Thursday, December 29, 2016

Dog Sledding in Sweden

This year, Mike had two weeks off for Christmas and New Years, so we knew we wanted to take advantage of that time and travel a bit.  (insert sarcastic comment about how we don't get to travel that much normally).   We had heard of the winter wonderland that is Lapland (northern Scandanavia) and it seemed like the perfect place to escape to for Christmas.

In preparing for this trip, all I could think about was how cold it would be.  We bought extra layers to protect us from the negative temperatures and wind chill.  When researching, the average temperatures are -20 C/-4 F this time of year.  Add in the fact that the sun is only out for a total of three hours of the day and it really only gets to be like dusk at most, and I was dreading how cold we were going to be.

Turns out, we were there during a heat wave and it was around 0 C/32 F during the day every day!! Let me just whip out my shorts and t-shirt! Ha! We were still cold at times, but definitely not nearly as cold as it could have been.  It was truly a Christmas miracle!

We left for Sweden the morning after the Dombrocks left (did I mention our December was busy?) and arrived in Kiruna, Sweden that evening.   We stayed in a hotel Friday night and Saturday morning, we were picked up by Stephanie for our dog sledding adventure!  Claire, the scholar in Dresden, Germany, did a similar trip last winter and recommended Stephanie and her dogs at Husky Voice.  I'm so glad she did because the experience was everything we hoped for.  We were the only ones on the tour that day, which was great.  She said she'll take up to four people at a time, so adding a couple more would have been fine, but it was also fun just to have it be the two of us plus Stephanie and the dogs.

After being picked up by Stephanie at our hotel, we were taken to her house where her dogs were ready to go.  There were six that were going to be pulling our sled and five for hers.  I decided to let Mike be the driver of the sled and I was along for the ride to photograph. I was offered the chance to switch at some point, but I was enjoying the ride and so was Mike, so it worked out well.

Stephanie was in front with her dogs and sled and our dogs and us followed behind.  Mike said he really wasn't doing much except occasionally stepping on the brake to keep us from running into Stephanie's team.  Otherwise, the dogs knew what they were doing.  Every so often we'd stop and look at scenery and give the dogs a chance to cool down and eat some snow (they aren't used to doing this in such warm weather!), but when it was time to go, our team of dogs was off and excited to get moving! It was a blast!

Just a warning, there are a ton of pictures, so feel free to stop when you'd like, but most of them are of cute dogs, so I couldn't help but post them all!  Plus, the last two are videos, so hang in there so you can watch!

Sun's rising.  It's 10:30am.

Cruising over a frozen lake

Mike's dream for this dogsledding adventure was not only to do actual dog sledding, but to also get to roll around in the snow with the dogs. Mission accomplished.

Dogsledding is tough.

Where we ate lunch.  Just a few benches with a fire pit in the middle. So warm and cozy!

He was actually really friendly.  Don't let the mean mugging fool you.

Cooking lunch

Hi buddy.

I threw in an extra one there for good measure because they're all so fun!! We had a BLAST dog sledding and Stephanie and her dogs were the best!  

Monday, December 26, 2016

Visitors Galore!

We hope you had a very merry Christmas and start to a happy Hanukkah this past weekend! We're rewinding to the beginning of December where we had two weeks of visitors!

The beginning of December was jam packed with visitors and Christmas markets and, looking back, it was perfect.  It was a great distraction for me to keep my mind off the fact that we weren't going home for Christmas and it was a great way to show off our new home!

The first week of December brought the Bryants!  They're the Olmsted family in Florence, Italy and we've tentatively been planning their visit for a while.  They were our first Olmsted visitors and we were so excited to show them our city since they showed us around Florence last February on our big trip.  Plus, their girls are a blast to hang out with.  There's something about being with kids at Christmas time that adds some extra excitement to the air. 

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, outdoor
Autum, Matt, Elle and Emma Claire.  I would post the picture of all of us from Instagram, but for some reason, it's not letting me save it....

We spent most of our time eating our way through Christmas markets while taking a break every once and a while to do some sight seeing.  It's such a good time to visit Berlin because the city is decorated for the holidays and there is always a Christmas market to go to, but there is also the history and sights that can keep you busy for a week (or a year!) if you want!

The day after the Bryants left, the Dombrocks arrived!  This was a last minute trip for them, but we welcomed them with open arms and were so excited to see them! We visited them in their home of Rabat, Morocco last February as well and Melissa came to Ramstein while I was there for a few days and stayed with me last May.  The four of us had a blast sight seeing around the city, hanging out at our house, and, of course, hitting up a few Christmas markets!

Olmsted Scholars and their Olmsted coin in Berlin!

Imitating penguins

We headed out to Spandau, which is a suburb of Berlin one day, since it was supposed to be a great Christmas market and a cute suburb.  It didn't disappoint.  The Christmas market was huge, the town was picturesque and the sights were interesting.  I'm not sure I would do it if there weren't Christmas markets to add to the itinerary, but they had a citadel and museum that were worthwhile.  The museum was of all of the Berlin monuments, which, at first, I thought was a little strange.  Why wouldn't you just go to the monuments themselves? But, it was arranged in chronological order of the monuments and was actually really interesting.  Spandau for the win!

We also celebrated my birthday! Hooray! Mike had class on my birthday and I had a doctor's appointment (Baby Maximus was kicking up a storm in celebration!), but Melissa and Ryan made me breakfast when I got home and after a few hours of sight seeing, the four of us had dinner at Kim Chi Princess.  Mike and I went right after we moved to Berlin and loved it, but it's definitely a place to go with more than two people. You order a dish off of the menu and they bring grills to your table to cook it in front of you.  There are lots of sides, fillings and food to go around.  Afterwards, we headed to a bar where I enjoyed a very delicious birthday mocktail while the rest of the gang had some true cocktails. We ended the night with a game of Phase Ten and drinks at home. Overall, not a bad way to ring in twenty eight!

Hi Ryan!

 We love showing off Berlin and our new home to visitors.  It's only taken a few months for us to truly appreciate all that the city has to offer.  There is always something going on or a sight to see and there is history on every corner.  It doesn't have that old German charm like some of the southern cities do, but there are definitely some spots that can take your breath away.