Tuesday, March 27, 2007

spring break! (luzern)

wespent i think three days in and around lucerne, switzerland, just south of zurich and on the northern edge of the alps. we arrived after dark and got all sorts of turned around in the city looking for our hotel, but finally made it. we were too exhausted to do much that first night but ended up walking along the river and crossing an ancient wooden bridge that is a famous landmark in the city. we ended up at a funky little cafe where we split a pitcher of local swiss beer for dinner, and then home to bed.

thefirst day was basically spent on mount pilatus (see previous post) but we did get a chance to see a bit of the market on a saturday. here is a picture of adam buying us some really smelly cheese from a little stand there that ended up making us mildly sick for the next two days. not fun. but most of our time in luzern we spent either drinking giant cups of tea and looking at the mountains surrounding the city or sitting along the lake and enjoying the views from there. the weather was warm and sunny with a cool breeze, just like how springtime in the mountains should be.
because of all the mist, a lot of our pictures just didn't turn out. we could see the amazing peaks all around us, but with the bright sunshine and the misty sky, it was just too bright for our wimpy little camera to pick up the details. there's a giant mountain behind adam right now but all you see is air. um, i guess you just had to be there to get it...

one of our favorite things that we did was on sunday when we walked up a hill and discovered this amazing old wall with watchtowers that must have served as some sort of defense for the city many years ago. we sat underneath this wall on a bench in a sunny garden and stared at the mountains and the lake, listening to the bells chime across the city as people left church that day.

we slept with our hotel room windows open on sunday night to enjoy all the fresh air that the alps were generating, and woke up monday morning to a fresh coat of snow in the city. this picture of mount pilatus was taken from our hotel room window!

the lion sculpture is to commemorate all the fallen swiss soldiers who fought in the french revolutionary war. it's quite impressive and is bigger than this picture makes it look. mark twain once said something like this was the most moving pieces of stone he had ever seen. or something like that. adam and i sure thought it was cool, though.

ijust feel so CLEAN when i'm in the mountains. all the fresh air, fresh water, bright sunshine. it just makes me feel fresh and revived and alive. it was GOOD.

Monday, March 26, 2007

spring break! (mount pilatus)

as is becoming our tradition, we spent a week recently on "spring break." and, according to tradition, we once again spent it in the mountains.

but first let me explain: adam had a conference in salzburg last week. and since his work was going to pay for most of his expenses while he was there, we decided to make a holiday out of it and swing through switzerland so we could see the mountains again. then on to salzburg (via liechtenstein!), and finally luxembourg since it was "on the way home." (how cool is that?)

so since we have like a zillion pictures from our spring break excursion, i'm going to break it up into smaller chunks. and for your viewing pleasure today, we bring you mount pilatus.

mount pilatus is just shy of 7,000 feet, which seems tiny compared to some of the mountains we have in colorado. but since nearby lucerne is only at about 1400 feet, the elevation seems quite amazing. mount pilatus was named after pontius pilate, who legend says is buried on the mountain. every good friday it is said that he comes down to lake lucerne to wash his soul clean from the guilt he feels over condemning jesus to be crucified. there are also stories of dragons that live on the mountain, and for a time it was forbidden for the locals to climb the mountain for fear of waking them and bringing a curse to themselves and to the rest of the city.

the first day we were in lucerne, it was very misty and foggy, and we could only see the foothills surrounding the city. and just like that line in dumb and dumber ("that john denver is full of crap!") we were not quite sure what all the hype about switzerland was all about. so whatever. we decided to go to the top of the mountain anyway.
which involved cable cars.
i don't even like elevators, let alone cable cars hanging precariously over dangerous alpen crevasses. i kept my eyes shut firmly for the first few minutes, until adam convinced me to look around and see all the beautiful trees and snow and little swiss chalets. and waaaaaay down below us, too far below us to even think about for long without wanting to puke, there was a church built on top of a ledge! this is quite near the summit of the mountain, and i can't for the life of me imagine what would drive someone to build a church where no one lives, on the top of a mountain, where there are not even trees to build it with... but it's neat to wonder about.
at the top of the mountain it was still pretty misty and we weren't able to see many of the vistas we were hoping for, but it didn't matter to us anyway. the wind was freezing and strong, and the sun was bright and warm, and we were able to walk along some ledges and look out and breathe the fresh, new air of the alps.
there were also these fun sun chairs set out at the top with wool blankets on a few of them, so we took advantage of the amenities and had ourselves a little picnic of swiss cheese (REAL swiss cheese!), wine, bread, and chocolate.
the cable cars make a few stops on their way up and down the mountain, so on the way down we got off early and hiked down most of the way. we got a great view of lucerne at about 5:00 pm, right when all the church bells across the city were calling people to saturday night mass. and from the side of a swiss alp, we listened to the bells chime across the entire city. it was magical.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

my wonderful birthday!

