So what’s in Riedenburg?

We probably would never have ended up in this particular corner of the world if it weren’t for our host daughter Kristina (who lived with us for the past year in Milwaukee). It’s hard to find on a map, and even harder to get to. But, it turns out that Riedenburg Germany is a beautiful little Bavarian town on the Altmühl river. Our stay is made even more enjoyable with Kristina as our companion and tour guide.

First castleOur sightseeing began in earnest on Saturday. We started the day at Schloss Rosenburg, the castle at the top of the hill above the town of Riedenburg. This is the second castle we’ve visited, and we’ve only been here for two days… and we’re in the middle of nowhere! It seems like you can’t throw a rock without hitting a castle around here. There are actually two words for castle in German. “Schloss” (or Schloß) is a palace where someone of some rank lived at some point. “Burg” is more of a fortress castle for protection of an area. Many of these castles have been converted to other things. Schloss Rosenburg is now a “Falkenhof” which is a museum and rescue center where they house and train large birds. We saw the falcon show during which extremely large falcons, eagles, vultures and other birds flew scarcely inches above our heads.

From there we walked through the woods down to the town of Riedenburg. We ate lunch at an outdoor café, and strolled down to the river where we treated ourselves to some ice cream. On the way, I stopped in to greet the baker who brings us fresh rolls every morning. In German, I talked to them about mixing up the rolls that we get so we don’t just get the same thing every day. I’m not exactly sure what I asked for, so we’ll se what shows up on Monday morning!

We headed home for naptime, after which Kristina took us to St. Agatha Lake, where people swim and play. It’s like a beach except without sand. The opposite side of the lake has stunning cliffs, which The boys throwing rockslit up in the sunset behind us. The older kids swam like fish while Henry sat at the edge and threw rocks into the water, his absolute favorite thing to do. It was a perfect day.

Sunday was more relaxed. We played at the Speilplatz in the morning, where we have invented several moves on the zip line including the “tornado” and the “daddy big swing.” We had lunch at our local castle next door where there was live Blasmusik (traditional German oom-pah music; a quartet with tuba, accordion, trumpet, and clarinet) in the outdoor beer garden. Then we headed to the Kristallmuseum and Fasslwirtschaft in town. The crystal museum features the largest natural quartz crystal grouping in the world (7.8 tons). Yes, there are random tourist attractions here too! Oddly, the crystal grouping was originally found in Arkansas.

We went to Kristina’s parents’ house where we had our first reliable Internet access. While Joe and I got caught up on our computers, her parents fed and entertained our kids with German TV and their pet quails. (We now have 15 more quail eggs to eat with our fresh rolls). They also sent us home with some German games and children’s books. Riedenburg is great, but the best part is having such sweet and generous friends here.  Check out some more pictures from the weekend in our gallery.

Ferienwohnung Grünauer

I mentioned our Ferienwohnung in the last post, but I didn’t really explain what it is. Ferienwohnung is the German word for a “holiday flat.” We are staying at the Ferienwohnung Grünauer with sweet Emma as our host. We are basically living in the lower level of her house. We have two bedrooms, a living/dining room, a small kitchen, a bathroom and a water closet.

James ceremonially christened the bidet in the bathroom before we were able to explain to him what it is. He came into the living room where Sarah and I were sitting and said, “Mom, the toilet is like a sink or something.” We immediately figured out what had happened. The kids still aren’t exactly clear what a bidet is for, and we’re okay with that.

Our Ferienwohnung is located in the village of Obereggersberg, near Riedenburg, Germany. It overlooks the Altmühltal (Altmühl valley where the Altmühl river runs). Obereggersberg is a small collection of houses and Schloss Eggersberg (the local provincial palace, now a hotel, restaurant, and wi-fi hotspot). There are no real businesses here, other than a few Ferienwohnungen, and if you want to go shopping you have to travel the 3km to Riedenburg.

