Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Picture perfect...

Last weekend was all about taking my sister Kim to beautiful places in the area. As those who read this blog know, Baden-Baden and Strasbourg are on our permanent shortlist in the gorgeous department.

On Saturday Robert and Sophia wanted to stay at home so we took Emily to Baden-Baden. The weather was absolutely perfect and I've never seen the city so full of folks or so beautiful. We had lunch at the "main" Biergarten and then walked to the casino. The classical concert going on in front of the casino was a nice touch.
On Sunday we headed to Strasbourg, an unbelievably picturesque city. This time I took the little "bus" tour I've always mocked and discovered parts of the city I'd never seen. While the place is always overrun with tourists, it remain absolutely gorgeous.

Soon after we arrived I discovered, much to my horror, that I had left the tripod mount at home. For a degenerate HDR photographer in a target rich environment, such an oversight is enough to drive one to have cocktails in the double digits. Uncharacteristically, I instead channeled my inner McGyver and made due with Kim's hair scrunchy. I took some interesting shots but must go back soon and do it right. I'd also like to visit Colmar.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Where to start?

The Prickril ranch has been a flurry of activity over the past few weeks. First my folks and some friends dropped by before and after a tour of Germany and Austria. After their first stint, B's mom and grandmother made a week-long appearance. At the end of my parents' second stay, my sister arrived. For one night, we had 11 people crammed into this place. Despite most of us being family, all of us survived this flirtation with disaster essentially unscathed.

Heidelberg and the surrounding area are especially nice right now. The perfect fall weather and ever-decreasing number of tourists makes it a great time to get around. A couple of weekends ago I took advantage of the nice weather to scale the Philosopher's Way on the "other side" of the Neckar from the old part of Heidelberg. On the way back to the ranch, I went up the church steeple of one of the big cathedrals. It was a bit tiring, but absolutely gorgeous.

Last week I took Tuesday and Wednesday off to spend "quality time" with the folks. Each day I took my stepdad and our visiting friend Jerry to the Technik museums in Speyer and Sisheim respectively. Both of these museums have an impressive collection of planes, trains and automobiles. The Speyer museum has a 747 on pedestals you can visit by stairs and come back to earth via a cool slide. The Sinsheim museum is the only one in the world (I believe) that has a Concord and the Russian knock-off of the same. If you can only do one, I found the collection in Sinsheim to be larger and more impressive.
The folks loved Schwetzingen, Speyer and Ladenburg, although we didn't have time to do the gardens in Schwetzingen. Plenty left to do on the next visit.
Having so many visitors, we've fallen into a bit of a rut. We've been to Baden-Baden a couple of times in the last week or so and we plan to go to Strausburg today, maybe hitting Speyer on the way back. My goal is to take my sister to at least one place none of us have been. Maybe Stuttgart?
An unexpected side effect of all these visits is the now inevitable disappointment the kids will feel with the relative paucity of gifts they will find (or perceive to find) under the Christmas trees. I've never seen so many presents and neither have they. Their DVD collection now rivals that of the Library of Congress and I'm pretty sure there's a bunch of stuff they still haven't opened.
BTW, our dance card is fairly full as B will go to Brazil for a couple of weeks in October, returning with her best friend whose wedding she will attend and who will use the Prickril compound in Kirchheim as a base of operation for their European honeymoon. Our friends Luciano and Lucila arrive in late November for a couple of weeks. We're looking forward to seeing everybody. Based on the Visit-o-meter, Germany is clearly the most popular place we've lived so far.

Robert has been bugging me for centuries (or so it seems) to get him on Youtube. Find below a masterpiece of stop-motion animation we made last night.

Finally, I've been taking HDR shots like a mental patient. Burnout is beginning to set in but I've learned a lot and taken some interesting shots (even if I do say so myself). You can find a few more here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Der Erste Schultag...

or first day of school in German. Oddly enough, Emily started first grade on Saturday. In Germany, first grade is the first day of school as kindergarten is a private affair where kids primarily play. The day started with a church service, one for Catholics and another for Protestants. Coming from a country that at least feigns separation of church and state, this practice seems extremely odd, particularly given the large population of Muslums in Germany.

