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March 2015 - February 2010

Over five years have passed since our webpage was updated in February 2010. There seems to be some kind of cycle since it was about the same length of time for the previous update going back to February 2005. I’d like to say it is intentional but the truth is it seems to take me about that long to create the new pages for the countries we have visited, do the write-ups for our adventures and get it all uploaded to the web server.

At lot can and did happen over the past five years. Let me begin.

The last update ended with Greg working as a consultant for Diehl-Aircabin GmbH, a supplier of aircraft interior components to Airbus, in Laupheim, Germany. Lana had just taken a job with another bio-tech firm, Icos, in Canyon Park, Bothell, WA. Ryan was looking for work after leaving his machine programming job in Poulsbo, WA, Justin was going to Lake Washington Technical College, Redmond, WA, Anna was attending the University of Western Washington, Bellingham, WA and Stephanie was in Brazil with Mire trying to establish a yoga school in the village of Garopaba, Brazil.

Greg’s work in Germany continued for another two and a half years. During that time Lana was able to transfer from her work at Icos to a similar job with the company’s Danish office in Copenhagen. This brought her much closer to Greg and provided an interesting situation where we could meet on weekends instead of the once every three month mini-vacations that we had been having while Greg was in Europe. Copenhagen isn’t the worst place in Europe to live even if the climate is somewhat similar to Seattle. From there the weekend trips can take you to Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Baltic States. We took advantage is this positioning. Take a look at our webpages for the mentioned countries.

Anna or Anya as she now prefers transferred from Western Washington University to an extension of the City University of New York (CUNY) in Prague, Czech Republic where she attended for one year before returning to Seattle to complete her bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington, Bothell Extension.

Ryan continued working as a machinist programmer for various companies as a contractor. Justin finished his studies at Lake Washington Technical College and worked briefly for a local computer shop in Lynnwood. The Great Recession of 2008 soured the job market significantly. Both guys have found it difficult to get re-started in their vocations.

Stephanie and Mire were married February 2, 2011 in Brazil where they  bought a house near the village of Garopaba and are living now. Being so far away from the US they decided to have to hold a reception the next year in Bellingham, WA in addition to the reception they had in Brazil. Christine Smith, Stephanie’s Mom, and her husband Richard Smith were able to attend the Brazilian wedding and reception.

Stephanie has launched a career in writing in addition to teaching yoga. Her venue is historical fiction. Her first novel is now in the hands of a publisher. She has created a website that evokes her interests in yoga and art.

http://soulverdeyogart.blogspot.com/

She has also established her writers website

http://www.stephaniereneedossantos.com/

where you can review many articles relating to her writing interests. Towards the bottom of her site you will find background information relating to the subject of her first novel, Cut from the Earth the great earthquake in Lisbon, Portugal November 1, 1755. I have read some of the preliminary text. Her style is rich with word images describing the times and characters that comprise the story she tells. I liken her work to being invited to a grand banquet where the fare is so rich that one is nearly overwhelmed by the flavors and textures of the myriad dishes. The story line is almost submerged in the vast sea of descriptions of the colors and textures of the buildings, streets and characters she creates. She is able with words to paint the scenes that take one back to that fateful day when Lisbon was all but destroyed by the great quake.

Mire is a fisherman by trade. He usually fishes solo with a hand thrown net. When you look at our photos from the Brazil page, Florianopolis & Garopaba, his current and past boats are in some of the shots. He has several brothers most of whom also fish as does his father. Interestingly they choose to compete rather than work as a team. This says a lot about their characters. Mire is if anything an individualist, self-sufficient, proud and competent. He knows the sea and the creatures he gathers. He is a good businessman having the combination of skills and instincts that make him successful in his trade. We are happy that he has joined our family.

My father, Ralph Harold Mohler, passed away on May 12, 2012 in Lufkin, Texas. His wife, Lorene, lived on another two years. He was 95. We gathered at their home in Texas for a memorial service later that year. He had been suffering from Alzheimer disease for several years prior. He is buried in the Indiantown Gap National Cemetery, Pennsylvania next to my mother, Harriett Ann Mohler (Overly) who passed away in 1982. My father and mother were capable and caring parents. They did the best they knew how to provide for their children. They weren’t perfect as you would expect, but they stayed together and their result was three boys who grew to manhood, earned good educations, married and continued the Mohler family tradition of high performance and reliability at home and work. Their sons, Ralph, Mark and Scott reflect the good values and high standards that their parents imbued. We made our parents proud. They helped us to become successful people.

