New blog to follow

Happy new year!

Now that “Milwaukee to Munich” has turned into just “Milwaukee,” it’s time to more or less retire this blog. Oh, there might be a future post or two as we recap certain adventures or detail European-related updates, but for the most part, this blog will simply serve as an archive of our time abroad.

For those of you who are beginning to tear up at the thought of no longer having fresh blog posts to read, I have great news — I’ve decided to convert my MattWesselMusic.com journal into a WordPress blog. If you’d like stay updated on all things related to my music, life, philosophical thoughts and more, you should definitely visit the blog and sign up for email alerts:

“Alive In You: A Matt Wessel Music blog”

Happy reading!

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A Very, Merry, Bavari(an) Christmas!

We may be home for the holidays (and home for good), but we’re surrounding ourselves with some newfound Bavarian comforts this Christmas season. We have our traditional German Christmas smoker and German Christmas pyramid. We’re making pretzels and gluhwein. Our tree is full of the ornaments we collected from the 16 countries we visited while in Europe. And our fridge always has a cold Weissbier or two. In fact, it was the latter comfort that inspired our holiday video this year, courtesy of the Weissbier glasses we brought back from Germany:

What a wonderful year this was for the two of us — a year full of new people and new places. Lots of new places. Munich, Budapest, London, Basel, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dachau, Fussen, Salzburg, Zurich, Lindau, Venice, Verona, Santorini, Athens, Galway, Kilkee, Doolin, Dublin, La Turbie, Monte Carlo, Montpellier, Massat, Bordeaux, Paris, Versailles, Colmar, Riquewihr, Prague, Regensburg, Andechs, Barcelona, Lausanne, Nyon, Vaduz, Garmisch, Rothenburg, Lake Como, Baden-Baden, Augsburg and Wroclaw. Beyond that fun ramble of cities visited (yes, that was all of them — in order), we can probably skip any additional recaps seeing as how we’ve been talking about this year, well, all year.

As for what’s ahead, Katie is going to continue her work as Spaulding Clinical’s European sales lead and I’m going to jump back into the ranks of the working world — although the jury is still out on where that will be. Katie will also look at going back to school to finish up her MBA and, in the next few weeks, I will be putting the finishing touches on my new album. Oh, and the Concert for Life will make its return on March 10, 2013!

From the two of us to all of you, we hope you have a merry, merry Christmas and a wonderfully blessed and thrilling new year. Enjoy the rest of the holiday season!

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All good things must come to an end

We spent our final day in Munich in fitting fashion. A walk through the English Gardens. Sausage for lunch. A trip to the Marienplatz for our fourth visit to the Christkindlmarkt. An afternoon coffee. German goulash and Weissbier for dinner. A subway ride back to Hohenzollernplatz. And now some quiet time at the apartment with the Slingbox.

One final picture in Munich.

One final picture in Munich.

As perfect as the day was (we even had a light snowfall to further put us in a Christmas mood), it did little to change the fact that both of us are carrying heavy hearts as we say goodbye to our time abroad — a time that won us over far more than either of us thought it ever would. We’re going to miss this place very much and, as excited as we are for our return to Milwaukee, we’re equally as subdued by the reality that we’ll never, ever, ever have a year quite like this again.

I’m going to miss the German culture and their way of life.

I’m going to miss saying “entschuldigen,”” “bitte,” “danke schoen” and “tschüs!”

I’m really going to miss the unstructured schedule — the ability to do what I want when I want to.

I’m going to miss going to bed at 2 a.m. and sleeping until 10 a.m.

I’m going to miss having beer with almost every meal. Sure, I know that I still can. But I won’t because it wouldn’t be the same.

I’m going to miss having the single unit of currency be in coin form as opposed to paper. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, America needs to permanently move to a $1 coin.

I’m going to miss year-round chocolate-filled croissants, brats and soft pretzels.

I’m going to miss actual beer gardens (not just ‘patios’).

I’m going to miss traveling to different cultures with entirely different languages and ways of life — and making those trips in just two days.

I’m going to miss working from home.

I’m going to miss the English Gardens and the Marienplatz.

