in the opulence that surrounded you. I think I may have gotten lost if I lived there. The artwork in the main fresco is super impressive and oozing with meaning for the times. We really enjoyed being there.

Afterwards, we had a dessert and a drink at a small cafe on the grounds of the Residence and then took a stroll through the beautiful gardens, fully in bloom.

We continued our walk and saw more interesting things such as:
  1. The Theatre - the place where residents of Wurzburg go to be entertained by plays and musicals.

  2. Stift Haug - The most significant work of the Italian architect Petrini, first large Baroque church in Franconia built in 1670-1691.

  3. Railway Station - This was a detour not denoted on the map I provided but mom had to go purchase a train ticket for the next morning to the airport as no one was available to take her themselves.

  4. Juliusspital - Founded in 1576 by Princebishop Julius Echter as a home for the poor and the invalids. Impressive Palace-like construction.
  5. Falkenhaus - The most splendid of all Baroque mansions, formerly an inn.

  6. Marienkapelle - Late Gothic chapel completed in 1480 and includes numerous tombs of Franconian knights and townsmen.

We ended our evening having dinner on the balcony of the Alte Mainmuller restaurant that we had eaten at a few nights before. It was a chilly night, but nice to sit outside and eat on the water, overlooking the lit bridge and the castle on the hill.
We arrived back at the hotel tired but proud of all we had seen and walked that day. There is no better way to see a place that to walk and take it all in!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Day 5 - The Main Event - The Hartmann Lopes Hochzeit

Finally, here we were on day 5 of our German adventure, the main reason we travelled this far away, the moment we had been waiting for - Ute & Reg's wedding. This promised to be a big deal, as we had been privy to the wedding schedule (kept secret from the bride and groom), and were participating in some of the exciting surprises planned. We lazily got up that morning and took our time getting moving. We knew a bus would be arriving for us at 1:30 - a wedding shuttle if you will. This is when my one casualty of the trip happened. I had plugged my curling iron in so I could do my hair and I was not thinking when I did it. I didn't check the voltage which was dumb of me since I am not a novice international traveller. All of a sudden, I smelled something burning and within a minute, the rubber piece off the top had melted off and the iron was no longer with us. I did want a new one, but not this way!

The bus came at 1:30 pm sharp and we hopped on. After a few more stops, we stopped at the first destination, the coffee and cake reception. This was held on the patio of the restaurant Weissess Lamm in the town of Veitshochheim, a very quaint little German town. The tables on the patio were decorated in a beautiful Chinese way. There were like 9 different cakes for us to eat made by Ute's family members. Ute was dressed in a red Chinese wedding dress and Reg was dapper in his tux that he had tailored in China. The cakes were delicious, I had 2 and a half pieces (Jasmine ate the other half I didn't eat!) and wished I had more room for others. My favorite was the Black Forest Cake with fresh cherries. I guess I also loved the banana and apricot rolled cake. Ute & Reg actually sat at our table and we got to spend quality time with them. It was so nice to do that. It was a relaxed setting and they couldn't have ordered better weather.
Next, we walked to the summer palace Veitshochheim where we all took pictures and witnessed a very nice ceremony officiated by the mayor of Veitshochheim. Jasmine fell asleep in the first 5 minutes of the ceremony and thankfully remained asleep for the entire hour ceremony. He said a lot of very nice things and and after they were pronounced legally married, the fun really began. Did I mention that the bride changed costume at the palace before the ceremony? This dress was gorgeous and she looked stunning like she is supposed to look!
There was a champagne toast (we drank OJ of course) and then the bride threw the bouquet and their first test as a married couple was presented to them. They had a sheet someone had made with a large heart on it and Ute & Reg's name inside and they had to cut out the heart with tiny nail scissors. Ute beat Reg and cut her side and part of his before their scissors met and they finished the cutting task. After there was a large heart hole in the sheet, Reg was told he had to carry Ute through it. It was really cute. Ute was a bit afraid to have Reg carry her through this opening but she did it in good faith!
We then loaded back onto the bus and went to Rottendorf to the Waldhaus restaurant for the wedding feast. This was no dinner folks, it was a feast in paradise. At each of our place settings was a menu with the evenings offerings, and a little box containing a Chinese mask for us to take home next to our name card. The meal was elegant, the salad fresh, the presentation superb and we all just enjoyed good company as well. There were speeches given from both families. About halfway through dinner Jasmine asked to go to bed. The restaurant had a private room upstairs that they let me set up for Jasmine to sleep in. I brought the pack and play and blankets and toys and she was asleep in about 30 seconds flat. It had been such and exciting day!
After dinner, there were more surprises in store. The couple were given a treasure box that contained cards from all the guests and a bottle of wine and 2 glasses and this was sealed up not to be opened until their first anniversary. Then the couple did their first dance. After their dance, it was time for me to give my surprise. I sang them a song - the same song I sung for Lorne on our wedding day 5 years ago. They were very touched. It felt nice to be able to share that part of me with them. My mother and I also presented Ute & Reg with a large piece of art (George Washington and the prayer at Valley Forge) which was also given to us on our wedding day and hangs in our living room. They were so stunned by all the things their friends were doing for them.
After some ferocious dancing (I of course spent all night on the dance floor), it was time for the presentation of the wedding newspaper. This is a German tradition where the friends and family of the bride and groom write articles about the couple's lives and it is compiled into a newspaper as a gift to the bride and groom. There were additional copies made for purchase by guests and the money collected was also a gift for the couple.
A sumptuous dessert table was spread and the couple were presented with their wedding cake, complete with pyrotechnics! This was made by Papa's girlfriend (who happens to be a pastry chef) and it was an ice cream cake covered in the German version of fondant. I thought it was very beautiful and tasty. With desserts in hand, we, the guests were treated to a slide show of the groom's life. It was neat to see all those pictures of when he was a kid and later as he grew. The groom commented that he had never seen any of the pictures before and wondered where his mother had been hiding them all these years.
We partied until about 2:30 am and then alas it was time to retire for bed! I could have danced a few hours more. The couple was given one last test, a compatibility test which they passed with flying colors and were presented with one more sentimental gift - a cookbook with recipes the guests had submitted prior to the wedding!
This was one of the best and funnest weddings I have ever been to. It was definitely worth flying 9 hours with a 2 year old. The wedding oozed of love, joy and pure friendship.

