Friday, January 25, 2008

my husband's heaven on earth.
Today is Jeff's birthday. While he knows I have a blog and I think sometimes he might read it, he is not sitting around waiting to see what I would write to document his birthday today by any means. So I was trying to think what I could write about on his big day to get him excited. ... ah -ha! Wengen!
I never finished writing about our Europe trip this summer, which is unfortunate because I never wrote about the best part - WENGEN. it is a small town in Switzerland that we spent 3 of the best days of our lives. I almost picked the word Wengen as my word of the year. Jeff and I have this phrase that we say when we get stressed out we tell each other, "find your Wengen!"

So as part of Jeff's birthday gift I will remind him of our wonderful days spent in Wengen.
the above photo captures Jeff at his happiest. We had hiked to Mannlichen and there he sat looking at the view of the Junfrau, Eiger and Monk mountains. We waited for a long time hoping that the clouds would pass to see the full view. We would not get a full view until a day later coming down from the train on the other side of the valley. (video below)
Looking at the picture gets me choked up because this guy has worked his tail off to be able to climb a top that mountain and fully enjoy that. He sacrificed years of his life waiting for a moment like this.Wengen is a small little town that is up in the mountains. It has no cars. We parked at the train station, loaded up all of our luggage and took the train to Wengen. We had reservations at the most incredible hotel.
As we got off the train someone from the hotel was there to meet us and called us by name. They loaded up our luggage and put it on the hotel golf cart. We drove the quarter mile to our hotel. Standing in the archway was the hotel owner to welcome us. He took us to our room and got some milk for the girls.we had crumpets and chocolates waiting.
they had rearranged the room and put two cribs in there for the girls. Caroline still talks about when we can go back to the room with the blue crib. the hotel owner handed us our key on the big gold key chain and told us our table would be ready for breakfast in the morning. We loved hanging our key on the hook each day as we left the hotel and finding it waiting for us at the end of the day. A whole different way to look at security.
sure enough the next morning there was a table for five with room 209 on the table. They had even put a high chair for Sally Jane. It was the cutest vintage white high chair one has seen. The food was incredible. I ate Muesli each morning. We spread Nutella on croissants and had salmon on bagels. The breakfast was included in our stay and was a far cry from our normal Day's Inn continental breakfast. Our waiter asked the girls how they like their chocolate milk and the rest of the mornings it was just to their liking as we arrived to the table.

After eating everything we could we went to the grocery store to buy food for our hike. Berries, cheese and chocolate - yum.
We took a large tram to the top of the mountain to hike to Mannlichen. As you got off the tram all you could hear were bells ringing in the mountains. It was amazing. Seriously a movie setting. There were cows everywhere along the hike with bells on.

this video shows the smaller trams you could get on to go even higher and everyone playing on the playground on top of the mountain.We had bruises all over our arms when we got home because we kept pinching ourselves because it did not seem real! then some new bruises came.

you can hear the cow bells as the girls are on swinging on the hammock.

here is a video of how cute the cows were when we first saw them.

the first part of our hike we met a family from Ohio and they offered to take this photo - one of our favorites from the trip. We were talking to the family and Caroline got a little close to one of those cute cows with horns. As i turned around I saw her trying to take the bell off of his neck. Then she got scared turned her back to run and he horned her and flipped her up in the air and she went flying and landed smack on her face. All of us ran over there and the Ohio family was more freaked out than we were. But it was pretty scary!

it is a MIRACLE those horns did not go through her lungs and she only had a scratch, but we stayed far away from the cows after that.

It was a beautiful hike - despite the cow horning, screaming, "carry me, I can't walk" , "I need to go to the bathroom"and again Jeff had found Heaven on earth
we watched the hang gliders in ahhh.

