Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I’m a little late in posting this blog, seeing as the events you’re about to see took place two weeks before we moved back stateside. So if you would, please rewind yourselves back to mid-March. Picture Tim and I frantically trying to tie up loose ends before exiting our European adventure. (And by tying up loose ends, I mean squeezing out every bit of fun and travel humanly possible.) As I was entertaining two of my girlfriends with a weekend getaway in London, Tim took himself on an adventure all his own.

Background: Before Tim and I moved to Germany in August 2007, his great-aunt Dorothy had given him copies of old letters sent from long lost relatives in the Czech Republic to his great-grandpa Frank many years ago. Frank Pavlik had immigrated to the US (Nebraska to be specific) in 1914, but honestly, we didn’t really know much else.

So, wanting to be able to show Grandma her roots, Tim decided to see if he could find these addresses and maybe take some pictures along the way.

Without giving too much away, let’s just say he had a very lucrative journey indeed. (Please be forwarned, it's a 23 min long video. Grab some popcorn for your viewing pleasure.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Travel 101 Continuing Education, with Heather H. Klaus

Tip #462—buy a good guidebook. (Have I said this before?) They can be costly, around 25 or 30 dollars, but this is money well spent. I am in love, I repeat LOVE with the Rick Steve’s Guidebooks. He is my travel god, and guide. Completely nerdy guy, but man, does he make traveling easy! His books are little tidbits of history and culture that make you feel exceptionally smart, like you’re getting some insider information about the town and people you’re experiencing. Not to mention that he has free podcasts on itunes of historic walks in quite a few European cities. We downloaded his guided walk through Paris as well as his museum tours for both the Louvre and the Orsay. He rocks.

Tip #573—Your perception about a city you’re visiting is hugely based on something so simple as how you feel that day. Yes, this town you are borrowing is a new and vibrant place, something that has its very own feel and story. are taking it in through your eyes, filtering it through your mind your own story. It can’t help but be colored by what is going on in your own life at that very moment.

I offer up our trip to Istanbul. Amazing town, but that weekend Tim was at a stalemate between two job offers in two completely different places. Unfortunately, both of us were probably pretty darn distracted. Not to mention that it rained from start until the day we left, which always makes things more difficult. (The weather has the same affect on me as being hungry--sheesh, can I be a monster!) The opposite happened in Paris. We didn’t have a major life decision to wrestle with, and this time around, the weather was beautiful. Thus, a great trip. We’ve read (probably in Rick) that traveling requires you to be insanely optimistic. Couldn’t agree more. When we approach a city with a free and open mind, it always seems to go surprisingly well. If you come in with a lot of baggage (both literally and figuratively) it'll weigh you down and you're probably gonna miss an awful lot. Of course, as with most things…easier said than done.

Gay Par-Oui!

We valentined in Paris. (Go ahead I’ll hold while you either sigh if you’re a chick or barf if you’re a dude.) Before you all decide that you wanna trade in your hubbies for Tim, let me assure you that, yes-he is indeed exceedingly romantic, but actually I booked this trip back in September. That, and we took friend Kristi. So…perhaps not the romantic getaway that you all were picturing. Note: we’ve taken to calling Kristi ‘wife’ since we travel with her so much. (Sweden, Istanbul, skiing in both Switzerland and Italy.) She will rank WAY up there for one of the things we will miss most about living in Europe. We love traveling with her. Wife, come visit us…often!

