Read our Austria and Germany trip blog here

Dance Tour 2011: Germany & Austria

This blog is about the German Junior Folk Dancers' trip to Germany and Austria in 2011. The entries and pictures are from our dancers, instructor, co-ordinator, parents, and even grandparents.

Germany and Canada by Brooklyn
August 5 & 6, 2011
(The last few entries have been delayed because of temperamental internet at the last place I was staying)
Time to travel home
As planned we met today in Frankfurt with all of our suitcases full of treasures and some candy to sell at Folkfest in less than two weeks. Some creative packing and rearranging was needed to make sure no one was over Condor's luggage weight limits but we managed it. After checkin it was time to make sure all foods and drinks that weren't allowed through security were eaten. It's a good thing we had a long time to wait before we boarded because some of us were kind of full after that.
Our departure time was slightly delayed, even once we were on the plane, but we passed the time by trading stories of the past couple of days. The families that stayed in Rothenburg went on a nightwatchman tour and found an outdoor beer gardens and restaurant that they loved very much. They also went on their own adventures with the train to other towns and cities. Meanwhile, we had our own adventures that included finding some family roots, watching Harry Potter in German, and going to Wolfsburg, the city where the VW factory is. Hopefully we can get together and trade pictures and get more stories of everything we did!
Despite the slightly delayed takeoff we still managed to get into Calgary early. However, that did not last long because of the weather and because the plane parked at our gate was having mechanical problems. Once we got into the terminal and past the first half of customs the weather caused us more problems because lightning in the area had put the whole airport on red alert, which meant the baggage handlers were not allowed to go out and get our luggage. Overall, I think we waited in the luggage/customs area for just over two hours.
signEveryone waiting

playing around
Once we finally got out of the airport we all decided to stay in a hotel, even those who originally planned to drive home today, because of over-tiredness and possible bad weather on the way home.
- - -
Because of jet lag we all got up early this morning, even before the hotel breakfast was served. After eating breakfast we all said our goodbyes and headed home our own ways. However, it's not really goodbye since our next practice is in only three days for our many performances coming up. Hopefully we'll even be able to get one or two of the new dances we learned on stage!
Overall, I think the trip was an excellent success!! We had many amazing experiences and created many fun memories. We also learned a lot about the German and Austrian culture and took many new dances home with us. I certainly can't wait until we go on our next dance trip, maybe to Vancouver or China?

August 2, 2011
Yesterday on the bus ride I asked everyone some questions about the trip since it's nearly over. The questions were: What do you wish you could take home from Germany and Austria? What do you miss from home? What is your favourite thing we did or place we went?
Take home: almost all of the dancers saying every day, "Can we dance now?" or "Are we dancing today?"
Miss from home: strangely, not much because I feel like I'm home here but I'd say being able to not live out of a suitcase
Favourite thing/place: the whole trip but especially the folk dancing parts!
Take home: the food, the mountains without the windy roads
Miss from home: my bunny, the straight roads
Favourite thing/place: all of it, I can't choose just one place, it's too hard
Take home: the cappuccino for breakfast
Miss from home: my husband
Favourite thing/place: Balingen, I couldn't imagine a more perfect place for us to dance away from home. The next time we go to Germany I'd go there to show my husband how unique it is. Also, hearing all the cool accents and hanging out with people in our group and getting to know them better.
Take home: people's love and inspiration to folk dance
Miss from home: the mutual language speaking ability. I'm not a big fan of the language barrier
Favourite thing/place: If I were to come back I'd probably do the dancing again and skip the touristy stuff because dancing is where I found the most connection with people.
Take home: the hiking trails and paths that pass through the country. I'd love to have that in Saskatchewan. I'd also like to take back the scenery and the bike paths too.
Miss from home: I'm not really missing anything, except the chance to sleep in, but the awesome adventures make up for the lack of sleeping in.
Favourite thing/place: either Balingen or the part in Austria with all the dancing. Balingen had excellent food and it was a lot of fun but Austria was also a lot of fun.
Take home: the authenticity of folk dance in Germany and Austria. I believe we have gone to the source, know they're still being done, and taking some home to do.
Miss from home: the home environment, the comfort zone, my daily bike ride
Favourite thing/place: the food, I'd come back for the food any day, especially like the food we had in Balingen
Take home: their slower pace of life here (Saturday & Sunday closed)
Miss from home: cooking the meals I want to eat
Favourite thing/place: the hiking yesterday, up the stairs and the Wipfelwanderweg
Take home: their way of thinking where everything is closed Sunday, one day you have off
Miss from home: my hot tub
Favourite thing/place: the hiking, yesterday up all of those stairs
Miss from home: my dog
Favourite thing/place: Legoland
Take home: a scooter that you could push
Miss from home: my pets
Favourite thing/place: I liked it all, mostly Legoland and Playmobiland
Take home: Their trains, I like trains
Miss from home: I miss my room and being able to be alone
Favourite thing/place: I like when we visited Frommern/Balingen and the dancing there because it was fun
Take home: It would be nice to take the whole experience home so everyone could experience it too
Miss from home: My bed and the rest of my family
Favourite thing/place: I'd go back to Balingen, the bed and breakfast
Take home: how to make Elizabeth's cheeses and cookies
Miss from home: my garden, my ripe raspberries, picking Saskatoon berries, hanging my laundry on the clothes line
Favourite thing/place: the town outside of Legoland and I would go back to the hostel in Balingen to watch them play their folk music
Take home: the bus
Miss from home: my bed
Favourite thing/place: back to Balingen
Take home: the trains and Frommern
Miss from home: my house and my pets
Favourite thing/place: I liked everything but I liked Fromern the most
Take home: mountains and castles, the stuff you don't see at home
Miss from home: my pets and everything
Favourite thing/place: I don't know, I liked everything
Take home: a kitten and castles
Miss from home: I miss TV
Favourite thing/place: I'd go to Playmobiland and Legoland again
Take home: the appreciation of history, the fellowship with the group, wanting to take more part in more folk dancing, learn more about our heritage
Miss from home: we'd like to just keep going, would have liked to share it with all family, maybe dill pickles
Favourite thing/place: the place where we stayed in Balingen, all places were special
Take home: the appreciation of history, the fellowship with the group, wanting to take more part in more folk dancing, learn more about our heritage
Miss from home: nothing, would just like to keep going
Favourite thing/place: Balingen, all of it

August 1, 2011
The day began with our last breakfast at the hostel and then loading our suitcases onto the bus for the long drive back to Germany. Because drivers are quite regulated in Germany (and we were driving for quite a long time today) we had to take a 45 minute break a few hours into the trip. Therefore, we stopped at Chiemsee, a popular holiday destination in southern Germany. It was quite beautiful and I know a few people wanted to stay longer than the 45 minutes.
ChiemseeHanging around We ended our 6 hour drive in Rothenburg where we split up. My family took a train to central Germany while the other families stayed in Rothenburg. The last few days of our trip are planned so that families can do whatever they want before we meet up again on August 5th in Frankfurt Aiport for our trip home.
On our long drive I asked everyone several questions about our trip, etc. which I will post tomorrow but here are everyone's thoughts about the Tanzabend (dance night) in Austria:
It was tiring. It was really fun. My favourite dance I learned the whole trip was the snake one. Those outfits were really fancy, there were lots of different kinds. It's like Folkfest being in our costumes, being so hot. Let's hope it's a nice temperature for Folkfest with our hot costumes.
I'm so glad they wore their outfits. Since we had them along it was a really cool thing. It was a really different experience, the Austrian dances as opposed to the German ones. I have to say I've never spun around so fast and I've never been so dizzy after dancing. I really liked having the live music. It was a nice novelty for us to have that.
I can't describe it, the experience was so amazing. I got to dance with so many people and not even know the language. It was a real connection between two people while dancing. I'd wake up at 6am to do it and that's really saying something.
It was a lot of fun, it was like a big party. I learned lots and it was a valuable experience. I really liked the live music. I think that was what made it more like a party than a rehearsal. It was fun seeing everyone in their trachten. I was sad when it ended even though I was really tired.
High energy. Nice to be in the authentic. They take their fun and folkdancing serious. It was the same phenomenatastic. The added touch was the trachten, that really brought it out. All of them, that people were dressed up it was so nice. It had a little bit of the feel of multicultural. The live music was a nice added touch.
It was very good. Everyone dancing together with live music. It was nice that everyone was in their outfits.
It was excellent. I loved the live music. It was fun to dance too, with people that enjoy it and have enthusiasm.
It was fun and good.
Good. The live music was my favourite. I liked the one where you go under, the one in a group of four.
It was fun. The live music is cool, I liked that part. I liked their outfits too. My favourite dance was the 1, 12, 123 one. I liked the dress they wore, and that they could wear them in other places too.
I loved it, it was wonderful. I was really interested in their costuming too. The live music was good too. It was nice to see the whole family too, from the little boy up.
It was fun. I loved the costumes and I loved how they played the accordion by ear. My favourite dance was 1, 12, 123 one. It's inspired me to find some space for us to do adult dancing.
It was lot of fun, meeting some Austrians and trying to communicate with them. Seeing their outfits and traditional garb.
I liked the dancing and learning new dances. I liked how we got to practice in our costumes. And I liked the live music.
Awesome. I liked getting to dance with another group. My favourite dances were the one in the group of four and the one where you jumped and then turned under your partner.
It was cool. I learned new dances I liked. I liked the one where we pointed our toes.
I enjoyed the history of their dress, the live music, the humour and the eye contact between the dancers. It made us want to dance and dance.
I really enjoyed the guest dancers in addition to ours. They were a pleasure to watch. The accordionist was very talented and they all certainly had stamina!

July 31, 2011
Today began by saying goodbye to two of our group. We dropped Stefanie and Katrina off at the train station in Judenburg so they could start heading home to Canada. It was sad to see them go but not too sad since we'll see them in less than a week for practices and performances. I hope we'll even be able to dance some of our new dances in those performances that we learned on this trip.
After the train station we were shown around Judenburg by Robert. As we hiked through the town we passed by their Maibaum (May pole). He explained some of the traditions associated with it being taken down in late August and that it was put up May 1st. As we drove through Austria we saw them in many different towns we passed.
We then headed to the Kirchturm/Planetarium which was a church tower with a planetarium at the top. We were lucky enough to be climbing the stairs past the bells when they rang for 10 am. They didn't just ring the hour, instead they played for quite a while after announcing the time, possibly because it was Sunday and time for church.
BellsBells from above From the top of the tower we had a beautiful view of the town. We wanted to watch the show they had playing too but unfortunately we didn't book ahead to guarantee a show in English.
Afterwards we headed to the Wipfelwanderweg which was a hike through the forest and up more than 1000 stairs to see quite a wonderful view. There were games to play along the way too, but some of our dancers also came up with their own ways to entertain themselves while we climbed all those stairs.

