Europe 2015 – July 14th

Our plan for our first full day in Finland was to explore Riihimäki, so after a good night’s sleep and breakfast at Arto and Tarja’s, we all set off on foot for two main (and adjacent) attractions: the hunting museum and the glass museum. I cannot stress enough how park-like it was. So much land! Here are a couple of shots from outside the hunting museum.




For a non-hunter, the inside was a little much …


… but the kids seemed to like it.


Here they are doing some sort of dance.


They also liked the shooting simulator, and got pretty good at it thanks to Arto’s help.


When we were done at the hunting museum, Arto and Tarja took the boys to a nearby playground which allowed Bruce and me to thoroughly enjoy the glass museum. The displays — both of Finnish glass through the ages and how it was made — were impressive.





After a quick break, we walked over to another area of town that has become an artists’ colony and there were some guys blowing glass in one of the studios. We got to watch for quite a while.



From there we walked back to the house …


… and after lunch at a surprisingly satisfying mall buffet we went to Anne’s studio to see some of her art. Here’s Tarja checking out a work-in-progress.


She also makes jewelry.


We ended up buying one of Anne’s paintings and it’s now proudly displayed in our living room.

After the studio visit, we went with Kari and Anne to a strawberry farm. There were bunnies.


After picking up a huge box of strawberries …


… we went back to Kari and Anne’s house for berries, ice cream and champagne in their lovely backyard.


With our California drought in full swing, it was even more of a pleasure to sit in such a lush and peaceful garden.



The kids enjoyed the peas, too. Shelling them as much as eating them, I think.



And Howard the Beaver, Ezra’s hunting museum souvenir, got to have a snack, too.


After a while it started to rain, so we went inside. The boys didn’t mind at all, especially since Kari offered up his computer for them.


Bruce and Kari compared notes on technology for a bit …


… and we fielded questions about Bob and his family since he visited them many years ago.

The day ended with another delicious dinner at Arto and Tarja’s and a second boys’ sauna. A great day!

Europe 2015 – July 13th

We said our goodbyes to Germany and our wonderful hosts on Monday morning and headed to the airport for our first of two flights to get to Finland. The boys don’t seem to mind the travel days so much — here’s how they experience the various airports. Hannover:




The flights were uneventful, we managed to retrieve our rental car pretty easily at the Helsinki airport, and soon we were on our way to Arto and Tarja’s house in Riihimäki. They welcomed us warmly and we visited with them for a while and then had an early dinner at their house. After dinner they took us on a little tour of the town, and we went to an observation tower to get a look from high up. The amount of trees is staggering!



After some time there, we drove to Kari and Anne’s house to meet them and we had a nice visit at their house. (I don’t have any pictures from this visit, unfortunately.) When we got back to Arto and Tarja’s house, the boys had their first sauna — a little slice of Finnish heaven for the Moision boys! (I don’t have any pictures of that either but that’s probably a good thing!)

Here’s a slideshow of the photos I did manage to get on this day.

Europe 2015 – July 12th

On our last day in Germany, we decided to take the train to Hannover and walk around for a bit. It was a little rainy and lots of things were closed because it was Sunday, but it was still nice to see the town.


Our main destination was the Rathaus (town hall), which was pretty impressive.


It’s not easy to capture its grandeur of the inside, but here are a couple of shots.



They had a great display of the city at different times in history. Here’s an overall photo.


And closeups of each one, showing its growth, destruction and eventual regrowth.





The building has an observation platform in the dome, so we decided to try it. We didn’t realize what a crazy Willy Wonka like elevator we’d have to take to get there. Here’s a photo from the Wikipedia page that shows its path.


I was kind of freaked out — it’s a tiny, crowded compartment going at an odd angle — but I managed to get a couple of photos. Here’s the elevator shaft.


And here’s one of the viewing window in the floor.


I was not crazy about this part of our adventure at all. There was also a spiral staircase to contend with.


However, the payoff was the view. Even on a dreary day, it was spectacular.



After we made our way back down the staircase and the crazy lift, we left the Rathaus and went to Aegidienkirche, a bombed out church that was not rebuilt, but rather kept as a memorial. It was quite striking.



Before taking the train back to Nienburg, we stopped for lunch at an Irish pub which had decent food and a very kind English-speaking waitress.