Lana and Greg continued to work in Europe until the summer of 2012. For several reasons we decided it best to return to Seattle. Lana found a job with Seattle Genetics Bothell, WA. She departed Copenhagen in July. Greg followed in September finding a job with B/E Aerospace in Marysville, WA. It was back to the beginning after nearly three years working away from the Seattle area.

After returning we re-focused our lives on the new challenges of Greg’s health and Lana’s career development. Greg was diagnosed with sleep apnea. A sleep study confirmed the condition. The therapy involved being fitted with a dental appliance that keeps the airway open during sleep. He also had several other age and life style related conditions including hypertension (high blood pressure) and elevated cholesterol levels.

Lana’s work experiences wherein she spent many hours in laboratories performing cell culture assays was creating the interest to escape into a position where she could use the knowledge she gained from her education i.e. to become a scientist, one who designs experiments rather than one who performs them.

Lana also wanted to apply for her US citizenship. In order to do that one needs to be able to attend scheduled interviews when invited. This was really difficult to do if in Europe or other off-shore location.

We also needed to attend to issues related to our house in Darrington, WA and our boat at the Port of Everett, WA marina. And last but not least we needed to reconnect with our family and friends.

Our goals for the next few years are to become financially secure with less income. This will allow us to see work more as something we like to do rather than must do. The key to success is paying off our home mortgage. We also hope that Lana will be able to move up in her work to a position that provides less stress and allows more creativity. Towards those ends we have made some progress by refinancing our home to a lower interest rate while also reducing the number of payments. And Lana keeps an eye on job opportunities that could offer solutions for her objectives. On a more personal level Lana and Greg have both developed better lifestyle habits that have helped trim our bodies of weight, lower stress, blood pressure and cholesterol. We are focusing more on personal health than we ever did previously.

By 2020 we hope have achieved these goals and enjoy the benefits of a life time of work and a healthy lifestyle. We also hope our children and friends will fulfill their hopes and dreams, and we will do our best to promote their wellbeing. As Greg is known to quip, “We’re here for a good time, not for a long time”. What say you? What are you here for?

February 2010 - February 2005

Seems like the month of February is somehow the time for updates although several Februaries have come and gone since the last one, five to be exact. A lot of detail will be missing given the long time between but here's my best shot at the highlights.

From Feb. 2005 to July 2005 Lana and I continued to live in S. Germany while Greg pursued his aircraft engineering work but with Lana out of work since 1999 and the end of Greg's project with Airbus in sight the decision was made to return to the US in the summer of 2005. By August we had returned to the Seattle area where Greg had negotiated a contract working on Boeing's new "Dreamliner" airplane. Greg departed a few weeks ahead of Lana to get things setup there. One of Greg's work colleagues wanted to move into our German apartment so it made leaving much easier and cheaper to sublet it. Moving in and out of a German apartment is only slightly less complicated than buying a house in the US. The Germans expect a three month notice and you are required to remove everything except the walls and plumbing fixtures. Seriously, they expect you to remove the kitchen counters, cabinets, appliances, light fixtures, drapes, curtains and so forth. Obviously, Germans don't move as often as Americans.

Lana and I moved into an 2-story apartment complex in Harbor Pointe near Mukilteo, WA. The place was a year old and in quite nice condition. Even had a separate level for Anna with her own bathroom. It included a two car garage and wood burning fireplace which are out of the ordinary for an apartment in the burbs. That is where we were to be for two years while Greg continued his work as an aircraft engineering contractor. Lana picked up where she had left off in 1999 by going to work for Amgen, a large pharmaceutical company specializing in genetically engineered drugs. Interestingly, she found several former colleagues working at there who had worked for her former employer, Immunex, a company that had been acquired by Amgen in the period when we were in Europe.

