The earth crunches under your feet, and as you look up, you see the sun setting, a giant orange ball descending beyond the stables, into the horizon.
The horses continue to graze, as if it's a non-event, but between us and the dog, we know that it's an exceptional show, and we stop to watch.
Another day goes by, and we're getting ready for Christmas. Not in the traditional, laid-back American fashion. No. Here in Germany, things must get done before Christmas, and the relaxing comes after the big day. Decorating as a family will have to wait. First, there's wood to chop, shelves to build, boxes to unpack and storage areas to organize. (???)
But alas, we've completed all of that, and today we can bake gingerbread cookies for our tree, and wrap presents. Are you ready?
Well, to be fair, we did have a bit of fun. Yesterday we visited the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt (translated into Nuremberg Christ-child's Market - as, in this region, the "Christ-child" brings both the tree and presents... all during the day of the 24th, while the children are out).
Nuremberg is one of my favorite German cities. They have incredible architecture, delicious sausages, and Starbucks. What more could you ask for? :-) What I like best about the city's famous Christmas Market is its period-oriented approach. There are horse-drawn Post carriages complete with musicians playing the French horn (which is the symbol for many European mail boxes... I suppose they really did that at some point?), ancient buildings turned mini-markets, with long red carpets and drapes, medieval music, and people dressed in Dirndl's and bonnets, serving sauerkraut soup in bread bowls. And then there's much of the same. The kitsch, the Christmas ornaments, the Glühwein, the roasted almonds.
It was with a heavy heart that I left Nuremberg, but as we were leaving, dozens of cars were just waiting for spaces to free up in the parking garage... meaning we left not a moment to soon. And besides, it was time for something far more authentic. We were off to visit Tobi's parents and their friends at the Neunkirchen skihütte, a place where locals go throughout the winter, to warm up after hiking through the countryside. Although there's no actual skiing to be done here, profits go towards the Skiklub's annual ski outings to the Alps, and it's an excellent spot for family sledding (if there's snow, that is).
It was Lukas' first time up there, and since we opted not to bring the jogging stroller, Tobi got a really great arm workout on the way up. And of course, I was cursing my new (stylish) boots, as I now know that they don't have the best profile for walking on ice. But then again, Tobi found himself landing on his bum too, and he had fancy trekking shoes on.
As usual, Lukas was the life of the party. He clapped and yelled "Bravo!" when everyone began singing German Christmas songs, and even sang "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" for them. It was adorable. I love it up there.
Although I adore Germany at this time of year, the real Germany isn't in the touristy markets or overrun squares. It's in the small, off-the-beaten track, local places (even if I do have to choose between a stinky port-o-let style toilet, or a nearby tree... it's worth it!).