Wheelbarrowup the stairs

Kindereckeat the top of the stairs Once we made it to the top the hike back down was much quicker, especially with the promise of ice cream after :).
The way down
The rest of our day was spent packing our suitcases to head to back to Germany tomorrow, relaxing, and saying goodbye to the new friends we made in Austria.

July 30, 2011
Today began with a hike around the city where we're staying. We hiked Sagenweg, a path that went up a mountain and back down again. In addition to seeing beautiful Austrian scenery there were also interesting legends to read along the way.
NachtwaechterHiking At the top of the hill we found a beautiful field that reminded us all of the Sound of Music or Heidi. We enjoyed running through it and taking a break from our hike.
Running through the fieldGroup Photo When we got back from our hike we had time to have a short dance practice where we ran through a couple of our dances to possibly show the dancers that were coming in a couple of hours. I also gave my dancers a preview of a new dance step I learned last night that I knew they would be learning tonight. As always, I'll always find it amazing how quickly kids pick things up because most of them learned it quicker than I did!
After practice we quickly ate supper and changed into our trachten. We brought them in a suitcase/garment bag from Canada so they were somewhat wrinkled but they didn't look too bad. It was certainly good that we brought them with us because it definitely added to the atmosphere since they were wearing theirs too.
TrachtenTrachten The whole evening was educational, fun, and very entertaining. They told us quite a few things about their trachten, such as how much they cost and the differences between them. They also told us about their organization, how it works, and that it has approximately 2000 members! We certainly don't have anything quite like that in Saskatoon. As a group we also learned several dances that we're hoping to perform in our upcoming performances.
TeachingDancing back into the room

DancingMore Dancing We were also given a book of their dances and a cd of the music that accompanies it.
Group photos and group silliness
Group PhotoGroup Photo

Group silliness
The evening went past the bedtime of some of our youngest dancers but before they went to bed we made sure that they got to see how they performed some of our dances and that the boys got to see a demonstration of Schuhplatteln, a boys only dance.
It was a great evening that I'm sure the dancers and I won't soon forget. We learned quite a bit and had a lot of fun! The book and cd will also be very valuable. A BIG DANKE to the groups in both Austria and Germany for everything you've shared and taught us!! I know the dancers, including the ones back home, are looking forward to performing new dances.

July 29, 2011
I love the way our trip is planned because it alternates culture with commercialism and large cities with small towns. Today was another day of culture and small town Austria. We started out the day with a breakfast buffet at our hostel to get enough energy for our hike up to Burg Finstergrün (a castle). It was quite the vertical hike up to the castle but we had a great view once we got to the top.
View of AustriaBurg Finstergrün We got a tour of the castle but this time we weren't able to get one in English. Therefore, my mom (with a little help from me) had to translate it for the rest of our group. The regional dialect certainly provides a mental workout for translating since it's different from the German we're more familiar with. The tour of the castle was very interesting though since the castle we saw was actually a combination of two castles, an old one that had mostly burnt down and a newer one, and is now used as youth hostel.
CastleInside Of course, after our tour we had to check out the souvenir shop for souvenirs and treats. A few of our dancers even found some ice creams that were banana flavoured where the outer layer peeled like a banana.
Chilling with treats
After the hike down we drove back to our hostel to relax and explore a bit of the town where we're staying. We found a music instrument museum with some interesting old instruments in it. We also walked around and visited a local bakery as well as the tourist information centre. One of the things that I've noticed quite a bit about Austria is that nearly every house has flowers outside every one of their windows which creates quite a nice atmosphere. I wish we could do that back home but it would be hard with the short growing season we have.
Flower boxes
Yesterday my brothers and I were invited to go and see two of the local dance groups practice. The first dance practice was fairly similar to ours except that they practiced in their trachten. However, the second dance practice was quite a different experience from ours. After watching the first group dance we walked over to a bar where I thought we were simply going to wait for the dancers and then go somewhere else. Instead, once all of the dancers arrived we moved into an unoccupied room where we danced. With the cigarette smoke in the air it was certainly a different environment from our practices at the Dance Saskatchewan building with dance studios!
We had the opportunity to watch some dances and to take part in others. Some of the ones we took part in were variations of dances we knew but others were completely new to us. I had quite an interesting experience trying to learn new dances in an unfamiliar dialect while trying to remember the steps and trying to translate for my brothers as well. I certainly got a physical and mental workout at the same time! Some of our dances that they did included a different version of the Kreuzkoenig (with a different handhold for lifting the girls) and the Boehmerwald Laendler. They also showed us the end of their Dreisteyrer where the boy flips over the arms of the girls! That is certainly something I want our dancers to see tomorrow night.
Meanwhile back at the hostel those who stayed behind got together upstairs and did a dance practice without the usual music and with my mom as the substitute instructor. This was a chance to try out the new cds we got in Balingen.

July 28, 2011
Today was our longest day of travel yet. We drove from Zirndorf (where the Playmobil hotel is) all the way to our hostel in Austria. The trip took quite a few hours but we were very lucky to almost completely miss all the Staus (traffic jams) that the radio and Navi (GPS) were warning us about.
As we drove past Münichen we saw the Allianz Arena that we saw made of Lego back in Legoland.
Allianz ArenaAllianz Arena We also enjoyed the beautiful and changing scenery as we drove towards Austria because the closer we got the more mountains we saw. We even drove under a mountain for almost 7km. As we got closer and closer to our hostel the roads got narrower and "windier".
After checking into our hostel and eating supper we met the leader of a local dance group, Robert. We went upstairs to practice some of our dances to accordion music that he played. It was different, but a lot fun, to have live music to dance to, especially since he could speed it up as he played and we danced. We're looking forward to Saturday when more dancers, teachers, and musicians are coming to teach us their dances and traditions. We even got a sneak preview of a couple of the dances they are planning on teaching us.


