Hello Friends and Family,
I hope everyone had a fulfilling holiday season and are having a fun start to 2016. I had a fantastic Christmas with my family visiting me here in Germany. My dad planned a fun family trip for us to Prague for the holidays, and it was special for us to simply be able to spend time together. It had been almost five full months since I had been with my family so quality time was long overdue. I’ll share some of the great highlights of our trip.
Volleyball Match versus USC Munster
My family arrived on a Friday, and unfortunately their bags did not arrive with them. Luckily, my brother packed his beer mug and German hat in his carry-on so he was still well prepared for the trip. After some fun calls with the airline personnel who did not speak much English, my dad was able to have their bags delivered to my apartment. The bags arrived in time for my family to be able to dawn their red and black outfits and attend my volleyball match the next night. They had a blast at our match that we won in a thrilling five sets, and they left with full stomachs. They had access to our team’s VIP room which is complete with a bar, dinner buffet, and plenty of desserts throughout the entire match. It was fun to “bring my family to work” and for them to get to experience a home match in person. After having been apart for so long, it was special to have them there.
Dresden Christmas Markets
Dresden boasts the oldest Christmas market in all of Germany, and it does not disappoint. We all had a great time bundling up and venturing around the city. Each booth at the market has grandiose décor and they sell some great traditional German gifts. Our favorite thing to do was eat as we walked around, and I think my favorite thing was the baked apple. This apple was warm and filled with gooey cinnamon goodness while topped by thick vanilla cream along with whipped cream! The best part of all…ZERO calories!! ….Okay totally kidding, but it was oh, so worth it!
Mission Impossible I: Prague Hunt
To kick off our time in the Czech Republic we watched the first Mission Impossible movie since it was shot in Prague. It was funny to see how much younger Tom Cruise looked. We had fun visiting the sights and comparing them to how they looked in the movie. For example, as we walked across the famous Charles Bridge we were looking at the different statues to see where Tom Cruise stood in the movie. We also found a gate that was used during the movie and we got a big kick out of that. Can you say tourists? Anyways, the views all around Prague were absolutely stunning. At one end of the Charles Bridge was a watch tower that we climbed, and we were in awe of the view as we could look over the river, across the bridge, and up toward the castle. Ryan had fun filling his snapchat story with pictures and videos of people taking selfies, and he had his funniest video was at the top of this tower. The girl caught him catching her (if that makes sense) and laughed and kind of jumped up and down like “oh no!” We got some big laughs out of that.
In addition to looking around at all the architecture, we took time to appreciate and enjoy the great food and drinks in Prague! First things first, beer is truly cheaper than water in this city. Every place we went we had a great time tasting different kinds of beers and a half liter or even sometimes a liter of beer was only 2 euros! For all of you who aren’t good with the metric scale, a mug holding a liter of beer is almost bigger than my head. Yeah, all that for two euros. We also had some absolutely fantastic meals that included yummy soups, adventurous meats like rabbit and duck, and mouth-watering desserts. Some of my favorite memories from the trip were getting to sit down in a cozy place, have delicious food, and spend time chatting with my family. Special memories indeed.
On Christmas day we did one of the most fun excursions that we’ve ever done as a family by having a tour of Prague via Segways. My brother hopped on his and was doing 360s in no time, and my mom wasn’t too far behind him. I was more hesitant, and it didn’t help that as we started the tour I could hear a woman walking by us say “I think the guy that invented those died while riding one!” My brother later informed me that story isn’t really true, but still, it was not the most confidence-boosting thing to hear at the start of the ride.
We started out by heading up to high ground so we could look out over Prague. It was some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen with the various colors in the morning sky and the green and orange tops of the buildings down below. Each place we stopped was more breath-taking than the next. Our tour guide, Ivan, LOVED chatting with my mom as we rode along, and we all decided that he missed his mom and was using ours as a pseudo mom. He loved her so much so that he began to ditch me when I needed help just so he could chat with her. For example, we had to ride our Segways down a very steep hill. To break on a Segway you have to lean backwards…with nothing there to catch you…which was very unsettling. As we started out down this big hill Ivan rode in front of me and said that if I lost control to just run myself in to the back of his Segway and he would catch me. Easy enough. He was hanging near me until my mom sped by me down the hill. He didn’t want to miss an opportunity to chat with her, and completely left me in his dust. Now to set the backstory, we were having to go down this steep hill after I had already crashed my Segway into the garage door of the Swedish Embassy (sorry ‘bout it) and almost lost control on a previous hill, nearly missing pedestrians. This is what it all looked like as we rode down: my mom and Ivan waiting for everyone down at the bottom of the hill chatting away, Ryan doing 360s all the way down, me inching along, and my sweet dad riding behind me saying “great job Katie”. I think the tortoise from the age-old story Tortoise and the Hare could have beat me to the bottom. Luckily, I am now in a place that I can look back on this and laugh. Overall it was a totally fantastic day and I think our best Christmas ever! It will be hard to top that one. A big thank you to my Granny Joan for helping to make that happen!
On the way back to Dresden from Prague we stopped by the Terezin Concentration Camp and the Ghetto that is located there. It was a very sobering experience to go and visit this place. It was deeply saddening to see the pictures and read the stories that were shared in the exhibits. The people who were at this camp lived in a place of unimaginable horrors. It is devastating to see how humans decided to treat other humans, and to physically stand in the same exact place where that happened is something words can’t really describe. The camp still had the original bunk beds where over 90 people had to live with no mattresses, only one toilet, and one small heater. It was chilling inside, and I cannot even begin to comprehend the strength of the people who lived there. One thing that moved me most was to see the drawings, paintings and colored pictures that the children of the Jewish Ghetto made that were on display in the museum. You could see the children had signed their artwork and dated it. What struck me is that these children drew pictures of themselves with their families, the sunrise, themselves playing soccer with their friends, and other various images. They were just children, and they had their lives stolen from them. Humanity and kindness are things that should go hand in hand, and unfortunately that concept was gravely lost during this time.
New Years 2016
Unfortunately my family had to leave on the morning of the 31st, but I am so grateful for the time that we all got to spend together. We made some amazing memories to close out 2015 strong, and I am thankful they took time off of work to come to Germany and visit me. After my parents left, I got together with some of my teammates to bring in the New Year. As it got close to midnight we headed in to the city to watch fireworks. It was an incredible sight as we stood along the river looking out at all the buildings of the historic city and seeing hundreds of fireworks go off. I do mean hundreds. It was like South Carolina right here in Dresden. There is no law against the common man lighting the fireworks that create the big explosions in the sky. Seems like a fun idea until you’re like me and see a bunch of drunk people run by you looking for a place to launch their large fireworks. Not the most settling feeling, especially for a girl who used to, as a kid, cry at every 4th of July firework show while sitting in my mom’s lap as she covered my ears. I like to think I’m past that time in my life, but I definitely still covered my ears. It made for an unreal sight as people were lighting off all of these large and beautiful fireworks along the edge of the city. Midnight was unbelievable!
I hope everyone had Happy Holidays and that your New Year is starting off on the right foot!