Friday, July 23, 2010

"You're the next contestant on the Price is Right!!!"

Did the blog title grab your attention?

Hopefully, it did.
[But it was only a ruse]

We have an announcement to make.

We're going private.

We've appreciated our lovely readership while we've been living in Scotland and we hope you'll continue your free subscription, but we've decided to be a bit more discreet with our information on the web. If you're interested in following along on our upcoming adventures, please leave your email address in the comments box and we'll add you to our VIP list.

If you're deliberating over which email address of the many you may have to include on said list, take your time, we'll flip the privacy switch in a couple weeks after moving back to the States. Just wanted to give everyone a head's up.

I know some people consider the extra step of logging into an account in order to read private blogs a big hassle - and I completely understand - but we promise to make it worth your while.

And finally, if you're really interested in understanding why we're doing this, check this out:


In the fifth grade I began a short lived fascination with a country I had never really thought much about. A woman came into my class and gave a presentation about Finland and planted a desire in me to serve a mission to Helsinki. Being young and not knowing too much about the world outside of California I began referring to Finland as Finalin. The dream never materialized and over the years the desire of visiting Finalin gradually died.

Even the move to Scotland failed to rekindle the desire to make it to Finalin and as the months in Europe began to pile up it looked as if I would never make it to Scandinavia, let alone Finalin. But as luck would have it, I went searching on wikipedia for flights out of Edinburgh and found a cheap one to Copenhagen, Denmark. I purchased the ticket, knowing that I would have to go alone while Kristen studiously worked on her paper, and set about planning a lonely adventure.

I called my grandma a few days before leaving for Copenhagen and she reminded me of the family we have in Sweden. She told me to call them and see about arranging to meet up with them. I was a little apprehensive about my grandma's idea, as it had been over fourteen years since I had seen my family and we are third cousins, but thought it was better than spending three days alone. I shocked them by my phone call but after a few minutes they kindly invited me into their home to spend most of the weekend in Halmstad, Sweden.
Before arriving in Sweden, my grandmother called up Bodil ( my mother's second cousin) and made sure that I would have a chance to see all of the family history sites in Halmstad. Filippa, Bodil's daughter, and I share the same great-great-grandfather. Bodil is standing in front of what may be his grave, along with her fiance Boo.
This is the site where my great-grandfather's house stood before it burned down in the 80s. It was really neat seeing the places where my ancestors had come from and now that I'm old enough to understand the family history, it means a lot more. During the course of the trip I also saw where my great-great-grandmother taught in a two-room schoolhouse.

After visiting the family sites we headed to downtown Halmstad. This is Neptune's Clothespin, and of course, Filippa and I had to recreate our own version of it. I hadn't realized that Filippa was so near my age and it was really fun being able to get to know her as an adult while staying with her and Niklas, her fiance.
Halmstad from the nearby hills. The tall spire on the left side of the photo is from the church in the large square of the city. Bodil and Filippa said that Saturday is usually a great day to walk around and see the city at its busiest, but this Saturday the crown princess was getting married and the city shut down a little earlier than usual, even though the wedding was in Stockholm which is on the opposite side of the country.
Quite possibly one of the prettiest churches I've seen in all of Europe. It is an octagonal church and reminded me of a birthday cake.

Sadly all trips must come to an end and after three days it was time to say good-bye. For the last big event we went to the local castle and planned future get-togethers.
It was so much fun being with family and even though it wasn't "Finalin" I still had a wonderful time. Someday Kristen and I will return to Sweden and spend the Summer Solstice eating strawberries and cream down at the beach.
The trip didn't end there though, as I still had to catch a red-eye flight the next day. I caught the train from Halmstad and returned to Copenhagen in just enough time to see this:
I had always heard that the Christus in Salt Lake was a replica but had no idea where the original was from.
The best part about the church, which is also the main cathedral in Copenhagen, is the simplicity of it. The only pieces of art in the cathedral in addition to the Christus are statues of the twelve apostles, which line both sides of the nave.
After seeing the Christus I must have been inspired because I set out on a 30-minute walk to the Copenhagen Temple. It is a simple building and it really comes out of nowhere as you pass under an expressway and turn the corner.
The desire to see the city didn't end with the temple. I ended up wandering all around Copenhagen for five hours. It was my intent to become so exhausted that I would be forced to go to bed at ten o'clock and sleep like a rock in my hostel room along with 65 other people.
Copenhagen did not disappoint and I saw even more than planned. Nothing was open, as everything closes by 5 pm, so it gave me another reason to return.
My plan for sleeping worked and I woke up at four in the morning to enjoy the longest day of the year. Waking up at 4am is not something I suggest and as soon as I got back to the flat I laid down for a nap. It'd be cute to say that I dreamt of Finalin, but I was so tired I didn't dream at all.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fairy Tales

The title sums up the last two weeks in the lives of Team Adams. For our last big jaunt before moving back to the States next month, we made the most of what Europe has to offer by exploring two fabulous cities - London and Munich. The best part is that we got to share most of it with my family, which always makes for a good time.