By the summer of 2006 we decided that it was time to direct our rent payments into a permanent home. With our incomes it seemed that there should be no problem finding a suitable place even though housing prices were completely outrageous in the Seattle area. Imagine paying half a million dollars for a 1500 square foot house built when Herbert Hoover was president with only the faintest elements of charm just because it was within walking distance of a city park that has a dying lake in the middle. The housing bubble was peaking but of course we could not have known but should have suspected as the American dream unravels. On one sunny day in July 2006, Ryan and Justin and Lana and myself decided to raft the Sauk river near Darrington, WA. The Sauk is a respectable Class III whitewater river that emerges out of the Snoqualmie - Mt. Baker National Forest near the town of Darrington, WA. Greg had kayaked this river numerous times since the early 1980's. On many trips he had noticed a lovely house sitting at the river's edge above a concrete retaining wall. This house stood out because in general there are no evidences of man along this wild and scenic waterway until you arrive near the log mill in the town. On the return trip to fetch our cars we noticed a home for sale sign near the national forest boundary. On a hunch we turned off to take a look. Sure enough it was the house by the side of the river with the retaining wall. Even in it's somewhat unkempt condition at the time the magic of the place could not go unnoticed. Such homes are very rare even in out of the way places like Darrington. Many who built too close to these mountain rivers saw them taken away during floods. The Sauk has a reputation for moving around in its valley like a snake. Just upstream there is the remains of a cabin teetering on the river edge waiting for next big high water for its trip downstream. Call it good fortune or perhaps a savvy builder, the house we  bought and remodeled has weathered the floods and never been inundated. We hired a surveyor who ran an elevation survey that showed it to be two feet above the 500 year flood level. If Glacier Peak, the nearest volcano 50 miles east whose streams provide part of the water for the Sauk decides to erupt it might be a different story. Living on the edge is something we have accepted.

It is a wood frame, tri-level home typical of those built in the Pacific NW circa1960-70 but with distinguishing features that set it apart from the tract homes of that era. See photos on our website at this link: Our House . The wide tapering eves and extensive windows on the river side say custom built and suggest a NW Indian long house heritage.  The opposite side the house displays no special character but has the natural surrounding of the forest. Old growth cedar stumps well over a hundred years old, cut when the first loggers felled the virgin forest now decorate the right half of the front yard. The stumps now serving as nurse logs for new growth of Douglas fir, western red cedar and hemlock lend a look of "frontier" to the landscaping. The left half of the front yard is separated from the right by a wide gravel drive. On the left an open meadow extends from the entrance road to the river's edge. Lana has supplemented the natural forest plants with grasses and wild flowers.  The theme is natural and low maintenance with only a small grass area on the far right side of the house that wraps around to a small area on the river side. Only the planted areas near the main entrance, the entrance garden, and the flower beds on the river side require regular attention. All the planted areas are irrigated with automatic micro sprinklers. On the left side between the meadow and the house there are three long concrete pads put there in anticipation of some additional features. Originally we thought about a greenhouse but have since decided it would not survive the heavy winter snows. Instead we may build an extension of the main structure and use the space for a sauna and atrium/sun room. Nearer the river there is space for a hot tub gazebo. It would have great views looking up and down the river. Only time and money are needed. The dreams are already in place. The builder had been generous with the space for most rooms but scrimped on the interior furnishings such as kitchen cabinets that appeared to have been site-built by the same guys who framed the walls i.e. functional but crude. The bathrooms too were true to the era having pastel colored fixtures that now seem garish. The main bathroom was done in violet tiles with matching tub and toilet. A woman's make-up counter with built-in mirror and matching tile adorned one wall. Yet even with all the outdated features the house retained a feeling of being something special, one of a kind, an energy, a spirit taken from the natural surroundings of the forest and river.

And so the remodel began in the Fall of 2006.  The initial concept and budget was limited to restoration of the kitchen, bathrooms and the living room. The living room had a standard 8' ceiling with built-in, flush mount lights which may have seemed very chic in 1966. The living room has a wall to wall red sand stone fireplace on one end that says built in the 1960s like the exterior of so many homes in the burbs of Seattle. Not unpleasant even today the fireplace is the focal point of the living room. But it has serious competition from the large bay window looking out on the river. The bay window keeps turning the head towards the river and the wilderness on the far bank. You find yourself looking across the river perhaps to see a deer or bear coming down for a drink. We have seen both but more often you are rewarded with a glimpse of a bald eagle soaring along the river or perching high in one of the snags that line the opposite bank.