Princess Jasmine climbs the steps to the palace

Mommy & Me

Beautiful Girl

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Day 4 - The day before the big wedding

The fourth day we did a lot to prepare for the wedding the next day. In the morning, Ute picked us up and we went for a manicure. The only problem was that it was a little bit of a stressful manicure as I had to bring Jasmine with me. No one was available to watch her and she quickly learned that Mommy was sitting in a chair and couldn't get up to run after her. She wanted to touch all the equipment and go running around and it was very difficult to get her to be still. Despite the interruptions, I managed to get the manicure done. After this we went on a few errands with Ute, and had lunch with some other out of town guests in the Marketplatz near St. Killiani's Dome. It was really nice.

After lunch we went back to the hotel and my mom had arrived! That was really fun but she was so tired. I put Jasmine down for a nap and put my mom doen for a nap and went off for a few hours walking around the city alone. It was blissful to have a break and to know my daughter was safe with her grandma. I took some pictures, did some shopping and had a nice walk.
When I arrived back at the hotel, grandma was still sleeping but Jasmine needed to go run around - so I took her to a playground near the hotel and let her run it out!
We went to a nice dinner that night (my mom and us) and had fun eating and talking. After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and called it a night, since we knew that we would have a big day the next day!
One of the funnest parts of the day, I almost forgot to mention was when we were out and about and there were some street musician playing some fun German music and Jasmine became completely enthralled by the music and she just stood there and stared. When the musicians caught wind that Jasmine was interested, they sung her a children's song (that I caught on video) and then another some - a blues piece that they inserted her name into. They even gave her a marraca to shake.

self-portrait in the park by the river

Fort Jasmine

Abuela and Jasmine by the Main river

I ate a whole pork shoulder at dinner - it was so good! There was a broccoli and cheese side that was to die for! The restaurant was called Die Alte Mainmuller.

My favorite bridge at night

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Day 3 - Festung Marienberg

On the third day of Germany, we did some touristing with Ute's new in-laws from Brazil. We met them at a nice bakery at the foot of my favorite bridge (Alte Mainbrucke) and then made our way to the fortress of the city (Festung Marienburg). When I lived in Germany in 1995, I had a room in an apartment that had an amazing view, and I could see the fortress or what I call a castle from my window.

Fortress Marienberg (German: Festung Marienberg) is a prominent landmark on the Main river in Würzburg, Germany. It has been a fort since ancient times. After Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden conquered the area in 1631, the castle was reconstructed in the Baroque style. Today, it is a park and museum.
Ute played tour guide with us and it was nice to meet her parents-in law (Reginaldo & Mali Lopes) and Reg's brother Tutuco.
Jasmine had a great time running around and exploring the grounds and we walked all around the fortress admiring the view of the city of Wurzburg from the top of this amazing hill. This was the first place I visited when I arrived in Wurzburg 12 years ago and it was a sweet moment to be able to take my beautiful daughter there and share it with her, even if she won't remember it later.
Jasmine was the Belle of Wurzburg and captured everyone's heart with her outgoing and sunny personality. Reg's family really had fun with her and Reg's father, Reginaldo was in love and giving Jasmine flowers and playing with her.
After lunch, we settled into our hotel (The Mercure) and took naps - both Jasmine and I. Then we were whisked away to a big family dinner where Ute's family would meet Reg's family for the first time. I was very honored to be invited to the dinner and the food was great and the company was lovely. After the 3 hour dinner, we went back to the hotel and settled in for the night.

Posing with the view of the city behind me!

Scenes of a City

Look on the left hand side of the picture and you can see my favorite bridge in the distance.

Jasmine takes a stroll with Tia Ute

Tutuco and Jasmine find common ground!

Jan holds Jasmine up

The restaurant of the night

Families unite over good food

Mommy & Jasmine looking dapper for the evening meal.

Day 2 - Sommerhausen

The second day of our trip we spent the day with an old friend of mine named Jan Schimmer. He took us to a little village called Sommerhausen where they have a Wildepark (petting zoo/playground) for Jasmine to have a good time. Well, no question, she had an amazing time. She gathered fall leaves, petted and fed goats, pigs, donkeys and sheep and played on a massive playground. We spent the greater part of the day here and my favorite part was Jasmine running after the roosters with her little arms outstretched again telling them she would hold them. She showed absolutely no fear for any of the animals and really enjoyed feeding them (See the video at the bottom!).

Afterwards, we took a stroll in the village of Sommerhausen and looked in some shops, they had some antique and gift shops, and tried to find a cafe to have a little something to eat. We weren't successful in finding the cafe. Jan then took us to his mother's house so we could meet her and his stepfather and we had a nice, short visit there. Afterwards, we were hungry so Jan went to dinner with us to a nice little Italian restaurant and the food was great.

The night ended after another LONG dinner and Jan took us back to Omi's house for bedtime.Jasmine shows no fear in feeding the sheep!

Me in the village of Sommerhausen