01 July: Train to London

We pulled into King's Cross at platform 8 and couldn't pass up the opportunity to pay our respects to Harry & Co. I don't think anyone else had quite the same zeal as Steve did, but I always enjoy the unconventional approach he takes. Keeps life exciting.

While wandering along the Thames near Waterloo Bridge, we happened upon a film crew and some pretty amazing street performers. Not sure if you can see it, but there is a guy upside-down in mid-air wearing hot pink shorts. Nice.

The London Eye

Steve in front of Big Ben and the houses of Parliament. Thanks to Steve's connection through the Scottish Parliament, we got a sweet personal tour of the British Parliament and the new office building (right edge of the picture). The woodwork, art, history, etc. is amazing throughout both buildings. It looked just like Hogwarts - old, beautiful and historic.

Amen to that! This is a quote from the museum inside the Churchill War Rooms detailing the Prime Minister's life before, during and after WWII. Pretty sure we'd have been great friends...

More Churchill War Rooms - I was really getting into the spirit of things down there.

It was so fun to finally see Wicked with Steve. He loved it. Whenever I hear Defying Gravity I think of my sophomore year at BYU with some of the best roommates I ever had at the Y - M. Kate, Liz, Jana b, Cath and Steph. That was the first time I heard of Wicked, and that song was sung/played frequently in our apartment - a theme song of sorts. Seeing that scene on stage sends shivers down my spine.

I have no idea who Kristen Levine is, but she snagged some cheap seats at the last minute to see Tap Dogs - another fabulous show full of water, chainsaws and amazing choreography in the footwork department. And yes, I'm pretty excited to make the Irvine-to-Adams name change official when I get back to the states. Adams is much easier to manage in any sort of transaction.

A new favorite place - the Victoria & Albert Museum. This is in the new Renaissance gallery that opened earlier this year. I got to see the Raphael cartoons for the Sistine Chapel tapestries that influenced Rubens in his Eucharist tapestry series. Believe it or not, I actually had to work on this holiday. Pretty cool when work and pleasure are basically the same thing. =)

Before moving onto the Germany tour I have one last thought on our time in London. It was interesting being there over the 4th of July weekend. No barbeques, no Sousa, and definitely no fireworks. Do I consider that a bad thing? Not at all, though I do love a good fireworks display. Truth be told, it made me realize the extent of my lack of knowledge concerning Great Britain and its history - my history. Everything before 1776 is technically my history as much as anyone who currently lives in the UK. Yet from Kindergarten onward, history started with 1621 and headed straight for 1776. One year in AP European History hardly does British history justice...especially when I learned more about model airplanes than the War of the Roses. Once my dissertation is out of the way I intend to become a frequent patron of the public library. Steve is light years ahead of me in this quest and I think he's starting to rub off on me.

(and yes, it was awesome being there during the World Cup madness)

Bavaria is straight out of a fairy tale. I hope these pictures do this place justice because it is something else. Steve and I met up with my parents, my sister and her husband to travel the Romantic Road for a week. The adventure began in Munich and ended in Garmisch with some amazing places in between.

I think Nathan and my dad were purposely having difficulties with the camera so that we would get soaked by the time it worked. How clever.

Kristen: 5'3". Nathan: 6'3".
There were plenty of short jokes on this trip - trust me.

In front of the pagoda in Munich's largest garden. The city set up a huge screen on the other side of the pagoda where hundreds of Germans were parked with brats and bier to enjoy the World Cup games.

You can take the boy out of Asia, but I don't think you can ever fully take Asia out of the boy.

Lindsay and I having some fun with the locals. He did have some pretty good MJ moves which he gladly shared with people who contributed to the funds he was likely collecting for next month's rent.

A working Glockenspiel in Marienplatz - the main square in Munich. The life-size figures dance and twirl each hour, and there is even a joust where one guy gets knocked over. Pretty exciting.

Our love of public transportation knows no bounds. I really hope to end up in a place that has a subway/metro system - they're the best.

Mongolian throat singers! These guys were awesome. My dad dared me to go out in front of them and start dancing along to the music in front of the large crowd, which I refused to do until he and the rest of my family threw in 2 Euros each to the cause. So yes, I was suckered into giving into my complete spasmodic self. I ended up dancing behind them instead of in front of them. It's their show after all - I can't take all the credit. I'm only sad that my brother Scott wasn't there to see it. He's usually the one that can get me to do such things. Steve and my family (and maybe Penn and Ann) are the only people in this world that have seen me in such a mode. It doesn't happen frequently, but it's pretty hilarious when it does.