Over the 40 previous years past owners added their own features such as the semi-circular entry stairs made from concrete and attached to the original straight concrete stairs leading up to the old main entry door. No bother had been made to remove the old stairs. The addition was built next to the old ones. The original main door still functioned but appeared to have been ignored in favor the newer door that opened directly into the middle of the living room. Someone seemed to have tried to make the house look like a mobile home. What a retro concept! There were four more outside doors, one into the utility room, one into the garage and two more on the river side. So in all there were six outside doors on this 2000 square foot home. The utility room was nearly as large as the kitchen and had its own bathroom. Someone must have planned on spending a lot of their time there. The water heater had been installed in the utility room like a tree in the middle of the driveway and of course it was leaking and needed replacement. But it was difficult to tell what was leaking more as the roof vents were also leaking into the attic and down into the kitchen walls. The kitchen had three entrances plus the stairway leading to the top floor so was obviously the main cross roads on the ground floor. It was quite a challenge to decide how to rearrange the floor plan such that it made sense. Lana came up with the solution.  It provided for closing all but one door on the street side of the house, reducing the size of the utility room to a minimum while creating an entry hallway into the living room plus opening access to the ground floor bathroom to the bedroom, kitchen and living room. The schizophrenic concrete stairs were removed and replaced with ones that looked like what originally were in place but also incorporated a wrap around stoop that formed the back wall of a terraced entrance garden. At the same time the concrete stairs were removed and replaced we built a wide pathway from the entrance garden around the right side to the back patio. The walkway is curbed and covered with paver stones of alternating colors.

On the river side we faced challenges both decorative and structural. The original concrete terrace looked like it had been through an earthquake such that the large pads were up and down in random fashion. At some point someone had decided to make a giant backgammon board out of the concrete pads by inserting elongated red triangles in a regular pattern. But they must have run out of color or money as the board was only half completed. Ridding the property of large amounts of reinforced concrete consumed a considerable amount of time and money. Along the river bank there is a vertical concrete block wall about 30 feet high and 130 feet long. Along the top of the wall is a black wrought iron fence. The retaining wall is in most parts still in good condition with the exception of about 20 feet along the terrace area where the concrete pads had become uneven. The ground had not properly prepared as we found large, live tree roots that were responsible for heaving the concrete slabs. When fixing the concrete terrace we dug down about 20 feet and filled the entire volume with reinforced concrete and tied it to the retaining wall so as to support the wall against further deterioration then back filled with sand which we compacted in preparation for the surface finish.. In place of the concrete we used paver stones with an alternating geometric pattern/color.  The new concrete borders for the patio were integrated  into the existing concrete stairs and flower boxes which were still in good condition. The overall effect combines a the best of the old with the new. The black wrought iron fence has been repainted and looks really stunning. It was one of the features that was done well and is still in excellent condition after all these years.

As you can tell if you have had the persistence to read this far that this is a labor of love, a project that expresses our tastes and personal essence. While this home will likely never be included on the national register of famous structures it will be always be a famous place in our hearts and minds. Here we met the challenge and succeeded. Here we made our statement of good taste and grace. One cannot now build a home like this along this wild river. Some may say that is a good thing and some may disagree. To combine our lives with nature in a non-invasive fashion is the goal. We must live and so must all other creatures who are living nearby. We have endeavored to construct, to remodel, to reinvigorate this special house such that generations from now it will continue to provide shelter and comfort for our progeny and if not ours someone else's. A house is meant to have life inside. It is a place where life is created, lived and finally ends. For Lana and I this house is the place that focuses our creativity and commitment. We hope that this house will inspire our children and all those who come to visit us.

During this five year period the kids did what kids do.... grow up. Thankfully. Ryan and Justin are now living apart pursuing their own goals. Ryan has an interesting job as a machine tool programmer in Poulsbo, WA. His company makes medical prosthesis devices. Justin is nearing completion of a AA degree in Computer Technology at the Lake Washington Technical College. Anna returned from Russia in 2005 starting high school in Mukilteo, WA at Kamiak high school where she was able to skip two grades based on her skills obtained from Russian schooling and of course her cleverness at her studies. She attend two years of college at Western Washington University and is now studying at the Empire State University extension in Prague. Stephanie continued working with her man friend, Geth Noble, on designing and building skate parks for part of the time but has since moved on to living in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. She currently has a man friend there who is a commercial fisherman. She is trying to start a business as a yoga teacher.

Until July 2009 Lana had been working in the quality control laboratory for Amgen at their Canyon Park facility in Bothell, WA until this facility was closed. She has been looking for new work in the Seattle area since. Greg has been working at various aircraft engineering jobs including the Boeing  B747-8 program and 787 Dreamliner both in Everett, WA. He also worked a contract at the Hexcel Corp. in Kent, WA where he performed stress analysis for one of the Boeing suppliers and worked on an experimental materials program. He also spent some months at B/E Aerospace Corp., Marysville, on a passenger to freighter aircraft conversion for China Southern Airways. For a brief period he worked in Savannah, GA for GulfStream aircraft. He is currently working for his own limited liability company, Global Resource Services, on Airbus related contracts in southern Germany.