After the church service, we all went to the school for a presentation by the second graders. Unfortunately, Robert didn't participate. That's a "whole 'nother talk show" as they say. We're hoping he'll be included in this type of activity once his German improves. I'll limit my rant to that.

After the presentation, the kids were divided into different classes. Emily's teacher is one of the most highly regarded at the school so we're very excited. Although she gets frustrated when she doesn't understand German, I'm pretty sure she'll absorb it quickly. The kids spent some time getting familiar with the classroom then we took Emily to Jumpinn where she had two consecutive birthday parties. Quite a day!

That evening B and I went to Schwetzingen with her mom and grandmother, who are visiting from Brazil. We had dinner at Zum Ritter (like we did last weekend). While our lives are getting quite repetitive, with the number of guests we've had we've learned it's best just to go for the "easy money" locations. A great time was had by all and, between Hefe's, I was able to take some decent shots.

There was a wedding car parked near the Truckster. I finally made one of the highly stylized HDR shots I've seen alot poking around the Web. The others are HDR as well but much more conventional.

Finally, Vovó (grandma in Portuguese) brought the kids super hero costumes as promised. The kids are already wearing them out. Cute, no?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Gone to the goats...

On Sunday Sophia was a bit under the weather so I took Robert and Emily to the park. On the way, we visited the neighborhood goats, whose names now escape me. The kids have talked about them for months but these goats, like all Europeans worth their salt, go on vacation in August. Well, they are back and badder than ever.

That afternoon Thomas, Luciana and their kids João and Joana came over. Before long we headed to Zum Ritter in Schwetzingen for the world's finest beer, great food and really nice atmosphere. If you ever make it to the Heidelberg area, you're cheating yourself if you don't go to Schwetzingen. Zum Ritter is a restaurant and brewery near the Schloss (palace). I highly recommend the Hefeweitzen. The restaurant itself is beautiful inside and out. Compelled by my compulsion, I took a few shots.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Back from the Big Apple...

On Tuesday afternoon I flew to NYC for a couple of meetings on Wednesday and Thursday. By Friday morning, I was back. Luckily I got to fly business class so I'm not a total zombie although these trips can sure take it out of you. While there I had very little time to do anything non-work-related, but did manage to take a few pictures (some of which I haven't had time to clean up).
I'm not sure why, but with every job I've ever had the offices in the other locations seem to be much nicer. Why do I always have to work on my projects in the projects?
On Saturday, they closed our street for some kind of festival (we never seem to figure out the occasion). They even blocked the last couple of stops of the Strassenbahn (headed South). We walked around for a while and had lunch in front of a butcher shop, a most popular place. The food was (of course) great.
The kids had a blast on the elastic jumping apparatus (I have no idea what it's called). There also enjoyed some simpler rides.
Last night we took it easy. I was still recovering jet lag and B was tired too. BTW, Monday school starts for Robert. Stay tuned for details on this developing story.

Finally, I had some time on Saturday to clean up some of the pictures I took last weekend. Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Getting caught up...

Haven't posted much as I've been extremely busy at work as I'll travel to NYC for a few days next week. B's being sick hasn't helped much either. Something with her throat that seems to come and go.

Last Sunday I started the day by taking the kids to the park near the Kirchheim Rewe. It was a great way to kill a couple of hours.
Later, we decided to go by Strassenbahn to the Hauptstrasse. B had found a playground there so the kids spent most of the day at the park. We then walked to the famous bridge and enjoyed the view from the "other" side. While strolling down the Hauptstrasse, we found a couple of churches that were open so I, of course, took some HDR pics.
This weekend we headed to Speyer again for no particular reason. We had lunch at the same Biergarten we did last week. What we lack in originality we seem to make up for in good taste. I also took some decent pics there. Hope you enjoy.