So when we got here our kitchen was stocked by Frau Petri. She brought us milk, bread, snacks, tea, coffee, and various other sundries. Our host, Emma, told us that the local bakery would deliver fresh rolls to us every morning. We just needed to tell him what we wanted. And sure enough, every morning (except Sundays) there has been a cloth bag hanging on our front door with five or six fresh rolls. Brekfast is always a treat!

We’ve also discovered that just down the street is a Kinderspielplatz or kids playground. They have some swings, a slide, a sandbox, and some sort of seated zipline thing that even the kids love doing. It says it’s for kids 12 years and younger, but we’re definitely young at heart!

 

Posted from Münsingen, Bern, Switzerland.

The Journey Begins

Waiting in the Philadelphia Airport

In case any of you haven’t had the opportunity to travel halfway across the world with three children ages seven and under, you should definitely make sure to take advantage of the opportunity if it comes along. Definitely. Sarcasm works over the Internet, right?

So we began our journey in Milwaukee, being picked up by the airport bus at 9am on Wednesday, July 13th. It is important to know that we had 5 maximum sized carry-on suitcases, two very large 50-pound suitcases, a large box, a pack-and-play, a car seat, a stroller, and three backpacks. So, every meter we had to move between various modes of transportation was a feat.

On the way to the airport James expressed some concern about going to Germany since he didn’t know how to say the word “toothpick” in German (bonus points for those of you who said Zanstocher). Why he neWaiting in the Philadelphia Airporteded to know, we’re still not sure.

From Milwaukee we boarded a small regional jet to Philadelphia. Since there were only 4 seats per row, James got to sit next to a lovely Greek lady named Voula who was headed back to Greece to relax at her oceanside home. We are now all officially invited to Greece. We may see if she’ll just take the kids for a week. Or two. Or three.

In Philadelphia, we transferred to the international terminal to board our flight to Zurich. We were seated near the back of a 737 with James and Emily sitting together and Henry stuck between his mom and me in his car seat. The plane ride featured three movies, “Big Mommas (Father and Son),” “A Night at the Museum,” and “Bride Wars.” I’m happy to say, I watched none of these, though Emily and James got front row seats to “A Night at the Museum” and loved it. Consequently, James and Emily did not sleep at all on the flight over. Henry slept the most, followed by me and Sarah.

We got to Zurich around 7:30am on Thursday, July 14th (James’s 6th Birthday). By the time we made it to the baggage claim our luggage was already taken off the carousel and stacked nicely for us. We found a luggage cart to pile everything onto and headed to the Flughafen Banhof (airport train station). We bought our tickets to travel from Zurich to Ingolstadt, Germany, via Munich at the ticket counter and talked to the baggage man about shipping our large suitcases. It turns out that would take around a week, and the train from Zurich to Munich would have plenty of room on it so it shouldn’t be a problem.

Here’s where things started to turn south. Before I begin, I need to thank some people who helped us along the way. The nameless lady on the train to Munich, Kim and Peter from California, Marco from Regensburg, and last but not least, Irene, the kindest, sweetest of them all.

The train pulls up at the station and I look for the car number that we have been assigned, as we have reserve seats. All of the cars are packed with people. I find our car number and Sarah and I quickly throw all of the kids and suitcases onto the train platform portion of the car (where people enter and exit). Emily and James enter the car and sit in two of our seats, which were open. I look high and low, but space to store our luggage is few and far between. So with everyone watching, I walked back and forth from the platform to the car with a new bag each time, trying to find a spot to cram it where it won’t likely fall and hit someone.

At this point the ticket man comes around and asks for our ticket. I show him the mess of papers that the train station lady gives me, he identifies our ticket and proceeds to tell me that we can’t have all of our stuff on the platform. He actually became quite upset about it and I tried to explain that I was moving pieces into the car as quickly as I could but there was not much space there.

