September 21, 2009

I must admit to some mischief in my last post. Michael and I enjoy the new nursing/swinging chair from Pilipp so much that we decided to make a visual representation of how fabulously much you feel like you’re floating when you sit in it. But, really the chair is quite normally suspended with a spring and metal pole.

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Anyway. So much for fiction. On to the much more exciting and photogenic realities of my last few days in Germany.

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Gangster Eowyn at the train station and on her way to Rothenburg o.b.T. The touch screen on the ticket machine had been wrecked with burns (“although not with a cigarette lighter, since there’s no smoke above,” Michael said. Apparently he’s seen three or four wrecked screens already).

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In the words of Miss Bates, Rothenburg looks just like a fairyland.

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Grace contemplating the very great pleasure bestowed by a 2-euro glass of fresh pressed apple juice. (Apparently I’ve hit an Austen rut.)

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Michael and I went back to Rothenburg in the evening to walk the city wall and take the “Nightwatchman Tour” of the city. 1 part Monty Python and 3 parts history. Very enjoyable.

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Inspired by Eowyn’s distinct eating style, I’ve had this notion to have an Eat Like Skeeb Dinner. Note the sippy cups, watered down juice, bibs, and lack of silverware.

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This shot was taken later in the dinner, as you can tell by the amount and radius of the sauce on our faces. We started out using two or three fingers on only one hand, but to be truly Fleeb authentic, we felt the need to grab whole handfuls of pasta.

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Michael trying to sneak a kiss; Eowyn playing hard to get.

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September 18, 2009

Miq and I dashed off to the Ikea-like Pilipp in Ansbach to pick up a new rocking chair for Grace, and we came back with THIS:

Joel in New Chair

It’s apparently a brand new generation of the basket chair I mentioned a couple of posts back. It’s crazy expensive because it utilizes new German technology, but the Pilipp service reps didn’t speak enough English to explain it, and the manual is all in German too. We’re waiting for Linda to come over and translate some of it for us. Miq kind of impulse bought it, and we took it straight off the showroom floor. The ironic thing is it creeps Grace out to have Nycteris in it because she’s worried about radiation.

Anyway. I’ve been feeling guilty about not journaling for the last while, so last night I pulled out the journal and pen. At first I wrote in paragraphs and then in bullet points as it got closer to midnight. I guess spending seven weeks in Germany is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I thought to myself (philosophically) about the fact that every day back in Grand Rapids was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I didn’t feel a particular urge to write down what I ate for dinner on January 17, 2005. Hmm.

I have an abundance of pictures because of my long Sabbath rest from blogging, but I’ll just post some of my favorites.

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I took Fleeb to the park the Friday after Nycteris was born in an attempt to quell any feelings of jealousy. She enjoyed herself and didn’t even cry when we left because she had just got a new biking helmet and it was so exciting to put it on.

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Miq and I also did some mountain biking around Petersburg. The uphill was rough, but zipping down rolling green hills with mountains all around on the horizon is exhilarating.

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I trained to Erlangen to visit the Jaeschkes on Monday. They took me to Coburg, near where Herr Jaeschke’s parish was. This is inside the cathedral, which has a classic Gothic exterior but this Victorian (?) style inside. Beautiful, but it was shocking when I first stepped inside.

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I think this was part of the original Coburg city wall. Coburg was the city of Prince Albert’s family, and we toured the city palace. We also went out of the city to see the castle:

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The castle was the old home of the royal family before they descended to live in the more modern city palace.

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Inside the castle walls. There were two courtyards inside the castle walls and a lot of buildings surrounding the courtyards.

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There was a museum inside the castle, but I was more interested in the rooms themselves than the showcases.

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The hunting room in the castle. Uber fabulous.

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And, for all you grandparents out there, here’s a new picture of Nycteris receiving an oracle from above.

Nycteris Armstrong

September 9, 2009

Grace started having contractions about the time I finished last night’s post around 12 a.m. this morning. By the time I was in bed, Miq and Grace were packing to go to the birth center.

Nycteris [undecided middle name] Armstrong was born at 3:35 a.m. For the record, she weighs 7.9 pounds, is 20 inches long, and looks like so:

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Grace and Nycteris when they came home around 11:30 a.m. Nycteris creaks in her sleep instead of snores. She really does sound like a little tree creaking in the wind.

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September 8, 2009

Usually I’m resentful about feeling like I Should Blog, but tonight I’m more petulant about feeling like I Should Go To Bed. I just finished The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy, which left me feeling entertained, dissatisfied, and overdosed on absurdist humor. A quick spin on Wikipedia to peruse the plot summaries of the other Hitchhiker books didn’t help.

I would like to say that I’ve settled into a writing routine since Fig hopped on a plane and left me alone with the locals. However, I’ve only done seven and a half hours of creative writing since I got to Germany. For the record, Michael does have random days off every time I turn around, and I find myself on the weekend often. Seriously, we went to Garmisch two weeks ago on a four-day weekend, and then we just had a four-day weekend for Labor Day. Not to mention Michael’s Bavaria Dentac “Organizational Day” on Thursday, which was a day at the Freizeitland Park (German amusement park).