July 27, 2011
The plan for today was a day trip to Nürnberg since it's so close to the Playmobil hotel we're staying at. Of course, our first stop was at the Lebkuchen-Schmidt store to buy some Lebkuchen! It was somewhat strange buying Lebkuchen in July but I think most people managed to find something. We also did try to get a tour of the factory but we didn't book it far enough in advance.

Buying LebkuchenBehind the counter After visiting the store we were dropped off in downtown Nürnberg for a few hours. All of the families split up and went their own way to see what they wanted to see. We wandered around and saw many different things. There was a Käthe Wohlfahrt store that we went into to browse around. There were a few things I would have loved to buy but because some of them were delicate (and a bit expensive) I resisted.
After some shopping, including at the Müller store, we stopped for some ice cream. I had spaghetti ice-cream, a special way of serving ice-cream that we haven't seen anywhere else. To make it they put the ice-cream through a spaghetti maker before they serve it.
Spaghetti ice-cream
We also saw various historical sites, such as the Schoener Brunnen, Frauenkirche, and the Kaiserburg.


BrunnenChurch Overall it was a very educational and entertaining day that included shopping, trying new foods, buying souvenirs and seeing historical sites.

July 26, 2011
Consistently getting wifi over here hasn't always been easy. In Frankfurt we had to go down to the lobby to use it, Legoland we had to sit outside the restaurant (which didn't work in the rain) and get a new code to log in each day, in Balingen (the best and fastest internet so far) it was 100% free but we did have to go to the dining hall to use it, and here in the Playmobil hotel we can get it in our rooms but we have to pay for it (so we use it as little and quickly as possible). All this makes keeping the blog updated kind of difficult and sometimes things show up later :). This is why I'm only now posting my mom's blog entries on July 21st, 22nd, and 24th for anyone who wants to read them. I have also added some comments and pictures to my entry from yesterday.
Today started out with breakfast at the Playmobil Fun Park. Yum, I wish I had this kind of selection at home for breakfast! After we finished eating it was time for the Fun Park. The first stop for some of us was the Playmobil store which had lots of Playmobil for sale as well as interactive games and displays.
After that everyone headed out for playing in the nice hot weather.
KletterwaldSwing time After the park closes down they still have their Aktiv Park open where they offer mini golf, a climbing/exercise area and several games such as Bocce and Mensch, aerger Dich nicht (Aggravation). We all slowly found our way there and spent a couple of hours playing Mensch, aerger Dich nicht, Bocce, and flying around the new Playmobil planes. We all certainly wanted to take the playing pieces for Aggravation home with us!
Hours of funPlaying into the night