I noticed a nice, pleasant, 30-something lady get up from her seat and walk to the other side of the ticket taker. She starts talking to him in Swiss German, and he responds back. She becomes more irritated and begins to speak very brusquely with him. I begin to realize that she has come over to yell at the ticket taker for being rude to us and to ask him to give us a break as the train is clearly full and we’ve been trying to move all of our luggage. His tone with us began to soften a bit and the lady took a seat.

On the ride we met Kim and Peter, two lawyers from California. They played with our kids (well, just Henry as Emily and James fell dead-asleep as soon as they got in their seats), bought us a drink, and generally made the time go by much faster. They were on day 3 of their two-week European vacation, and I think they really enjoyed not having any children once they met us.

Henry falls asleep on the train from Munich to IngolstadtWe finally got all of our bags loaded for our 5 hour train ride to Munich (it should have been 4 hours, but the diesel engine broke down at one of the stops and they had to send a whole new engine to attach to the train). We finally arrived in Munich, threw all of our bags off the train, and found the next train to Ingolstadt. Thankfully that was easy to do and the train was not very full, so we grabbed our own compartment and stored all of our luggage without a problem. An hour later we arrived in Ingolstadt.

Our final stop, the train station at Saal ab der DonnauI went to the ticket counter to buy our tickets to Saal ab der Donnau (The city of Saal on the Danube river), grabbed two Cokes for the kids, and about 100 euros for pocket cash. When I came back we began to move our luggage two tracks over to catch the next train. That doesn’t sound like much, but in order to do that we had to haul each piece down the stairs, over two tracks, and back up the stairs. There were no lifts, so we had to do it all by hand. That’s where we met Marco, a wonderfully nice mathematician from Regensburg. He helped move all of our luggage as soon as he heard we had been doing this all day. He also helped talk to the conductor for me, and helped with moving things off the train once we got there. He also gave me his number in case we needed more help in the future!

Once we got there we were greeted by Frau Irene Petri who helped us load her VW van with our luggage, and drove us to our Ferienwohnung (holiday flat) in Obereggersberg, Germany. She had little chocolate treats ready for the kids, a birthday cake (strawberry custard torte) for James, and a kitchen full of groceries waiting for us. She only spoke German, so I smiled and nodded the entire 25 minutes from Saal to Obereggersberg. She was a tremendous sweetheart.

Enjoying Chicken after bathtime at our FerienwohnungWe got to our flat around 6:00pm on Thursday, July 14th, about 26 hours after we started. We were tired, hungry, smelly, exhausted, smelly, tired, and hungry. And smelly. But most of all, we were elated to be here. We went to bed between 9 and 10pm, and had variable success sleeping. But we all woke up the next morning, having agreed to not set any alarm clocks, at 11am, ready to meet what remained of the day…

Posted from Münsingen, Bern, Switzerland.

The day has finally arrived!

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“Oh our bags are packed
We’re ready to go …”

“Leaving on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again.”

Well the big day has finally arrived. The bus comes to pick us up in about 45 minutes. We’ve got all of our bags ready, including five more huge bags that will be delivered in a few weeks.

After waiting for weeks and weeks I was informed yesterday morning that our Swiss Visas were ready. So yesterday I drove down to the Swiss Consulate in Chicago and picked up all five visas (just in the nick of time).

At this point we are flying from Milwaukee to Philadelphia where we change planes and fly to Zurich. We should arrive in Zurich around 9am tomorrow (Swiss time). From there we will grab a train (another 5-6 hours) to northern Bavaria to meet up with some friends, and hopefully settle in for a few weeks.

The kids are clearly excited, and even more clearly haven’t the foggiest idea what they’re about to go through.

Well, it’s just about time to go. I’ll check in later with some updates, and maybe some pictures!

Behüte Dich Gott!

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Posted from .

The fastest five years in sports…

So residency has come and gone. It feels like just yesterday that we were gathering in the orthopaedic library at the hospital and learning about ACGME competencies, and how to log hours. So five years of studying, rounding, operating, dictating, splinting, and hardly sleeping have finally come to an end. I said it about medical school, and I’ll say it about residency: “The days are long, but the years are short.”