Anyway, today I forced myself to finish Moby-Dick, and I was having so much fun reading and avoiding writing that I sat down and read Hitchhiker’s Guide too. Moby-Dick also left me a little listless, but at least I came away feeling like it had a Traditional and Positive Point. And Ishmael’s voice is just so passionate and over-the-top. I mean, you just have to love someone who loves whaling enough to say:

“It now remains to magnify (the whale) in an archaeological, fossiliferous, and antediluvian point of view. Applied to any other creature than the Leviathan – to an ant or a flea – such portly terms might justly be deemed unwarrantably grandiloquent. But when Leviathan is the text, the case is altered. Fain am I to stagger to this emprise under the weightiest words of the dictionary. And here be it said, that whenever it has been convenient to consult one in the course of these dissertations, I have invariably used a huge quarto edition of Johnson, expressly purchased for that purpose; because that famous lexicographer’s uncommon personal bulk more fitted him to compile a lexicon to be used by a whale author like me.”

Ah, Melville. I’m remembering how Fig could read a 660-page fantasy book in the same time it took me to read less than half of Moby-Dick.

Chris and Patty, our neighbors downstairs who are also Army people, offered to watch Fleeb for the evening, so we all boosted off to Ansbach to look at furniture and eat dinner. We went to Pilipp, which is a four-story German Ikea-like furniture/clothing/stuff store. Miq and Grace are looking to put a rocking chair in the living room before Fleeb 2 pops out (the due date is tomorrow), but they didn’t find anything they both loved. Miq was rooting for a wicker egg-shaped basket/chair that hangs by a spring on a metal stand. Kind of like having a swing in your living room, except cooler.

Also, went to this most excellent Thai restaurant. I now have a strange desire to try making all sorts of marvelous dishes with coconut milk, chopped lemon leaves, and curry powder. I may be looking up Thai restaurants in G. Raps when I get back.

It’s time for some random pictures.

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Miq, Fig, and I climbed Petersburg, which is a small mountain next to Marktbergel (it is also featured on the banner of my blog right now). This shot of Marktbergel is taken from maybe one-third of the way up Petersburg.

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There was a random standing stone on Petersburg that Fig climbed and from which he pontificated to the world.

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Jon took this picture of us at a gasthaus in Bad Windsheim. Linda was sick with mono, but we were able to go out with Jon, get ice cream down the street, and play a roaring game of Masterpiece before he left for Erlangen and then Michigan.

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Here are Miq, Grace, and Skeeb in a cathedral in Dinkelsbuhl, which is a walled medieval town kind of like Rothenburg.

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This waterwheel was in a random deserted square by a theater. Next to the wheel was a defunct mill, which Miq thought had been powered by mules to crush grain.

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Miq and I posing in a random public garden outside the city wall (left in picture). We took a walk around about half of the city wall and found some really nifty nooks. Note the next picture, for example.

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Grace and I posing on a random awesome bridge also outside of the city wall.

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Miq, wondering about the possibilities of The Grim Reaper in Front of Time.

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Miq, Grace, and Fleeb leaving the bridge and passing through the Dinkelsbuhl wall.

September 4, 2009

I’m going to give a brief photo-tour of our time in Garmisch here, but if you happen to be friends with Stephen Armstrong on Facebook, I highly recommend his “DEEP RAVINE” photo album.

Garmisch is about three or so hours south-east of Marktbergel and is decently near the Germany-Austrian border. Apparently it’s a big deal for the Americans here because of the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort reminiscent of American resorts like the Wilderness Lodge in Disney World (or, at least, that’s how Michael explained it to me). Miq and Grace, however, were more interested in taking us to Garmisch because of the Partnachklamm, or Partnach gorge. Note:

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It pretty much looked like this the entire way down the gorge. There was a walkway blasted into the rock to the side of the gorge.

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There was a series of bridges that crossed the gorge above, but it was steep, rough climbing to get up to them and we didn’t go farther than the first bridge.

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This gives a better view of the sidewalk from which we enjoyed the gorge.

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I went a little picture happy, but it was kind of hard to resist.

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The darkness made for some fuzzy/odd pictures. Note Steve’s head poking above Grace’s right shoulder.

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Steve, styling his H&M coat. Like any good model, his mouth is partially open and his face renders a look of profound enlightenment.

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As Michael said, the only thing that would make the gorge better is if the river were heated to hot-tub temperatures and you could float down it.

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We drove an hour over to Neuschwanstein that afternoon after eating doners in Garmisch. Driving in a five seater with Fleeb in the middle of the backseat can be uncomfortable, but we made it. You have to hike up to Neuschwanstein, and this was a little restaurant about halfway up. We ate there on our way down.

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An uber-classic shot of Hohenschwangau Castle from the walkway up to the Marion Bridge. Hohenschwangau was the childhood residence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. I always thought the lake to the left was the one Ludwig drowned in, but apparently he drowned in a lake near Munich.

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Neuschwanstein from the Marion Bridge.

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The gatehouse at Neuschwanstein. The red stone work made my day, and on the other side the gatehouse was paneled with yellow stone. We took a tour of the castle, but we couldn’t take pictures. There was a lot of ornately craved, rich wood and wall-paintings of Wagnerian opera scenes. It was probably as opulent and overwhelming as anything I’ve ever seen, but there was a warmth to all the paintings that made it feel very comfortable.

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Here we are eating dinner. We were all kind of brain dead and tired after our long day, but the jagerschnitzel was quite delicious.

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It was dusk by the time we got down from Neuschwanstein. We had to drive back to Garmisch then, but we struck up a hot conversation about how we could improve the quality of life of our family, and we continued talking late after we got back to our hotel room. We passed around the Granini pear nectar, which is basically bottled magic. I’m planning to check on the availabilty of the stuff in America when I get back.