Later, we had a quiet dinner with Jokke and Merja (Turkish takeout — delicious!) and spent the rest of the evening packing up for our flight to Finland the next day.

Here’s a slideshow of all of my photos from this day.

Europe 2015 – July 11th

We packed our last Saturday in Germany full of activities, starting with a walk to the local market to pick up some creamy “rapshonig” honey we’d fallen in love with during our breakfasts with Jokke and Merja. Here’s a photo of one length of the vendors at the market.


After the market, we gathered up all the troops and headed out for a tourist day. Our first stop was the Paschenburg where we enjoyed views like this one.


And a little village of gnomes tucked away.


Our next stop was Burg Schaumburg with its many interesting old buildings, towers to climb, and great views.








There was also a former jail.


And a dining room which looked like a former hunting lodge. The boys liked the swords and armor.


After exploring for a while we were ready for lunch. Here’s a shot of our motley crew.


And one Jokke took of Bruce and me.


We ordered schnitzel for the kids, and they initially looked a bit skeptical. However, they soon discovered that it was delicious and cleaned their plates.


Our next step was Steinhude — a little village popular with tourists — where we walked around for a while.



I think the boys’ highlight here was the ice cream (and sprinkles!).


Next we drove to the area where Jokke works and had a look around. Everyone took a minute to check out their “little” free library.


We’d promised the boys we’d go back to Heyeglassee, and they’d been pretty patient all day. Finally, we managed to fulfill our promise and a good time was had by all.








We finally talked the kids out of the water and headed back to Jokke and Merja’s for dinner — sausage, salad, bread, veggies, and lots of wine.



Ezra spent most of the evening attempting to get a spark from the flint he found at the lake and the steel Jokke gave him.



I have plenty more photos from this busy day; here’s a slideshow.

Europe 2015 – July 10th

Our last day in Berlin started with a quick breakfast at a little bakery/cafe we’d spotted just down the street from the hotel. We were looking forward to some coffee and pastries before heading out for more sightseeing. However, the cafe in and of itself was quite an experience due to the comically rude clerk, who was angry and exasperated that we had the audacity to purchase items in her cafe. Her audible sighs and complete disregard for our food (she put one plate down on the counter so hard the pretzel flew off of it) were the worst rudeness we encountered the whole trip.

We finally escaped the cafe and set out for our first real destination, the Berlin Wall Memorial. Our guidebook rated it as a must-see, and we were certainly glad we went. Across from the visitors center, there is a long stretch of the wall and various informational signs in the surrounding land.



This monument called “Window of Remembrance” honors those who were killed trying to escape.


Once we made our way over to the visitors center, we climbed up several flights of stairs to see the recreation of what the wall actually looked like.


We read that the guard tower shown here actually came from a different area of the wall, and that it was purchased on eBay (!) in order to recreate the scene.

When we were done at the memorial, we decided to take the train and went to the nearest station, which was another of the “ghost stations.”


Our next destination was the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which was badly damaged in 1943. The ground floor is now a memorial.



There is a new church right next to the old one; the new church doesn’t look much like a church from the outside.


However, it was quite striking on the inside.


On our walk around this part of Western Berlin, we came upon a row of these, which reminded us why all the hotels had been booked.


These were in front of the posh Waldor Astoria.

The last thing we had on our agenda before leaving Berlin was to try the currywurst. We’d walked by a little stand the day before, so we went back to it.


It’s a little sweet and a little spicy and was a big hit with all of us. Even though Finn’s face in this photo seems to indicate the opposite, he loved it!


On the way back to the hotel to get our bags we bought some more of the delicious raspberries at a corner market.


And I took a picture of the outside of our hotel for posterity’s sake.


Unfortunately, we set the raspberries down to grab the bags and forgot to pick them up again. We were extremely sad, but we drowned our sorrows in some gummy candy and screen time at the train station.


On the way back, the German countryside whizzed by since we were on the super fast train.


And we had no problems making it back “home” to Jokke and Merja’s. That evening Jokke gave us a forging demonstration. The boys had great fun dressing up in all of the safety gear.



They got to pound on some hot metal and learn about how the process works.



I’m just glad Finn’s hair didn’t catch on fire.

Here’s a video of Jokke at work.

It was a busy and great day! All of my photos from that day are here: