Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Back to Germany and Hit the Ground Running

Late April and May proved to be a crazy time of traveling for us. Whether we were entertaining visitors, working in Berlin or visiting the Czech Republic, we were on the move.

A Clough Reunion

The day after we returned from Texas, we were delighted to have visitors from the Clough family. Mark and Karen were awesome travel companions and we had a blast touring them around our favorite parts of Germany.

Jon had to work the first two days they were there, but I was able to show them around some local areas. The adventure with the four of us began with a tour of the Rhine River Valley including a visit to Marksburg Castle, the city of Koblenz, the village of Boppard and wine-tasting in Bacharach.

The following day, we traveled to the medieval town of Rothenburg via the Romantic Road. Along the drive, we came across a beautiful bridge over a babbling river and could feel the romance brimming over.

Although this was my fifth time to Rothenburg, I loved it as much as the first and it proved yet again to be an awesome destination for guests. Spring had definitely sprung in Rothenburg and the flowers and weather were incredible. Although it was a short visit, we had an amazing time with Mark and Karen and are so glad they were able to make it over for a visit!

Workin' It in Berlin

Two weeks later, we were on the road again to Berlin. This time, however was for work. I was attending a two-day recruitment fair on behalf of Baylor, and Jon joined me on the second day. He proved to be quite the "assistant" and did an outstanding job snagging students to talk to. Although he deferred most of the questions to me, he provided great energy and enthusiasm needed after five hours straight of talking. Other presenters were amazed that we were married and working together and we had to set them straight that this was only a one-time thing. However, I think we could make quite the recruitment team. He would reel the students in with his charm and debonair looks, and I would provide them the facts and enticing information. Who knows - maybe we could really make it as a husband/wife duo on the road? We'll see how this military thing works out first, I suppose.

Berlin wasn't all work and no play. We were able to enjoy our evenings and had one free day. After exploring some new trendy neighborhoods, we headed back to one of our favorite bars from the first time in Berlin. It is actually a collection of bars and art galleries in an old warehouse filled with graffiti and crazy lights. On the ground level outside, it's actually made out to be a "beach" with sand and reggae music. One thing about Berlin is certain, it's party central and there's something for everyone. The city has an amazing energy night and day and I've come to enjoy it more each time I visit.
Our final day we enjoyed walking around the city sights. We went everywhere from the Berlin cathedral, to Alexanderplatz, the flea markets on museum island, Brandenburger Tor, the Jewish Memorial and Potsdammer Platz.

It was gorgeous weather and was the perfect day to be outside and take in the history of this incredible city.

Jon with one foot in the former East Berlin and the other in former West Berlin.

Ahoj (AH-HOY) from Cesky Krumlov!
No, your eyes do not deceive you. The informal greeting for 'hello' in Czech is pronounced "ahoy!" You can only imagine how excited Jon was to learn this. Although the accent is only the first syllable, which he had a hard time with, Jon felt quite at home in this country that speaks something close to pirate lingo.

Of course, this isn't the only reason we had an incredible time in the endearing town of Cesky Krumlov. The weather was fantastic, the river was inviting and our timing was impeccable. We visited this second-most-touristed city (after Prague) in the Czech Republic over Memorial Day weekend and were pleasantly surprised by all it had to offer.

The afternoon we arrived, we dropped off our bags in a lovely pension overlooking the Vlatava River that winds through the town, and headed to the castle that looms over the city. We climbed to the top of the tower to get an amazing view of this once medieval town. We decided to check out the tour schedule for the inside, and were pleased to find out that the last English tour of the day was about to start in 10 minutes. That was the beginning of our perfect timing streak.
The castle was gorgeous and although all the stories about the families who lived there throughout time were horribly tragic, we couldn't help but feel so peaceful and sublimely happy to be in this adorable town. We couldn't imagine anything horrific taking place in this quaint and picturesque town.
We toured the castle gardens and got some great pics of the town with the river snaking through the old town.
That evening, we hiked the Stations of the Cross, which led us up to a hillside with beautiful views overlooking the town at a distance at sunset. Once again, our timing was perfect to see the town bathed in the beautiful light of sunset before it got too dark.
Later that evening after dinner, we were walking across one of the old bridges in town when all of a sudden the sky lit up in fireworks. We were the only ones on the bridge experiencing this magnificent display - and once again, we owed it all to our amazing timing.
The next morning, we embarked on a six-hour canoe ride on the Vlatava River. After zipping through town on the rapids and fast current, we entered a enchanting forest with nothing but the sounds of birds and wind in the trees. It was incredible!

When we did need to take the occasional breaks, we would pull over to one of the many campgrounds and have a beer and snack.
One of the campgrounds even let us fill up a 3 liter bottle of soda with beer. It was fantastic to be out in nature, and this is one experience I will never forget. Cesky Krumov - we definitely hope to be saying "Ahoj" to you again in the future!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Springtime Weddin' Fun

While Germany was still muddling through the remnants of winter on March 20th, I traveled to the States for springtime wedding events. First stop, Natchitoches, Louisiana, where my dear friend from college and former housemate, Crystal, was getting married. It was a fantastic reunion with my other housemates from senior year, Leslie and Elizabeth, as well as other Baylor friends. The wedding was absolutely beautiful and authentically Louisiana, complete with ice sculptures, a Cajun-inspired buffet and an oh-so-entertaining New Orleans band. I have missed these girls dearly over the past two years and was so thrilled to be able to spend time with them again. It looks as if I'll have more opportunities this next year as both Leslie and Elizabeth are engaged with weddings on the way.

After Louisiana, it was off to Texas for two more weddings. The first was two weeks later for a friend who asked me to sing. It was quite an honor and was good practice for the most important wedding of the season - my big sis, Laurel's. During this three weeks home, there was a lot of wedding extravaganza catching up that needed to be done. First, there was the bachelorette party in Austin, which if I do say so myself, Mandy and I did an excellent job planning as it was quite the success. We had a great group of girls and had so much fun at dinner at Iron Cactus, the lingerie party at Laurel's house, and later rode in style downtown in a karaoke bus for a night out on the town!

Of course there were the not as fun tasks as well, but I happily helped with everything asked of me. I think I actually helped out more with Laurel's wedding in those three weeks than I did for my own! The result was an outstanding wedding that was perfect in every way. The most special thing about it was seeing the ranch at its best once again. Although there were many things similar to the wedding Jon and I had, most of it was so different and it was incredible to be able to experience a wedding there from a non-bride-and-groom perspective.

Jon and I spent the week before the wedding at the ranch helping with preparations and enjoying the warm weather. It was so warm, that a few days we were able to sun and swim in the Medina River.

However, the peaceful days didn't last for long, and soon after the ranch was filled with people and tasks as the big day drew near. Some of the guests we were most excited to see were Nick, Kelly and their beautiful daughter, Allison. This was my first time to meet her and we all had such a fun time being together that weekend.

In addition to Nick and Kelly, I was also able to spend time with Allison and J.W. We had an amazing time sharing a cabin together that weekend and talked a lot about their visit to Germany this September. I can't wait!
Now for some highlights of the wedding weekend; In this pic, my cousin Jenny, Kelly, Allison and me at the 11th Street Bar after the Rehearsal Dinner.

More dear friends who I got to spend a lot of time with before the wedding. Judy Y. bought us these lovely bling-tastic rings to wear. Lookin' good ladies!

The evening's finale at Arkey Blue's.

Post ceremony - the reception was in full blast and I danced my face off. I had such an incredible time and the only downside was that it had to end. Another Catlin wedding success!

Oh and I wasn't the only one that danced my heart out. Jon enjoyed himself thoroughly as well. Here he and two other groomsmen did a pseudo-striptease for the bride. Oh yeah, she loved every minute of it!

The day after the wedding was a very bittersweet day. I was thrilled to have a new brother-in-law and a day of family togetherness to simply soak everything in, but at the same time, it meant that the trip was almost over and it was time to return to Germany. I wanted to spend as much time outside as possible enjoying the sunshine, the scenery, my family and everything that makes the ranch what it is.
I walked around and took several pictures to attempt to remember exactly how I felt on this day. So incredibly blessed, but also quite sad to have to leave it all behind.

We will always have a special place in our hearts for Texas and the ranch.