that night we ate pizza on the patio and paid way too much money for water and it was driving me crazy that it cost more money that diet coke. But the weather was just beautiful.
We were told that it had been raining for a solid week before we got there and it did not rain again until the morning we left.
the next morning we awoke to our breakfast table to find Swiss flags everywhere, even on our rolls at each plate. It was Switzerland's Independence day and we had hit the jackpot by being in the country and this city for the celebration. We had not idea when planning our trip. I use the word planning lightly. When we left for Europe we didn't even know about this town or had plans to stay there. During our time in Garmish Germany we got an email from our Bishop that said, "you must go to Wengen" we took his advice and pricelined the hotel, checked out of our hotel 3 days early and took the risk and boy did it pay off.After breakfast we went to the front lawn and just sat on the bright yellow chairs and did nothing. A first for this trip where we were constantly moving. The girls played on the grass and we just sat in the sun and did not move for an hour.
it was there that i took this photo, could be my all time favorite from the trip. This is Jeff with his favorite things in the world. His cute wife taking a photo, his girls hugging all over him and he has the most incredible view of the mountains.
we then walked down to town center. They had a champagne brunch for the entire town. The town has 23 hotels and a population of 1050. All 23 owners were there walking around serving champagne and yummy pastries that I could not shove in my pocket fast enough for later. There was maybe 200 people that came together and it was all free. Our hotel owner came and found us gave us big hugs and said, "My family" Darn I wish i would have had him pose for a photo with us.
we then crossed the valley and took a large tram up the other side to Murren to spend the day. We went to get lunch, more chocolate, cheese and crackers at the Coop grocery store and went to play at the playground. On top of every mountain there was the best playground equipment that gathered the children together.
Annie Kate started playing with 3 girls with the whitest blond hair. She would seem to find friends easily during the trip but most of the kids thus fa only spoke German and they would use sign language to take turns on swings and such. I noticed these girls all dressed in Red for the holiday spoke incredible English and our girls played for over an hour. I saw their mom on the other side of the park and decided to go talk to her. I remember thinking this is so great, we are in Switzerland, on the top of a mountain, my kids are at a playground with these beautiful Swiss children who speak English.
I sat down next to the mom who was so grateful that Annie Kate was playing with her daughters. I asked her where the lived and she said, "Palo Alto California"! I started to laugh. This is the area where over half of Jeff's family lives. She also thought it was funny we were from the States.
all the girls wanted to have a photo together as they had so much fun playing together. I am sure if we would have spent 10 more minutes together I would have found out they knew someone in Jeff's family or went to their school. Small world even on the top of it.
the view coming down the train was incredible and the view Jeff had been waiting for.

when we walked back onto main street would could not refuse the yummy bakery with their festive sweets. Every thing in town had a red flag in it . It had transformed during the night as all the hotels hung flags from every window and shop owners that were not there the day before.We bought two initially but I think went back and bought two more.

then the girls played life size chess in the town center.

We went back to have drinks and meet the guests of the hotel and hang out with the owner of the hotel for a special pre-dinner mixer. We were so out of place with our crazy kids. We were the only ones staying there with children as it was more of a honeymoon - retired hotel. the guy pooring the drinks was our favorite guy and waved to us through the window on the day we left.
But all the staff were so nice to us and our children. I bet after we stayed there they took themselves off Priceline so people like us could not get deals any more.
Then we went in for dinner. I wish I would have been more bold and taken more photos. This meal was incredible. The girls were so tired and cranky. so we ate in shifts. I would sit and eat at our table while Jeff was out with the girls and then we would switch.
We then took them upstairs for a little down time to watch the 7 inch dvd screen.

We then geared up for a night of festivites for Independence day. Because we were sick for the 4th I was thrilled my kids were going to get a chance to see fireworks that year. I had no idea how incredible it would be.

As we were walking down to the parade the church bells were going off. It was dreamy. The church was just below our hotel so we could hear them every morning too. I had to add this video as this sums up our whole two week trip. There could be something so beautiful to see but at the same time the reality of taking 3 kids was always right there. If you listen closely you can hear Caroline screaming right before she stomps on my foot.
The video gives a good glimpse of where we saw the fireworks later that night.
we walked down to town center and watched the firemen get ready for the fireworks. It totally made sense why they were there because there 10 year old shooting off roman candles and pointing them at each other - it was kind of crazy and we are thrilled we all returned with full vision in both eyes.
then the horn blowers came and played right in the middle of the street. because there are no cars (just golf carts) the were able to just play in the middle of the street.

horn blower video

we totally missed the boat on buying the kids paper lanterns at the stores that day. They had a kids parade where they walked through town with the band holding their paper lanterns on a stick (with a lighted candle inside - another reason for the firemen) it is probably better as I am sure my kids would have caught someone or thing on fire.
we went up to the top of town to hear the program and wait for the fireworks. Our kids had had it! and so we decideed to go back to the hotel and see if we could see them in the sky as we were walking back. As we were walking back as we passed the church with the ringing bells down below was another town, as we were high up in the mountains. It was a miracle - just then they started their firework show. We were up above the fireworks and watched them from the top down. It was just our family and another couple watching. We said, when do you ever get to see fireworks from the top? We were so high up they almost look small. It lite up the whole valley and the sides of the mountains. It was amazing! Poor Sally Jane is ruined for life, no other firework show will the time we got back to the room the Wengen fireworks were starting. We then realzied we had a perfect view from our room window. Amazing. We got to watch in our pj's.

leaving our hotel was so sad. I hugged the hotel owner and said if I ever start a hotel I am doing it just like this! He walked us to the door and waved goodbye as the little golf cart took us to the train station.

the train ride back to our car was so sad. We fell in love with Wengen. Jeff had a smile on his face the whole time.
Happy Birthday Jeff, I hope this brought back a lot of great memories.
and they way you feel in Wengen that is kind of how
I feel every time I walk into the ribbon outlet.

side note. The concept of "finding your Wengen" is interesting and has really got me thinking. When we left for Europe (thank you again US Army for making it possible by letting us fly free on a C5) we had no plans of staying or going there. It came up when we least expected. I am glad we didn't over plan our trip so that we were open (lelly's word of the year) to going there. We will never forget Wengen and like the thought of trying to find Wengen even when we can't be there.