This past weekend we had our graduation celebration and picnic (including resident roasts, and the always anticipated Skits). Unfortunately my camera was out of batteries for the graduation dinner night, but we got plenty of pictures of the picnic on Saturday (see the gallery below). Saturday started with a golf tournament that was a lot of fun (thanks to Joe M, Kelly and Kathy).

Alas all celebrations must end. Right now my time is filled with studying for step 1 of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery exam. We take the exam on July 7th. It’s around 350 questions and we have 9 hours to do it. Whew! It’s the kind of test you only want to take once, trust me on that. I’m a little concerned about how to decompress from that once the test is done.

After that we get ready to fly out to Switzerland, on July 13th. We have a few family get togethers before we leave, but within less than two weeks we will be in Europe, hopefully with all of our children. And hopefully with our Swiss Visas. Keep your fingers crossed!

Well, I should get back to studying… See you in Switzerland!

Check out the Photo Gallery here.

Merry Christmas from the Schwabs!

It’s that time of year again when we send words of wisdom to our friends and family.  We have been very blessed this year, well, except for Henry’s case of the chicken pox, oh, and James’s broken arm.  Thankfully, Emily, ever graceful, survived the year without any physical calamities, save for three lost teeth.

Joe celebrated his film debut this spring directing, producing, and starring in the Skits film for the Orthopaedic Department’s graduation party.  He has been looking forward to this for decades, literally.  For a while, he was spending more time filming and editing than doing surgery, and pretty much no time sleeping.  Reluctantly, he has put his Hollywood dreams on hold, and is now in the fifth and final year of his residency. We’re really looking forward to the next graduation party!

Joe and Sarah traveled to Switzerland in February for a conference, and to prepare for our yearlong stay there starting in 2011. Despite what you may have heard, there are no “Swiss Cake Rolls” to be found in that country. Deceitful Little Debbie!

Among several trips to Door County and Minnesota, Emily and James made their inaugural trip to the Boundary Waters, where they were four lakes and over 500 rods away from any TVs, video games, electricity or running water… and they loved it!! They showed their true spirit on the last day as we canoed out in pouring rain, at 50 degrees, singing and laughing.

Henry turned 1 in June, and passed all of the typical 1-year-old milestones: crawling, walking, first words (“Dada’s at work”).  With a 1-year-old, our family travel was somewhat limited, so we decided to bring the world to us.

Fishing for Walleye
Fishing for Walleye

In conjunction with James and Emily’s school, the Milwaukee German Immersion School, we hosted two teaching interns, one from Switzerland in the spring and one from Germany this fall.  Both Isabel and Kristina have been great to have in our home, playing with the kids and helping us with our German language (Könnten Sie bitte Ohrfeige dass Fisch für mich?).

We wish you all a most Joyous and Blessed Christmas, and all the best for 2011!

Oktoberfest 2010

Our third annual Oktoberfest party  on September 25th. was a huge success! Check out our pictures below. We partied until the wee hours of the morning well after the ceremonial kegs ran dry. We had people come from as far as California to experience the Gemütlichkeit! Apart from the authentic Bavarian würsts we enjoyed Hofbrau Beer, traditional Oktoberfest oompa music, and were graced with the presence of at least two authentic Germans (straight from the motherland).

We’ve been thrilled with the attendance of the party the last few years and we really enjoy putting the party together. We regret that next year we won’t be able to throw the party since we’ll be away, but we are looking forward to a return to the party circuit in 2012! We plan on trying to spend 2011’s Oktoberfest celebration at Oktoberfest party headquarters: Munich!

Check out the full Photo Gallery here.

We’re starting over…

We’ve failed miserably the last few years to keep our web presence up-to-date. That means years of lost pictures, videos, clever musings, etc. But no more! We’ve updated the site to help make it easier for us to share our family memories. Enjoy!