Flying planes

July 25, 2011
Another travelling day today. We had our last buffet breakfast at the Haus der Volkskunst and then finished packing. As we were packing, saying our goodbyes, and even while on the bus I heard many people saying they didn't want to leave at all. I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed being there! One of my wishes was the we had had enough time to use the practice maypole they had in their dance practice room. It was permanently hanging from the roof which would certainly save time for us since I'm constantly having to load one of ours into and out of my car and driving it everywhere.
On our trip we stopped at the Hohenloher Freilandmuseum, an open air museum that lets you walk in farms and houses to see how people used to farm. However, we first had to wake the kids up because I think the bus ride had tired them out just a little?
It was quite a neat experience but unfortunately we didn't have enough time to explore everything before we had to leave again.
Pigs enjoying their mealWishing well? After a couple more hours in the bus we finally arrived at the Playmobil Hotel across the street from the Playmobil Fun Park. Tomorrow is the first day we visit Playmobil Fun Park!
We travel light?
Since we had plenty of time after we checked in some of the kids went exploring once they had unpacked. Some of them found a shoe polisher and asked to borrow Florian's dance shoes so they could try it out. He'll stand out on stage at our next performance! They also found the Playmobil-Spielecke (play corner) on the 5th floor and had a great time playing.
Polishing Florian's shoesPlaymobil play time I interviewed everyone on the bus yesterday about their experiences in Balingen and this is what they said:
Dancing was a fun and enlightening experience. I learned many great things and am excited to dance them in the near future. The parade was exciting and cultural but the hike and the castle were too much work. The creakiness of the beds didn't help my sleep. It was fun having Anita there too. I did learn "Es ist zu weit" this weekend.
Awesome. I liked the hike, it was probably the most adventurous day of my life. It's not really how I pictured my vacation. The bunny farm was my favourite part of yesterday. The parade was way different than we have at home. They throw candy which was my favourite part. I thought the castle was really cool and I liked the dungeon. It was really cool that we had our own dance studio. My favourite dance was the one where we bow to each other. I didn't like getting stung by the stinging nettle though!
The most special part was being in such a cultural center, the wood making shop, the museum. The other thing I noticed was how many marching bands there were in the parade compared to our parades. It seems like everyone in Germany plays an instrument.
It was awesome! I liked the tour of the house, that was one of my favourite parts. I think the tour and the hike were both my favourite parts. I enjoyed how the houses we stayed at had a history longer and more interesting than Saskatoon. The hike was fun because of all the narrow paths and steep hills and the forests. The castle was interesting but disappointing because it would have been more interesting if someone had lived there. The food was fantastic! The best meals I've had all year. The dancing was fun too.
Phenomenaltastic! It seemed like we were in a story book. There was an overload of culture, especially dance, friendly people, perfect weather (it was cooling us off so we could hike through the perfect nature), delicious, hearty food, the lush forest to hike through, a sleepover with my girlfriend to boot, good chitchat, and a schaumkuss for dessert to top it all off.
Absolutely beautiful and I loved the traditional food and dance and building architecture. I loved the parade in the festival. The center of that town was right out of a postcard. The bunny farm was really magical. I realized how out of shape I was compared to those who hike in the hills being from the prairies.
I loved the small town atmosphere, all the running trails and the food. The food was incredible. Very relaxing. I'm enjoying the language barrier. And of course the German beer. The parade was really enjoyable too.
The facility was really enlightening, the making of the horns, the bagpipes. I thought they were traditional Scotland. The different dances encouraged us to take part and maybe even join a club in our area. I'm glad I brought my "buffet pants". Seeing a castle for the first time was fun. The parade was great.
The making of the horns was really interesting. How it was hollowed out, glued together and bark stripped off it. I enjoyed the parade too.
Excellent. Good food, good place, the hospitality was excellent. The parade was awesome. It was something you don't see in Canada which is too bad. It was families, not just kids or adults, it was everyone. Herding the geese. The hiking was great. The tour of the bell tower was great. I can't get over the hospitality, rides to downtown, use of their laundry machines. Someone even recognized my Rider hat at the castle!
My favourite part was staying at the hostel museum place. I don't want to leave that place. I liked our dance workshops because now we learned the polka. I liked when we went skiing on the mud on the mountain. I also liked how their internet was fast. The food that we got was also great. I didn't like the drum and carrot game.
It was fun. The new dances were different. My favourite parts were learning new dances and going to the castle. I thought the parade was fun and I liked the bunny farm too. There was nothing I didn't like.
I liked the bunny farm and the castle. I liked the bunny farm because there was bunnies. I liked the castle because it was cool. The best part was inside because it was warm (since it was raining and chilly outside).
I liked the shopping at the castle. I liked learning the new dances. The donkeys were the best at the farm. I didn't like playing the drum game but I did like the carrot game. It was fun going shoe shopping after the church.
I enjoyed eating the red plums from the tree. I also liked going up the tower that was built in 11whatever on the top of the mountain. I also liked the dance workshops, the fact that everyone danced as a group.
My favourite part of this weekend was going to the castle. The parade was also fun, the best part was watching the kid run across the road to get the candy. At the end he had a big bag full. I also liked the food.
The bunnies. There was a bunny with red eyes because he was evil. I also liked hiking up the hill because the paths were narrow and nobody could pass me. The castle was also fun.
Fabulous! It was one of the best places I've stayed. It had everything we needed. The music was fantastic. The garden behind was beautiful and peaceful. All we needed was a cat and it would have been perfect. The first day the supper was wonderful and every day it got better and better. It was very welcoming. The church bells were also great.

July 24, 2011
For today we planned to take a day trip to Bad Urach to see a 140 year old festival that is put on every other year. Since it was a three day event we didn't get to see it all, but we did get to see the parade. It was definitely great see all the trachten that people wore as they walked in the parade. The parade included over a hundred groups and went on for quite a while. There were quite a few bands that took part, as well as trachten vereine.
One of the floatsKids taking part

Walking with a flagKids taking part Quite a few of the groups taking part threw candy at the crowds. There were also groups that handed out baked goodies, beer, wine, or alcoholic cider.
Herding the geeseYum!

TrachtenMaitanz Once the parade was done we explored the town square and then headed off to the Hohenzollern castle.
Front entrance
We had to wait around for a little bit but we did manage to get a tour in english. We learned that the castle had never been used once it was completed because the person who had it built died before it was finished. We learned many other interesting facts but one of the most interesting parts was when everyone had to wear slippers over their shoes that were way too big for everyone, especially the kids. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures inside so we don't have pictures of the elaborate decorations inside.
Up the path
Thoughts on the Folkdance here in Germany: I was curious to find out all we could on this phenomenal organization of folkdancers here in the Haus der Volkskunst. The practice we took part in had the hall full of kids, yet the teachers kept apologizing that hardly anyone was able to attend. Hmmm, so how big are these groups normally? Out of the 20 kids I counted (not that easy, when all are constantly dancing and goofing around!), 8 were boys, which is similar to what we have in our traveling group. That kind of ratio isn't common back home, however, and I commented on the lack of boys eager to folk dance. Or any other form of dance?
Marvin, one of our instructors replied with yes, there are times when there aren't enough men, but women rarely, or never, dance together in the adult groups. The men and boys who are members of these large dance groups are hooked on the fun, and bring their friends, but there are times when male membership or even attendance does diminish. To that, Marvin smiled, and said: Yes, sometimes we do have to go to the soccer field to recruit and retrieve.