Liz said...

Happy Birthday to Jeff!

Loved hearing about Wengen! Now I want to go there! :)

Cynthia said...

Kristi, thanks for sharing Wengen with us! It sounds heavenly. Happy Birthday Jeff.

RoRo said...

Happy Birthday Jeff!

Wow, what a place! My husband would love the mountains and hiking. Thanks for sharing, I want to visit so bad! You make places sound so amazing! And you made me hungry!

Natasha said...

Wow Kristi, you put so much time and memories into this post. I think it makes a terrific birthday gift!

Charity said...

After your word of the day and you talked about wengen, I googled the word....I have a problem with patience! I was amazed by the pictures on the internet, but your description of it was even better...FABULOUS...thanks for sharing.

Rebecca said...

What an amazing post! Thank you.

michelle said...

Thanks for sharing this, Kristi. Everything was so beautiful -- how great that you heard about Wengen and went there, you guys are great at making memories! Happy birthday to Jeff.

Nikki said...

What an amazing experience! Thanks for sharing & happy birthday to your hubby!

Mindy said...

David and I consider you and Jeff our dearest friends. Though we haven't seen you in such a long time, our love for the two of you has grown even more. Happy Birthday, Jeff! We look forward to discovering another "Wengen" with you two on a trip someday!!!!!!

robin said...

Happy Birthday Jeff! We share a birthday, how fun. I want to go to Wengen. And we need to have you over for a raclette party-- did you eat raclette for swiss day?

Autumn said...

what a beautiful place & a wonderful experience!

Happy Birthday, Jeff!

Amanda :-) said...

This is a lovely reminder for him. Have you collated these pictures into some kind of little desktop book for him to keep at work?

I'm sure, like Mary Queen of Scots, you may find 'Wengen' written on his heart!

Jenmomof4 said...

Happy Birthday Jeff!!

Love the story of Wengen!

What a great documentation of your wonderful stay.

I loved hearing about it.

andrea said...

I'm so glad you posted this. Wengen sounds and looks amazing. What a great, great trip. The hotel also sounds so charming.

I must say that my favorite line of the blog was when you compared the ribbon outlet to Wengen...he he he. Love it!

Carrie said...

It sounds like a fantastic trip! I hope we can go there someday. Your photos are wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

Amy said...

oh my...your Wengen looks absolutely dream world unreal. Such a perfect way to commemorate your Jeff's birthday!

Liz said...

You are absolutely the best blogger. I would never have the patience to post anything this long. Besides that, I really want to make reservations and go to Wengen!
Happy Birthday, Jeff

Jessica said...

I'm so happy that you guys had such a great time in Wengen. I got teary seeing the B&W pic of Jeff and your girls . . . I love those moments in life where things slow down for a minute and you can really bask in the beauty of nature and time spent with your family.

Missy said...

That sounds so amazing. Thank you for sharing. I am going to share this with my husband and see if we can arrange a vacation paid for by the military too!

I am Jen said...

Wengen was our favorite too...I especially loved coming down the mountain into a field of cows with bells on. That's been like my dream for forever! We definately will go's been almost 9 years since we've been there!

Anne said...

Happy Birthday Jeff!

Lauralee said...

Wengen sounds awesome.. loved the girls playing with the blonde girls.. who ended up being from cali.. that is cute..

the whole knew outlook on security too.. who would have thought..

the pictures are beautiful.. what an opportunity..
comparing wengen to the ribbon outlet.. hopefully that helps jeff understand! too funny!

Wende said...

WOW! if i ever travel to europe, i'm going there and i'm taking you with me! happy birthday jeff and great job on this beautiful post!

Amy W. said...

I want to go!!!! Happy Birthday Jeff!

lelly said...

happy birthday, jeff!

i would love to find my wengen...

carlo said...

what a great birthday gift!

happy birthday jeff!

i love this post-- the pictures, the documentation, the feelings you were able to share-- so lovely.

we have a little place to go in our minds when we need to "escape" and need to be in a better state of mind.

and lucky for us we go back there to stay at least once a year since it is only about 6 hrs from us.

LJ said...

Dude, when are we going??