I’m going to miss running through Luitpold Park.

I’m going to miss using public transportation.

I’m going to miss not having a car.

I’m going to miss trips to the grocery store where I only fill up one bag because I know I can easily walk back the next day or the day after.

I’m going to miss playing tour guide with family and friends.

I’m going to miss the excitement of a trip back to the States and the excitement of getting back to life in Munich.

I’m going to miss Dhaba’s Indian food.

I’m going to miss the U-bahn man.

I’m going to miss being able to go to Oktoberfest four times in one year because I live so close.

I’m going to miss being able to eat whatever I want and not gain any weight because of the fact that I walk or bike everywhere.

I’m going to miss using a bike as my main means of transportation.

I’m going to miss the insane amount of free time I had to spend on personal projects this year.

I’m going to miss trying to speak and read German.

I’m going to miss Katie correcting me when I try to speak and read German.

I’m going to miss cobblestone streets.

I’m going to miss being able to buy a Schneider-Weisse beer for only a buck.

I’m going to miss playing Sheepshead at the Hofbräuhaus.

I’m going to miss a lot.

But each item in the above list pales in comparison to the thing I’m going to miss the most — the thing that has my heart aching and has literally moved me to tears more than once today. More than anything else from this year, I’m going to miss the one-on-one time with Katie.

That sounds kind of weird when you consider that I’m going to spend the rest of my life with her. But we’ll never have the ‘together time’ that we had this year. Even if I were to do nothing else in life but work my 9-to-5 job and then spend every other waking minute with Katie, I still wouldn’t see her as much as I did this year. We did everything together and went everywhere together. Aside from that one day in July when she went off to Dublin for the morning and afternoon, we were inseparable. To those of you reading this who are in a relationship, that probably sounds kind of miserable. How could we not have gotten sick of each other? I don’t know. But we didn’t. And when I think about all of the amazing places, people, cultures, languages, foods, drinks, events, etc, that we’re going to miss, none of it can hold a candle to how much I’m going to miss spending nearly every second of every day with my wife.

A trip like this changes a person. Katie and I are no exception. Who we are as individuals is forever changed because of this 11-month stint on another continent. But we’ll also never be the same couple. I’ll be the first to say that we were a fantastic couple before we left in January. We were very much in love and each lived to see the other person happy. But after spending so much time as one another’s sole companion and after experiencing so many new things with only each other, we now have a new appreciation for what it means to be someone’s life partner.

Sorry to get all mushy in this final Munich-based post (we’ll have a few follow-up posts once we’re back in the States), but I had to share the emotions of our last day abroad. Thanks for experiencing this journey with us. I’d love to write even more, but that 5:30 a.m. wake-up call is fast approaching and a long day of travel is ahead of us.

From Milwaukee to Munich. And back again. What a ride it was.

Tschüs!

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Handle with care

Katie and I are packing up for our Monday flight home. Because the apartment came fully furnished, there really isn’t that much to get in order. We’re shipping one box home and the rest will come over with our checked baggage. One particular chunk of cargo, however, will remain by my side throughout the journey home. I’m not about to pack these prized possessions and chance that they might break.

You’ve heard us rave about the Weissbier over here — that delicious, pure, full-bodied wheat beer that defines Bavaria. Well, like many fine beers, there’s a specific glass you’re supposed to use when drinking Weissbier. Over the last several months I’ve collected a few of them so that I can enjoy my new favorite beer in the States in proper fashion. Below the picture I’ll post a note about each glass.

One glass for each day of the week (and three on Sunday).

One glass for each day of the week (and three on Sunday).

From left to right:

Maierbräu Landler Weisse — From the bar right around the corner from our apartment. Katie’s favorite Weissbier.

Schneider-Weisse — My co-favorite Weissbier. This glass is from the Weissen Bräuhaus in Munich’s Marienplatz.

Hofbräu — Naturally, this glass is from the famous Hofbräuhaus.

Ayinger — My other co-favorite Weissbier. This glass was a gift to us from our good friends at Dhaba, the Indian restaurant in Schwabing that Katie and I went to some two-dozen times. It was that good. (It didn’t hurt that they served one of my favorite beers.)