July 23, 2011
The day began with another delicious breakfast buffet followed by another dance practice. We practiced some of our own dances and tried to remember some of the dances we've been taught but I think we need another practice session with some of the local dancers before we can keep the names and the dances straight :). After our practice session we had some delicious homemade cheese and red currant cake that was made by Barbara's girlfriend Elisabeth who visited us.
Once we were all full and recharged we went off on a hike, the Hirschguldenweg, to see the historic sites in the area and along the path up the mountain.
At one point the Hirschguldenweg crosses through a farm with lots of animals, including free wandering bunnies. The dancers loved taking pictures and feeding the rabbits so much it was difficult to get them to leave.
Feeding rabbitsTaking pictures As we continued to hike the path up the mountain some areas got quite steep and a little bit slippery, but we made it to the top finally. From there we had a great view of Balingen and the surrounding towns. We also watched people fly remote-control glider planes.
Up top the mountainLaunching the glider Wandering around the town on top of the mountain we found a red plum tree with lots of delicious plums to eat. As we were looking for a cafe or somewhere to grab a little something else to eat a red truck pulled up and honked it's horn several times. When we walked around to the other side we discovered it was a mobile butcher shop selling meats and sausages.
PlumsBuying meat From there we decided it was time to head back down the mountain so we could make it back in time for supper. Although we didn't quite make it back injury free, since the way down was so steep and slippery, we certainly enjoyed our supper which included spaetzle and kartoffelsalat. During supper I had several of the dancers asking me when we were going to dance again, something I haven't heard very often, so we had another dance practice right after supper. The dancers still had energy after we ran through most of our own dances that I introduced them to some Norwegian dances I've learned. I think I finally managed to wear them out after that since they're finally off to bed!

July 22, 2011
Today was another fun day at the Haus der Volkskunst. It started out with a delicious breakfast buffet that included yogurt, cereal, eggs, brezeln, fruit, meat, cheese, and of course, nutella. After eating we drove to downtown Balingen where we were able to visit a very beautiful old church.
The highlight for many of us was being able to climb the very tall tower up to see the bells and to also go outside at the top of the tower and look down at the town. We were told that their newest bell was just recently put in and was only used for special occasions, such as Christmas.
Up the towerNew Bell We also taught the dancers that the bells don't just ring on the hour, they also ring once at quarter past the hour, twice at thirty minutes past, and three times at three quarters past the hour. Once they knew that they all began watching the time and covering their ears in anticipation of the bell ringing because we were only a couple floors above it. After it rang they discovered that it wasn't too loud and some of them asked to be right next to the bells when they rang again which was really neat to see.
View from the towerPlugging our ears After visiting the church we did a little tour around Balingen and saw the town wall and other historic buildings. We did a quick stop at Aldi on the way home before taking part in the last practice of the season of the local dance groups. It was great to see our dancers dancing with the local dancers. Our dancers got the opportunity to take part in a couple of dances our group knew too and we even learned a new game, Karottenziehen (pulling carrots).
JaegerneunerDancing together We had a short break and then came a hearty supper buffet which included a really big wheel of brie cheese!
SupperBrie Once we finished supper we had a tour of this fabulous club house/museum where we are staying. We got to see the very large garden in the back, learned how they heat the buildings and their water very efficiently through solar and geothermal energy, got to see where they weave their own fabrics, see some examples of old trachten, and a tour of their instrument museum and workshop (where they build and replicate old instruments).
WeavingCarving a horn

InstrumentsGroup photo Almost immediately after the tour we took part in the last practice of the season of the local adult dance group. All of our dancers had a lot of fun learning new dances and even our parents and grandparents joined in!
PlaetscherpolkaWaltzing Amanda
2nd day at the folkdance and culture center: A trip into the main town with the two vans that belong to the Haus here started the activities today. We hunted around to get a key to the local church and found a friendly woman in an office a couple of streets down, who happily obliged. Dressed for office work, she did manage a brisk walk across the cobble stone, and quite the pace up the steep, tightly wound stairs in the church tower. We saw the church bells up close and even got to hear them as they tell the time every 15 minutes. All of us took a stroll through town and up and past the town wall, the town Schloss and a closed museum. We strolled the main street and sat down for a quick a snack. Sandra ordered what seemed like a nice little glass cup of ice cream, but received a portion so large, it was more a meal of ice cream.
A quick shopping stop at a near by Aldi store ended that trip. The afternoon had us taking part in a phenomenal dance class. Over 20 kids, doing very upbeat dancing and screaming rather loudly with enthusiasm - one of our moms rightfully said, our kids have never seen a dance practice quite like that. Wow. We got lots of ideas for German games and dances. And a peek into how youth folkdance works here.
It wasn't long before supper was behind us also, and the adult dance class started. Here we had a chance to really learn and take part. Some steps were familiar, some were new, but fun was definitely had by all. A tour of this amazing 'museum' of instruments, costumes and wheel making tools was also part of the evening.
We were presented with a 4 volume set of books of sheet music, for coming all this way. Again, Wow! Later, also some CDs and books of instruction were given to our group, to help us learn new dances and keep our traditions authentic.