I absolutely loved Paris this time around, this being my third adventure here. The first was with my mother in 2002, amidst my quarter-life-crisis-frolic through Europe. Mom and I had a great time celebrating Bastille Day on the grass under the Eiffel Tower with millions of our closest friends. The second, well, it just wasn’t as much fun. Tim and I decided to skip Thanksgiving in 2006 (before we moved to Germany) and be thankful eating crepes instead turkey. It was completely crummy weather—literally raining sideways. Not too mention that we came across a rash of not-so-friendly people. It was fine, but honestly, not our favorite trip.
Well, third time must be the charm. Paris was fantastic! The weather was chilly, but for the most part, clear-blue skies (which knocked the socks off rain blasting you in the face that we had the time before.) We wandered all day and night through museums and neighborhoods soaking in the history and culture. (Seriously how much coffee can I put in my body?) Parisians were out of their way friendly. (I know!) And the people watching was fan-freaking-tastic! I totally got this city. I can completely see why artists, writers, dancers, sculptors, and really anyone creative has been drawn here to Paris for decades. There is just something there. Unexplainable. I would move here tomorrow. Except for all the dog poop on the street. That stunk—literally.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Istanbul or Constantinople?

(written Tues Feb 3rd)

Yep. We may truly be crazy people. Just got back from a weekend in Istanbul, Turkey that we booked, oh about 10 days before we left. I have no idea how to form my thoughts into any kind of a coherent story about this place. What a collision between Europe and the Middle East! (Which actually it truly is, since it’s the only city to sit both on the European and Asian continents.) Our days were filled with wandering through the bazaars, going into the historic mosques, putting our feet on Asian soil, eating Doner Kebabs, and truly taking in the major historical events that have happened here.

Things that astounded me:
The Muslim call to prayer five times a day. Wow, it’s loud and a little frankly a little frightening. (Why is a lot of religious music written in a minor key?) There are mosques literally every few blocks (guess they gotta be if you need to get there that often) and the call to worship echoed throughout the city from what seemed like warring mosques vying for your attention. Made my brain rattle a little.

Being blond in this area of the world just doesn’t happen. Kristi and I stood out like sore thumbs in the land of dark hair and head scarves.

The Haggia Sofia. Once Greek Orthodox church, then mosque, now museum. It contains golden mosaics of the apostles that had been plastered over to plain walls with Arabic writing from the Qur'an. Again, collision of Eastern and Western. I could have spent all day here.

The sheer population. We read somewhere between 12-19 million people live here. Holy cow! There were seriously buildings as far as the eye could see. Some of them beautiful, some falling apart…and both standing right next to each other. There was no rational that could explain this city. So interesting.

As much as I enjoyed seeing something so completely out of my frame of knowledge, a couple of things got in the way of truly loving this city. One being, we had to make a decision while we were there of where we were gonna move next (read Big News) and I felt very distracted. Another was that it was cold and rainy. Does everyone feel depressed in January? Think I needed a little sunshine. It truly is an intriguing city with great little alleys to get lost in and beautiful architecture to study. I did happen to read “Murder on the Orient Express” which Agatha Christie wrote while living in a hotel here. Great trip, but glad to be home.

Big News

We’re moving back to the US! There I said it. I’ll wait just a little until that sinks in to explain how we got here. (Pause.)

Due to the economic down-turn (understatement of the century) Caterpillar notified us a couple weeks ago, that we needed to head stateside. The good news is that thanks to a lot of the managers that took the buy-out package, there are some great jobs available. And luckily Tim’s secured something that he’s really excited about and will be taking us to Aurora, IL (right outside of Chicago.) The bad news is that we’re just not quite ready to leave Germany. We’ve loved it here and as Tim said, it’s like watching the first half of a really great movie. But, we’re truly thankful that Tim still has a job and we’ll be seeing a lot more of friends and family. Oh…did I mention we’ll be home by April 1st? Yeah…it’s all happening at lightning speed.

So there it is…Aurora. Chicago-land here we come! On to the next adventure...

Bad Karma

I should start this tale by saying that I love to watch people fall. I am usually a very nice person in most other areas of my life, but watching people eat-it tickles me so deeply that I should know I would have to pay for it later. I will, of course, make sure no one’s hurt. But soon after, the cackling begins. Kristi and I sat in Davos one afternoon in full view of a drag lift (T-bar) and watched the mayhem unfold. I would offer that activity up to anyone that needs to find some joy in their life. Note to self…what goes around, comes around. You cannot laugh at someone else’s expense without paying the piper at a later date. My later date was Sunday. And poor Steve, just got caught in the crossfire.