a year ago, i was surrounded by friends at a bar, celebrating my birthday and having a good time. the only difference between last year and this year (besides that i'm an extra year older and better) is that the bar this time around is in holland.

it was my birthday over the weekend, and it was absolutely, incredibly wonderful. i honestly hadn't put a whole lot of effort or thought into my birthday this year because i really didn't know how i wanted to celebrate, who i wanted to celebrate with, or indeed if i even felt like celebrating at all. but since my birthday is, after all, the BEST day of the year, i decided i'd do just a little something to commemorate the most important day in history by at least inviting a few coworkers out for a drink or two on friday after work.

... and wouldn't you know it? like 25 people showed up! seriously!

i was so honored, and so happy, and felt completely and totally surrounded by love. and not that anyone had to get me anything, but a lot of people did. which means even more to me, that they took that extra effort to go out and get me something (a couple people even made my present!), when they hardly know me at all! they didn't have to do that! awwww, you guys!

so on friday i met up with a really sizeable group from work at a little cafe next to the old church in the center of enschede. here are a bunch of really bad pictures of my friends:

we stayed out until about 10:00, not too late, but still it was about 4 hours of celebrating. adam of course made me another obnoxious birthday hat. every year he tries harder and harder to make me a hat that's so ridiculous that i won't want to wear it. but the more ridiculous the hats are, the more attention i get, ergo the more i want to wear them. what's even more hilarious is that i think other people are embarassed to see me with this hat on. they're all, "omg, will you please take off that hat?!" and i'm all, "why? do you want to wear it cuz it's so cool?" anyway, it had a european/american theme to it since i spent half of last year in the u.s. and half of this year in europe. so there's the dutch symbol on it of a lion holding a sword, which apparently took adam like 2 hours to do, and then a star for the u.s. and some streamers from my bike, which are red, white, and blue, and then also he brought along a couple of markers so people could sign it and make it "interactive." nice!

on saturday i had another little party, this time with just a few close buddies from adam's work. stu, the american (he's a "doolie" and has dual citizenship in the uk, but he has an american accent so i just always call him "the american"), and johnnie and linn, the norwegians. (they've been teaching me how to swear in norwegian, and i feel SO SHAMEFUL about it. i keep having nightmares about mema -- my late grandmother -- coming back to haunt me because these words are just awful! to make up for it, i'm also having linn teach me the lord's prayer in norwegian so i can repent if i need to.) stu brought over a german board game that was more complex than it needed to be (imagine rock/paper/scissors but with antique collectibles and detectives) and we sat by the fire and drank wine.

i bought myself a birthday cake at the store along with some candles. they only had 24 candles, so i lit all of them, blew them out, and then lit 5 more and blew those out too. adam thought that was a little obnoxious, but whatever. it's not his birthday.

then on sunday i went to church in amsterdam and afterwards went out with about a half dozen people. we walked down to the leidseplein, a very funky area of town with bars, cafes, restaurants, street performers, and of course "coffeeshops." we went to an irish pub and drank an english beer that i can't seem to find anywhere out here (anyone ever heard of "old speckled hen"? it's not the greatest, but i drink it cuz i like the name.)

so this is the thing, really: i've only lived here for 6 months. i've only been at my job for 2 months. i'm still homesick and still lonely a lot of the time. but over the weekend, i had a dream. i dreamt that my best girl, teresa, came out to visit me here in the netherlands. and when she was here, i was showing her this beautiful garden outside my bedroom. (the garden isn't there in waking life, but there was one in my dream.) the garden was so big, so beautiful, and so sunny, and there were other people hanging out in my garden as i was showing it to teresa. and i kept commenting on how grateful i was for this beautiful space, and how i really should hang out in this garden more often. "i really don't take advantage enough of this place." and to me, that's the best present i could have given myself: the insight into how i've been living my life here. i do have friends. i do have love. and sometimes i'm so wrapped up in staying connected to boulder that i forget that i actually have a community out here that loves me and thinks i'm special. i really do feel so amazingly loved, with all those "virtual strangers" coming out to celebrate my birthday with me. but see, they aren't strangers. they really do like me and think i'm cool enough to have a beer with, and i'm starting to really get that now, you know?

so yeah. i had a really great birthday. really.