July 21, 2011
This morning was another morning of travel for the group. We got up early and had our last breakfast at the delicious Legoland Dschungel buffet. After breakfast we loaded up our bus and headed out.
Auf Wiedersehen
After a few hours of driving we arrived at the Haus der Volkskunst in Balingen. This place is quite amazing and you really have to see it to believe it since the pictures don't do it justice. They have renovated a couple of old houses for all of their own activities as well as for use as accommodation for visiting folk dance groups. In their Kneipe they have a large display of all of the instruments they make themselves. The craftsmanship is truly amazing. Hopefully we will be getting a tour tomorrow to see everything else that they do here!
After check-in and a delicious snack we put our suitcases in our rooms and decided to practice some of our dances since the sunny weather had disappeared.
Time to practice
We must have done a sun dance without realizing it because the sun soon reappeared and we all decided to go for walks. The scenery was beautiful, especially after the rain, and very typically German.
Pear TreeHorizon I thought that the supper that we were served tasted really delicious and everyone else certainly agreed. We had Kartoffelsalat, Sauerkraut, and Maultaschen.
After supper we worked our food off with another dance practice and this time we included the parents and grandparents. It was great to dig out dances we haven't done in a while and work on them with such a large group. Tomorrow we hope to show off some of our dances and learn some new ones to take home with us from the group that practices here every Friday night.
It's been 2 weeks since I actually found time to write a blog entry. Time has gone fast and much has happened. Thankfully, there are others keeping track of the many impressions of our travels, and the digital photos assist to jog the memory.
We have arrived in Balingen, in the Haus der Volkskunst, the place that was sooo impressive when we (Dave, Evan, Florian and Barbara) visited back in 2009.
It houses the large organization that practices and honors old traditions of deep rooted Swabian culture. In our case, we are here for the folkdance, but have already tasted a delicious home cooked meal and are finding it quite amazing to live in a dorm that has a powerful museum feel to it. The house is of the old framework construction and filled with wooden furniture inherited from this former furniture factory region. There is also a large wooden musical instrument collection throughout, and a workshop for building them, downstairs. We hope to get a tour and more information about this Verein (Association) that is active here in these two restored old buildings.
After much travel and international touristy activities, we have finally plugged in the folkmusic and refreshed our knowledge of the dances. Mostly our young dancers, but after supper, the parents also joined in. We filled that beautiful small wooden dance hall with almost all 20 of us enjoying the ambience and fun of folkdance. Amanda taught the parents some of the kids dances, while Evan and Anita got a quick refresher course on dances they haven't done for a while.

July 20, 2011
Today's trip to Legoland was also very enjoyable and everyone used it to do the things they didn't get to yesterday. Even though it was quite chilly because of the constant rain we did have the upside of there being virtually no lines on any of the rides since there were very few people there. It was great for us to try new rides and things we didn't get to before. I even managed to get on their biggest roller coaster, Project X - LEGO Test Strecke, which was definitely a first for me since I'd never been on any roller coaster before yesterday.
In the rain
I interviewed everyone at breakfast about their experiences at Legoland yesterday and this is what they said:
Legoland was fun. It was way better than the EX in Saskatoon. My favourite ride was the dragon roller coaster. It started quiet and then was like BAM! Today I want to step it up and do something even more awesome. The displays were fricking remarkable.
'twas fun. We got soaked on the log ride more each time we went. I was surprised on the dragon roller coaster. I thought it was just going to be a tour of the castle and then whoosh! I would have liked to get to the pirate stuff but it was all closed by the time we got there. The water drifting ride was awesome fun. The displays were awesome and I liked Venice and the Netherlands. Today I want to do Pirate Land because we missed it yesterday.
I finally got to take my lovely children to Legoland after all these years after dreaming about it. I noticed I was the only mom looking up when I was telling them to be "lieb sein". The display was phenomenal. The factory was great and made me want to stock up on our lego and get back into a big building project ourselves. The option to buy lego by the pound got me inspired because that's not available anywhere else. Looking forward to zero lineups on this cloudy day. I also loved the fact that the lineups were short and there were no extra costs for rides.
My favourite ride was the dragon roller coaster and the log ride. I don't know how many times I went on each, I lost count. The displays were really cool. I hope to go shopping today. My favourite Lego on the Safari ride was the ostrich. I want to go on the log ride again today in the rain with Hannah and Sarah. The blue roller coaster is kind of boring at first but then it drops.
All of the water rides were my favourite rides. Did you see the dinosaur that spits? It got me in my face. Ryan also thought the displays were good.
The boat ride was the best one. We went 8 times on the log ride. The displays were cool. Yeah, I recognized Frankfurt. I don't have enough patience to build all that. I want to go on the log ride again today in the rain. It was better than the California Legoland.
My favourite ride so far is the dragon roller coaster and the water gun thing on the pirate ships. I did them both once. The displays were impressive, very impressive. The Star Wars place was amazing, it was amazing how people can do all that. I want to go on the Hero Factory ride today.
All of the roller coasters were my favourite. We went 5 to 8 times. The displays were awesome. I want to go on the arm in the Hero factory. I also want to ride the log ride in the rain with Katrina and Sarah. We went to the 4D movie. It's kind of funny when you don't understand German.
My favourite ride was the climbing rope thing. I managed to get all the way to the top. The displays were good. I want to go shopping today.
My favourite thing yesterday was going on the rides. The log ride was my favourite of the rides. The displays were really good. I'm not really sure what I want to do today, just go and have fun.
It was really good, the roller coasters, log ride and the ice cream. 1 Euro for a waffle cone. Today I want to have a nap and go on the arm in the Hero factory, maybe even have a 1:30 beer break.
My favourite ride was the observation tower because you can see both towns. I would go back in it today. I liked the inexpensive ice cream cones and frozen yogurt. The 4D movie was fantastic. You got snowed on, sprayed on, etc. I want to go back and see some of the other movies.
Like Mary, I liked the observation tower. The display, that was really cool, was definitely one of the most amazing sights I've seen on any trip.
It's the only children's park where you can drink beer. Lot of the same rides, but it's bigger than the one in San Diego. It's also very clean and very organized. The Lego displays are very neat, amazing, especially the Lego Star Wars part, with the Cantina band and Ewok village.