It was the end of our Italian ski adventure. We had conquered nearly all of the that mountain we could. It was time to make our way back down to the car and head off on our merry way. At this point, Kristi, Jen and little Ella were already on the road homeward bound. (With a debacle all of their own involving a snowy street, 8 muscular Italians (one of which driving her car,) and a near collision.) So, the four of us that were left hopped on a 4-person chair lift. From right to left: Bryan (with snowboard), Steve, me, then Tim. Well, I was a little exhausted after trying to keep up with the boys and somehow as I sat down on the seat, I dropped one of my ski poles. I said, “My Pole!” and reached forward, hoping to grab it before the lift scooped us off the ground. (It’s also perhaps important to note that the pole was laying across my right ski and Steve’s left.) Being the nice guy that Steve is, he also reached for the pole (picture us both leaning forward) and before we knew it…both Steve and I were under the lift. Me, getting all jumbled up in Tim’s skis and getting dragged about 25 feet. Yep, we fell off a chair lift.

As soon as I came too, I looked up and noticed that I was, indeed, under the chairlift. Still, I’m not entirely sure what all had to happen for me to get there. I just remember a lot of metal. I glance behind me, and Steve was sitting up looking at me in sheer disbelief. At this point the lift dude runs over (after he stops the lift before we could get clocked in the head with more metal.) He starts rattling off German, making sure we were both ok (which thankfully we were.) Picks us up and plops us onto the next chair. I was still in some sort of shock. It took until Steve turned to look at me (I should also note here that Steve is an amazing, advanced skier) and says, “Heather in all my years, I have never, never, EVER fallen off of a skilift.” And I started to laugh. I laughed the entire way up the lift. I could see Tim and Bryan’s chair up ahead also shaking with their laughter. Steve, in between cursing me, started laughing too. You know what they say about paybacks.

Alpine Dreams

Tim and I in the Dolomites, Italy
Bryan, Steve, Jen, me and Tim

Davos, Switzerland


Tim asks for very little in life. Indian food once in a while. A to-go-cup-a-joe in the mornin’. A little football on the telly. (He does get a touch high-maintenance if he steps in water with his socks on.) But truly, his only major request whilst we live here in Europeland is this: Ski in every country that has Alps. I am happy to report, we can check this one off the list.

Last year we skied in Austria with Maarten and Heidi, France with B.Lo and Ewan, and Germany at the Zugspitze. A couple weeks ago we took Bryan and Kristi to Davos, Switzerland (two days before the World Economic Forum—no wonder it was hard to find a room.) And then this weekend, we rounded out our quest with amazing Italy. And oh my goodness, was it a grand finale.

These mountains were like nothing I’d ever seen. They’re called the Dolomites, which somehow refers (maybe in French??) to the carbonate rock that makes up these majestic and severe looking mountains. When the sun came out and the snow stopped pelting you in the face (free microderm-abrasion anyone?) it made for some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve ever seen.

Of course the trip didn’t quite go off without a hitch. Securing a room was a touch challenging, seeing as how we had 6 adults, a two year old, and a dog. (We took Steve & Jennifer with little Ella, Bryan, Kristi and Kristi’s dog Jax.) But Thursday morning, after at least 40 e-mails, a hotel with a vacation apartment came through, so we could all stay together. I will say, hotels in Europe are not anything like American ones. Furniture definitely from the 70s, twin beds pushed together like my Grandparents had, and towels that you and I would probably designate for the garage. But, it was clean and big enough for everybody to have their own space, and perfect for our needs. husband is a very happy camper...err..skier, and we had a truly amazing time. That was, until I nearly killed myself and Steve. (Read on.)