Paulaner — A name most of us back home are familiar with. I can’t remember where this glass came from. I must have had a lot of Weissbier that night.

Augustiner Bräu — Another one of Katie’s favorites. This glass came to us from Augustiner’s beer garden in Munich.

Herrnbräu — A delicious Weissbier that I had when we visited Rothenburg, Germany. It’s from Bürgerkeller restaurant, which also had some of the best German food we had this entire year. The owner of the restaurant was kind enough to give me the glass. (And a crazy story — I couldn’t remember where I got this glass at first. So I searched “what restaurants serve herrnbrau in munich” and one of the top search results that Google gave me was a link to my blog about Rothenburg, where I had mentioned the same story!)

Franziskaner — A beer I had never heard of before visiting Munich, but one that seems to only be rivaled by Hofbräu when it comes to local publicity. A very popular beer. This glass is from our Schwabing neighborhood restaurant Wassermann.

Fürstenberg — The only place we ever saw this beer was at Kun-Tuk, a fantastic Thai restaurant about a 20-minute walk from our apartment. They were kind enough to give us this glass.

Prost!

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Wroclaw, Poland

We made our final country visit of the year this past weekend, visiting a land that’s as much a part of our heritage as Germany. It was a fitting time to visit, given the Thanksgiving weekend. We were unable to be with family, but between living in Germany, a Thursday trip to Salzburg’s Christmas Market and the weekend trip to Poland, we were able to think of family as we traveled the same roads as our ancestors.

We chose Wroclaw for our trip to Poland because 1) the flight was affordable (we didn’t want to drive nine hours nor sit on a train for 14 hours, hence the flight) and 2) their annual Christmas Market began that Friday.

Katie and I had little expectations for Poland. We assumed it would be somewhat of a mixture of the German and Russian cultures, which it most definitely is, and we figured it would look and feel a little like the Czech Republic or Hungary, two nearby countries that we had been to. As for Wroclaw, we had absolutely no expectations. We didn’t even know it existed until searching for Christmas markets in the country. It’s actually the fourth-largest city in Poland and home to over 600,000 people. We learned that the name isn’t pronounced at all like it’s spelled, which is a common trait of the Polish language, actually. Phonetically spelled out it’s “va-roat-swaf” (or something like that). Even more interesting is the fact that it used to be a German city — just one of a handful of other countries or kingdoms that have claimed the city as their own at some point since its inception in the 10th century. Germans still refer to it by its German name — Breslau.

As for our trip, we left on Friday morning and had a quick flight directly to Wroclaw that took about 75 minutes. We flew on one of LOT Air’s smaller planes — so small that the baggage was stored in the front and the passengers entered from the back. Both wings had exposed and incredibly loud propellers that we were fortunate enough to sit right next to (both ways). And the seats had ashtrays. Awesome. But the thing still took off and landed like any other plane and before we knew it we were riding the bus into the city center. The 40-minute bus ride cost us 3 Polish zlotys each — or $1. Countries with their own currency can be either very expensive or very cheap. Poland proved to be the latter. (They were slated to adopt the Euro in 2014 but I think they’re going to wait even longer given the mess that the Euro currency is in right now.)

We had a 30-minute walk from the bus station to our hotel, a walk that took us right through the Christkindlmarkt (that’s the term for the Christmas Market’s out here — it literally means “Christ Child Market”). Katie kept averting her eyes because she didn’t want to see any of the market until we dropped off our bags. But I couldn’t resist sniffing out a kielbasa stand for a quick lunch. I’m a huge fan of Polish sausage and had previously said the offerings in Munich’s Marienplatz were the best I had ever had in my entire life. That’s no longer true. Meet the new title holder:

No mustard or ketchup needed.

It looks like your average Polish sausage, but the flavors told a different story. And the consistency of the sausage was unlike anything I had ever experienced, either. The casing wasn’t that tough and the meat itself was chewier. Delicious. (Katie’s very proud of my in-depth food review of the Polish sausage.)