July 19, 2011
The big plan for today was visiting Legoland!
After enjoying a breakfast at the restaurant, everyone headed to Legoland. Our family decided to explore the display area first. The level of detail and size of the displays was simply amazing! The only small drawback was that some of the lego was weathered and faded looking. Otherwise it was really interesting to look at it all! Some of the many displays included scenes from each of the Star Wars movies, Neuschwanstein, Allianz Arena, Berlin, Frankfurt, and the Münchner Flughafen (Munich Airport). I think we might have to go see some of it again tomorrow just to see all the details.
Allianz ArenaFrankfurt

Rotes RathausEs war einmal


HothMillenium Falcon

Gedaechtnis KircheBundestag After looking at most of the displays we decided it was time to go on some rides. Some of the rides we went on include the Techno Tea Cup, Hero Factory, Dragon Hunt roller coaster, and the Jungle X-pedition log ride. In between all the rides we also decided to do some gold panning and managed to find a total of 330 grams between the four of us.
Panning for GoldWeighing the Gold Afterwards we visited the mini Lego factory where we got to see how Lego bricks are made. After the factory there was a bulk Lego store where you could buy a wide variety of Lego pieces in bulk. It was very hard to resist temptation and buy too many. We also found time for snacks, including Lego Pommes, which was a cone full of fries that looked like Lego bricks. After our very long, tiring, and exciting day at Legoland we walked back to our cabin just as a thunderstorm was starting. Thankfully we made it back before we got really wet. Now it's time for us to go to bed so that we have enough energy for tomorrow at Legoland!

July 18, 2011
Today was mainly a travelling day. We got up somewhat early and some of us went to the grocery store before finishing packing and getting on our chartered (Mercedes-Benz) bus. We drove from Frankfurt to Legoland in about 4 hours with only approximately 20 minutes Stau (traffic jam) on the Autobahn.
AutobahnOur bus You could really tell that we had reached Legoland when you could hear those who were seated at the back of the bus all the way at the front with their excitement. While the parents checked into the Feriendorf (holiday village) the kids played with some of the lego that was set up near the check-in.
After check-in we hauled our suitcases to our rooms and then figured out what to do for the rest of the day. Some of what we did included going into town to explore Günzberg, visiting with family and friends, playing in the kids play area and visiting with each other.
Sharing a bike
We better get to sleep early because Legoland is on the agenda for tomorrow!

July 17, 2011
Today was the final of the FIFA Women's World Cup in the Stadion Frankfurt. It was definitely an interesting and entertaining experience! We bought our tickets quite a few months ago so we got them relatively cheap, but we certainly could have made quite a bit of money for what people outside the stadium wanted to pay! The scalpers were quite easy to spot because they were walking around either holding up signs saying how many they needed or holding up their fingers and yelling that they needed to buy tickets.
Need 2 tickets
We brought these lovely hats with us that turned out to be quite helpful in not losing each other in the sold out crowd with 48 817 people there!
Group PictureCat in the Hat? Before the match started we got to watch the closing ceremonies of the whole tournament. I want to know how much time they had for rehearsal because it certainly looked very well coordinated!
Closing ceremoniesCat in the Hat? Some pictures from the game:
Kick offFussball Eis anyone?
After a well played game Japan won!
Pile on the goalieMedal ceremony
Party time
Once the game let out we took the train to get back to the hotel. While waiting for the last one we decided to get some snacks from the vending machine (since it was after 1am). It definitely has food in it that you wouldn't find in Canada.
Snack time

July 15/16, 2011
I can't decide if today has been one really long day or two regular days and so I've dated today as July 15/16. Most of us started out by getting up around 6am, finished packing and driving to Calgary. By the time we all ended up in Calgary some of us were questioning if you could have jet lag before the flight.
Group Picture
After getting through security we made our way to the gate and one of the parents told me that we had Snoopy and Woodstock on the side of our plane. Of course I had to find a good place to take these pictures.
Our planeClose up of Snoopy and Woodstock This is the pillow cover that I stole from the plane. Shhh!
Snoopy pillow
After the 8+ hour flight and waiting for our luggage. . .don't we all look so awake?
Very tired
After we finally got our luggage we found a bus to take us to our hotel, the Meininger. It's quite a nice hotel/hostel that even has a guest kitchen so we can buy our food and cook it ourselves.
Meiniger Hotel
After getting settled in we went exploring and found a grocery store that was still open. Wow, I forgot just how much German food there was that I loved! It's a good thing we were walking because that limited just how much we could carry back to the hotel :)

July 12, 2011
Well, there's only three days left until we leave for Germany and everyone I've talked to is getting more and more excited. However, with that excitement also comes the last minute panic with thoughts of "what do we still need to do before we leave?" or "uh oh, do we need to bring _____ with us?". I'm not sure how everyone else deals with that but I've been making many lists (something I'm known for) of what I still need to buy, pack, etc. I think that I have 4 or 5 going right now :)
As well as getting ready for our trip I'm also trying to get answers from all of our families about a new performance opportunity we got yesterday and making sure the set and outfits, etc are ready for those dancers who are performing while we are gone. It will be their first performance without me there but I know they will do great!
I personally can't wait to see what new dances we'll learn and bring back for our own performances. However, that's certainly not the only thing I'm looking forward to! I also can't wait to see all the German and Austrian towns and their unique gemütlichkeit. It will also be fun to be able to use my German, although translating for others could be entertaining when your brain has to go quickly back and forth between languages. Eating my favourite German food is going to be fun too because there's so much of it you can't find over here. Besides all of this I am also looking forward to see the women's FIFA world cup final, visiting Playmobil Fun Park and Legoland and the many other things we have planned.
I guess it's time to get back to my lists and see if I can get more stuff crossed off.

July 7, 2011
Getting down to last-minute organization for our trip to Europe. One more week to go! Still have to pack and get a few things off the list. There's also one more road trip for a performance at Moose Jaw Motif festival.
A couple of our dancers are trying on new costumes to make our flying KK dance an even better success!

Thank you to those who helped us fundraise for our Dance in Deutschland project in the summer of 2011