This is the Antiquarium inside the Residence in Munich. All of the sculptures and portrait busts were arranged in this room to celebrate antiquity.

This portion of the trip was anything but a fairy tale. This is Dachau - the first concentration camp of WWII. It was constructed in 1933 to get rid of political opponents to Hitler, but was used at the outbreak of the war as a concentration camp. "Arbeit macht frei" - work brings freedom. You can see this same motto on the gates at Auschwitz in Poland. Miserable stuff. You can't believe it until you see it, and even then you still can't believe what happened here. I think there is a reason why some things cannot be grasped or understood by the human mind, and this (concentration camps in general) is one of those things.

Large crematorium at Dachau. This larger complex had to be built due to the influx of prisoners. If I remember correctly the camp was built to hold 6,000 prisoners but at certain points of the war it was filled with 31,000 prisoners.

Schloss Nymphenburg - the palace outside the heart of Munich where the electors could get away from the grime of downtown in the summertime.

Can't remember the last time my sister and I were on a trip's been a really long time, but we had a blast. Steve and Nathan made everything even better. It's pretty fun having an accomplice who will help me in my efforts to tickle my sister. Nathan gets as much of a kick out of her reactions as I do.

The main hall of the palace, and by far the coolest room of all.

Once again I am reminded of how fun it would be to grow up in a major European city. These kids were on a school field trip and had a grand time getting dressed up to learn about their history where it actually happened. Pretty cool.

Next stop: Garmisch and the German Alps

The crew sitting atop Hohenschwangau - the castle where 'Mad King Ludwig' grew up before he built his own castle just up the hill...

Looking down onto Hohenschwangau from...

Neuschwanstein!!! I hope this looks familiar to all you Disney fans out there. Besides being known as 'Mad King Ludwig,' Ludwig was also know as the Fairy Tale King. One must take the tour through the castle to understand how true that name is. Unfortunately, pictures aren't allowed inside the castle, but take my word for it, it's spectacular.

Dave and Linda
Mom & Dad
Pops & Mutti
the Parentals
Some of my very best friends

And what's a fairy tale without Prince Charming?
The only thing that was missing on this bridge overlooking the castle was an authentic German yodeler wearing lederhosen. That would have been the icing on the cake.

While enjoying one of our drives, we found ourselves in an amazing Lotus Elise sandwich for about 3 minutes of a beautiful stretch of road between Fussen and Garmisch before the second Lotus of the two was finally able to pass us. I've never been a big sports car person, but if I was, this would be my favorite. I was particularly eyeing the bright orange one in the lead. Wowza!

Not even sure where to begin when trying to describe the Linderhof Palace. If Neuschwanstein ranks at 8 on a scale between one and ten, Linderhof comes in at 17. Amazing. This is the only one of the castles/palaces Ludwig built that was completed before his mysterious death. Everything in this palace is over-the-top. It's really small compared to his other stuff, but it is exquisite inside and out. The coolest room was the mirror room. It's an octagonal (maybe it was a hexagon) room with mirrors on every wall, broken up by ornate gold frames and paneling. It's seeing eternity times eternity in every single direction. Unbelievably beautiful. Again, no pictures allowed. =(

Me and my dad in front of the Moorish Kiosk on the hill behind the palace (there is also a full-blown grotto that Ludwig had constructed on the grounds to house private productions of Wagnerian operas). Inside the building is an amazing spectacle of jewels, gold, and rich textiles that make you think you're sitting in the Taj Mahal.

A view of Linderhof from above.

The highest mountain in Germany is the Zugspitze. It reaches 9,717 feet and is marked at the top by a gold cross. One of our adventures included a cable-car ride to the top to enjoy the German surroundings from a bird's eye view.

Steve was the only brave one who climbed to the very tip to touch the cross and take some pictures. The rest of us stayed on stable ground to document said bravery.

Taking one another to new heights in life's experiences and understanding.
Usually that's metaphorical. In this case, it was literal.

If my goal of becoming a professor doesn't work out I could probably make something of myself as a conductor. Look at how well I am directing people off the train and pointing them toward the Ausgang.

Okay, seriously, I just wanted a picture of the cool cog train tracks! This is how we got down the mountain and even though it was slow, it was still fun. That was some feat of engineering.

A final view of the gorgeous scenery in southern Germany.

I guess you could say that Steve and I saved the best trip for last. It was great spending time with family and making memories to last a lifetime. Our days in the UK are numbered so now that we're back in Edinburgh we're checking things off our to-do list before Scotland becomes a memory rather than reality. So much to do and so little time - such is life. We'll be sure to keep you posted with the winding down scenes of this Scottish adventure, including our first (and likely last) attempt to down the delicacy known as haggis.

Stay tuned...