After scarfing that down and checking into the Art Hotel, located just off the Market Square (where the Christmas Market was taking place), we set out to explore our second Christkindlmarkt in as many days and countries (we were at the market in Salzburg, Austria on Thanksgiving). Knowing that we’d be back the following days, we decided to just take the entire spectacle in as we walked from stand to stand. There were plenty of ornaments and other Christmas decorations to be found, as well as delicious treats like olsypek (bread-bites filled with smoked-cheese — very much like Wisconsin cheese curds) and roasted nuts. Of course, we had a couple of mugs of gluhwein, too. Our favorite was the original recipe with a touch of rum added to it.

The market itself spans the eastern and southern sides of Wroclaw’s iconic and massive Market Square (the only European city with a bigger central plaza is Krakow). It then continues along the eastern side beyond Market Square for a couple of blocks. It’s about as big as Salzburg’s was, but more spread out and arguably better decorated.

A very patient man spent five minutes taking this picture for us.

That night we ate at jaDka (yes, I typed that right) and feasted on an appetizer of authentic pierogi — Polish dumpings filled with meat and cheese — and entrees of wild boar with cranberry sauce and halibut with an orange-saffron risotto. The only thing missing was a nice, big horn of mead. (I settled for wine.) After dinner we visited a couple of bars to sample the local Polish beer (nothing too great — but we’re spoiled in Germany) and the chilled vodka (we did it just to do it — neither one of us much enjoys sipping vodka). We continued to enjoy the low prices in Wroclaw, paying about $1.50 per beer.

The following day we set out for the Raclawice Panorama — a famous panoramic painting of Poland’s legendary Battle of Raclawice. The massive painting is 15 meters high by 114 meters long and sits in a specially-designed room to give visitors a full panoramic view of the artists’ work. What’s more impressive is how the artists incorporated real objects at the base of the painting to give the entire work a 3D feel to it.

Can you see where the painting and floor meet?

Tours take place every half hour for the nominal price of $8 (or $6 if you’re a student). We loved it and would recommend it to anyone passing through Wroclaw.

From there we wandered into Wroclaw’s “Cathedral Isle,” one of several islands just north of the city center that sit in the Oder river. It’s the oldest part of the city and features several churches, including the impressive St. John’s Cathedral. The streets in this part of the city are all cobblestone and are lit only by old-fashioned oil lamps. It supposedly makes for quite a romantic setting in the evening, though we were passing through it during the daytime. On the western side of the island we crossed the popular Tumski bridge — which features hundreds of pad locks chained to the bridge by couples from past and present (and the keys to each lock are sitting at the bottom of the river) — before circling our way back into town.

Wroclaw’s Cathedral Isle.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking where we could and enjoying a not-too-cold Saturday. But with a Christkindlmarkt so close to us, it was only a matter of time before we were sucked back in and we spent a few pre-dinner hours wandering Market Square once again. During the daytime we could see the colorful buildings that line all sides of the square, the same buildings featured on many Wroclaw postcards. They reminded us of several German cities we’ve been to and even the Nyhavn boardwalk in Copenhagen.

Look at all the pretty colors.

We also stopped for a pre-dinner dessert (naturally) and grabbed a sekacz pyramid cake. Katie had read about these and really wanted to try them. So we waited in line for 30 minutes at the Christkindlmarkt (they’re a popular item) to get one. The entire thing is a hollow cylinder of dough that’s wrapped in a spiral to make it easy to eat. You can get all sorts of toppings. We went with chocolate and peanuts. It was very good. Katie — ever the entrepreneur — wanted to go back and buy more of them and turn around and sell them to people at the back of the line for a dollar more. (That’s why I love her.) (No, we did not end up doing that.)

Mmmmmm.

Dinner the second night was at a casual place called Kurna Chata, one of the best-reviewed restaurants in the city. The decor was very rustic and the menu featured old-fashioned, authentic Polish fare that’s still making my stomach growl. We both jumped at the chance to try the restaurant’s goulash (which we’ve both become obsessed with this year — particularly during the winter months). Katie’s came complete with baked cheese on top and a burning ring of sugar around the bowl. Mine had more of a Hungarian spin to it with crispy potato pancakes underneath. We enjoyed every bite. We stopped in a place next door for a couple of after-dinner drinks before calling it a night.

We spent our final morning in Wroclaw by attending Mass at St. Elizabeth’s church, located just steps from our hotel. Hearing a Mass in Polish was even more foreign-sounding that hearing a Mass in German. To the right of the altar was a large plaque dedicated to Pope John Paul II whom, as you might imagine, the Polish are just a wee bit proud of. We also had a rather bizarre experience just after the homily ended. The old woman sitting to Katie’s left had apparently dozed off. A younger woman (we assume the old woman’s daughter) sitting to her left was slapping her hands, trying to wake her up. The slapping became more intense and the young woman’s urges grew louder, and soon Katie and I realized that this older woman wasn’t waking up. She even started to drop her head. Her glasses fell off and the color was draining from her face. The younger woman called Poland’s equivalent of 9-1-1 and Katie and I were convinced this woman was dying. A man sitting on the other side of the two women leaned in to offer assistance. Together, he and I positioned the old woman so that she was laying down on the pew. It was rather awkward because I spoke no Polish and no one in this crowd of people spoke any English (mind you, the Mass was still going on). So it took a while for the man to communicate to me that he wanted me to help him carry the woman out. I didn’t have time (or the language skills) to question that decision, so I obliged. And just as we were lifting her up off the pew, she woke up. She then sat up, looked around and then left with the younger woman. When we left church after Mass we saw the younger woman talking to the driver of an ambulance.

We have no idea what happened. Either she fainted (very gradually), fell asleep (very soundly), took too many pills of some kind or, perhaps, she actually started dying and then decided she wanted to live. Who knows. It was all very strange. I’m just glad that she ended up walking out on her own power.

All of that life-saving work made me hungry. So we went straight from Mass back to the Christkindlmarkt so I could have one more kielbasa before packing up and heading home. While I stuffed my face with the most delicious sausage of all time, Katie chowed down on a shish kabob-like spear of chicken, bacon, onions and green peppers. We burned off the calories with one final walk around the market where we made a few purchases for people back home. Then we went back to the hotel, packed and walked to the bus for our $1 ride to the airport.

So there you have it. Poland. Our 16th and final country of the year. More pictures are on our Flickr page. We both thought a lot about our Polish relatives while in Wroclaw. It seemed to be a fitting end to our travels. Now we’re back in Munich and winding down life as Germans. We fly back to the States next Monday.

Look for some fun recap-type blogs in the days ahead! In the meantime, we hope you’re all enjoy the Christmas and holiday season!

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A day to remember

Truth be told, this year has been full of days to remember. Living in Europe for a year kind of has that effect. But the day I’m writing about today — the day my family and I remember today — is the day my dad died. No matter how many times I’ve talked about it or written about it over the past few weeks, it still seems unreal that 15 years have passed since November 23, 1997. And come next year I’ll reach that unavoidable milestone in which I will have lived as many years without him as I did with him (I was 16 when he passed away). In so many ways it seems like just yesterday. And at the same time it seems like forever ago …

Every year on this day my family and I come together in some way to remember my father. It’s always something different, but it’s always something. Often times we’ll gather together for dinner. We visit his grave. Emails usually get passed around in the days leading up to today. One year I made ‘care packages’ in honor of my dad, complete with all of his favorite sweets (and a small bottle of rum, of course). As many of you know, I’ve been known to share some sort of tribute to him in writing on my music website. (A few of which can be read here, here and here.) My brothers have also both written about him in the past. Ben shared this essay with us in 2008 and went on to write an entire book about him. Mike posted this on his blog this past April.

Obviously, with my being in Germany this year, I won’t be able to physically be with my family today (which usually isn’t a problem since it falls right around the Thanksgiving holiday). It won’t be the first time I’m out of town on this day (I remember being on a Bucks road trip or two), but it’s the first time I’ll be out of the country. And as it turns out, I won’t even be in Germany. This morning Katie and I will hop on a plane and head to Wroclaw, Poland. We’re going to spend the weekend there and enjoy one final country visit before this wonderful year (and blog) comes to an end. It’s a chance to put a 16th notch in our “Countries Visited” belt, but more importantly, it’s a chance to connect with the Polish roots that we both have. Having lost both my grandparents in the past year, I’m especially looking forward to the trip (my grandpa was a proud, proud Polish man).

But as we leave Munich and fly to Poland, I assure you that my thoughts will be of my father, from whom I have my German heritage and of whom I’ve thought about often while exploring the wonderful state of Bavaria during what I can now say has been the greatest year of my life. I spent the early part of this year doing some family research on the Wessel side. My goal was to trace us back to a city where I might be able to visit and look up some family records. Alas, I was only able to trace us back to the area of Baden-Baden, but nothing more specific — and even that could be wrong. (Still, I felt mighty proud when we stopped in Baden-Baden on our way back from Basel in September.)

My efforts to trace our German starting point were coupled with separate efforts to learn more about my father from his two brothers, Dan and Bill, and his sister, Mary. We exchanged several emails — me asking questions and them sharing answers. It was funny when their answers contradicted one another, but for the most part they were able to give me some insight into Tom Wessel that I had never before had. I have my memories, my mom’s memories and the memories of my siblings, but until earlier this year I had never really tapped into the memories of my dad’s siblings, at least not collectively. I learned that he began his college career at IU-Jeffersonville before transferring to Indiana University (he’d love the fact that the Hoosiers are ranked #1 this year). I learned that he didn’t learn to play the guitar until after college (a wise hobby to pick up as it helped him meet my mom). I learned that, when he was young, my grandma used to tie one end of a piece of rope around his waist and the other around a tree so he could play in the backyard without running away. I learned that his best subject was math. I learned that he was usually optimistic (but sometimes frustrated) when talking to his siblings about his cancer battle. I learned a lot.

I guess all of this is to say that my coming to Germany was more than just a chance for Katie and I to see the world. It was a chance for me to spend some quality time with thoughts about my dad and to dig a little deeper into the life of a man who continues to shape who I am today, even 15 years after saying good-bye. Even though I wasn’t able to consult him as to whether or not we should make this move, I always imagined he would have told me to go for it. (I also like to think he would have loved this blog.)

I miss you, dad. I’ll be thinking of you today, like every day.

The proudest dad in the world.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like … you know

When we emerged from the subway station last Friday after our flight back to Munich, we noticed that the trees were significantly more bare and the weather significantly more frigid than when we left in late October. But that wasn’t the only change. We also noticed that Munich is gearing up for the Christmas season. Just like back home, most of the shops in Germany carry some sort of Christmas theme throughout the store and in the windows. Christmas lights are visible throughout the city and the Marienplatz adds a few more wooden stalls each day — stalls that will house the many retailers who hope to peddle their goods when the infamous Christkindlmarkt opens up on November 30.

These star-shaped lights are spread throughout the Marienplatz.

All of the sights and sounds of the season led to an interesting conversation yesterday. We were talking about how none of the decorations or lights gave us the impression of being “up too early.” In the States, we see holiday commercials and store displays as soon as Halloween is over. Despite the warm-and-fuzzy feelings we can’t help but feel upon seeing our first glimpse of the holiday season, parts of us are more or less wired to comment about how disgusting it is that retailers and the like have all but forgotten Thanksgiving and are “already” promoting Christmas. We write it off as greed and we call it inappropriate.

But here we are in Germany — the same time of year with the same influx of commercial holiday-ness — and we’re not at all bothered by it. In fact, we’re going out of our way to immerse ourselves in it. We’re seeking out glühwein (the delicious, hot, spiced wine that’s sold during the winter months), shopping for Christmas gifts and stopping to admire (not bemoan) the beautiful, animated storefronts. We’re even planning our final two weekends around which Christmas markets to attend (the current plan has us going to five of them before we leave — including two in different countries).

We couldn’t help but feel somewhat envious that Germans don’t have Thanksgiving to keep them from celebrating Christmas — or at least feeling bad about celebrating Christmas — too early. That sounds terrible to say, but it’s the truth. Perhaps one month simply isn’t enough time to celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year.” Perhaps we ought to be thankful that the commercial aspect of the holiday season means we get to jump into it earlier than we otherwise would (although I would still like to see Black Friday banned). If we look through a more optimistic lens and embrace having two months of Christmas instead of one, would that really be a bad thing?

Germans don’t have the guilt trip that we do of celebrating Christmas too early. Once November hits, it’s time to focus on the holiday season. And considering that 90% of our American Christmas traditions (both how we celebrate it and depict it) comes from the German culture, perhaps we should be more forgiving when it comes to starting the celebration a few weeks earlier.

Thanksgiving will always have its place. It’s one of mine and Katie’s favorite holidays because of its intent focus on family time, the idea of “sharing a meal,” and, of course, the delicious food (and football). But can’t we celebrate Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving and celebrate the upcoming Christmas holiday on either side of it?

I think so. And when I grow up and have a house, I just might put my Christmas lights up BEFORE Thanksgiving (and even turn them on!).

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One last leg

Katie and I fly back to Munich tonight for the final leg of our European adventure. We’ll be there for a few weeks before packing up shop and coming back to the States for good in early December. It’s mind-boggling to think about how fast this year went.

Look for a few more posts along the way. We’re hoping to get to one final country (hopefully Poland) and several of the Bavarian Christmas markets (which start in late November).

Blessings to all of you. Stay tuned!

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Back so soon?

Katie and I weren’t really sure how to do the whole “absentee ballot” thing, so we decided to fly home for the United States presidential election. Okay, that’s not entirely true. We’re coming back to the States for my sister’s wedding, but I must say that I’m excited to be back for election night. There’s nothing like a night of pizza, beer and exit polling while watching incredibly biased anchors forecast who will be the next leader of the free world. It’s way more fun when the race is close, so this year should be particularly exciting.

But back to my sister’s wedding. My younger sister, Beth, the girl who Katie and I give credit for bringing us together, is getting married on November 10 in Milwaukee. The bachelorette party is this Saturday and, seeing as how Katie is the maid of honor (matron of honor?), we felt it kind of important that she be there. So we’re coming home tomorrow and we’ll stay stateside until the Monday after the wedding.

It’s crazy to think that we’re already heading back home, although this stint in Munich was shorter than our other ones. When we went home in April and August it was on the heels of three-plus months in Europe. This stretch has “only” been a little under two months, but it still flew by exceptionally fast. Part of it was the busy September, but another part of it is likely the mental realization that our time here is quickly coming to an end — which seems to make the time go by even faster.

When we head back after the wedding, we’ll have just a few more weeks in Munich before heading home for good in early December (a date that should be finalized in a few days, actually). We’ve already begun to transition back to life in Milwaukee. I’m job hunting and Katie is house hunting. The apartment we live in here in Munich has been re-listed online. We’re in the process of closing our German bank account and looking to sell our bikes. We’re even bringing home a suitcase full of “stuff we don’t need here anymore” to make the move in December a little lighter. It’s sad just writing about it.

But while the eventual end to our European adventure is “bitter,” there’s certainly plenty of “sweet” to be had in the thought of coming back to the Midwest, especially our family and friends in the Milwaukee area. And we’re looking for a taste of that sweetness starting tomorrow when we head back to America. I’m not sure if we’ll blog any while we’re home, so look for another update in a couple of weeks!

And congratulations in advance to my sister, Beth, and her soon-to-be-husband (and awesome guy), Nathan Colson!

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Autumn in the English Garden

It was a beautiful day in Munich today. We went on a bike ride through the English Garden and captured some pretty amazing photos. We’ve pasted some below. The rest can be found in our Flickr gallery, Autumn in the English Garden.

The lake in the English Garden.

The Chinesischer Turm beer garden.

One of the garden’s many creeks.

Lots of yellow among the trees.

Just awesome.

Looking across the Isar river.

Love this photo.

One of the garden’s many bridges.

Many of the trees were in full Autumn colors.

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