Now comes the story of our boat, the "Risky Business".

Lana and Greg needed a place to live after giving up the apartment in Mukilteo. Darrington is a bit far to drive each day for work in the Bothell and Everett areas. Since we had all the real estate we could manage we decided to buy a live aboard boat moored in the Port of Everett marina that Lana found advertised online. She's a 45' motor yacht built in 1978 by Blue Water yachts out of somewhere in MN. See photos of our boat on our webpage at: Risky Business. She has two double berths, two heads, galley, dining area, lounge, covered after deck, large fly deck and fly bridge. At purchase the boat was in good overall condition for her age but needed the usual updating of electronics and other items. As a live aboard she's well located along the marina main channel with views of the Olympic mountains to the west. The first few months we were aboard were learning times for us as we had not had a boat before. Boats especially ones of this size are full of systems that need to be understood unlike the usual situations in apartments. In a simple comparison, boats are like little space ships where everything has its purpose and needs to function properly for comfortable living. And of course the more complicated a machine the more likely it is to malfunction. Since boats are frequently tied to the dock they have a shore side electrical and water system that works more or less like the ones at your house. But when away from the dock they have a low voltage system that comes into action and a water system that has its own pump. Even the toilets are a bit more complex than the ones at home. And the days of flushing overboard are long gone. Now all such waste is sent to a storage tank that must be pumped at a proper sanitation station. Learning all these systems and trying to stay warm was quite an experience the first winter. But the most challenging part of all for Greg was learning how to pilot this large craft. He had lots of experience rowing rafts on whitewater rivers but rafts and big motor boats have lots of differences. It's not often that one has a concern about the effect of the wind on your course on the river, but with a big boat not only is the current to be reckoned with but the wind too especially when in close quarters to the dock and other craft. Needless to say there were several moments of terror learning the maneuver at the fuel dock. Fortunately, Ryan and Justin were able to provide lots of assistance. Both had grown up with boats owned by their late grandfather, Ken Meier. Ken knew boats and taught his grandsons quite a lot. Both guys are also skilled crabbers and fishermen.

The past five years have been challenging and rewarding  for our family. Each one of us has faced situations that required learning and adapting. All have met these challenges and achieved success. When we started five years ago we were still living in apartments. Anna was in high school. Since 2005 she has graduated from high school and completed nearly three years of university with top grades. Ryan graduated from college and was working as a machinist in Everett, WA. He has now found a really interesting and rewarding position with a high tech company where he is their machine programmer. Justin decided to pursue a career in computer science and return to college. He will graduate in June 2010 with a degree in computer technology. The future looks bright for Justin. Stephanie realized that her work and life with Geth was at a turning point. She has now steered a new course for a future with her new man in Brazil and with her new business endeavor teaching yoga. Greg's challenges related more to keeping the flow of funds coming so that we all pursue our goals. Lana returned to work after several years away in Europe with Greg. She proved herself  in her new company, Amgen, and became a respected member of their quality control team.

All of us have moved forward with our lives yet we continue to be connected and involved with each other. "All for one, one for all, no one left behind".

Breaking News-

Lana has accepted a contract job offer with Icos Corp. a biotech company located in Bothell, WA not far from the former location of Amgen, the company that closed it operations resulting in her out of work situation.

Ryan apparently has left his job as a machine programmer in Poulsbo, WA. Not sure about the details.

September 2004 - February 2005
 
It's time again to update as we have two more countries to add and some interesting sagas too.
We are still in southern Germany near the city of Ulm where Greg is still working for Airbus on the A380 aircraft interior.
Since the last update to our web site we have traveled to the US, Mexico and Asia.  It has been a busy time both at work and at play.  In late October 2004 we departed Germany on a two week trip to our timeshare condominium located at Cabo San Lucas, the southern most point of Baja California, Mexico and to Greg's father and his wife, Lorene's, new home near Lufkin, Texas.
Stephanie, Ryan, Justin and Stephanie's boyfriend, Geth Nobel, joined us at the Cabo airport after flying in from their homes in the Pacific NW.  This was our first visit to our new timeshare so there was a bit of anticipation on what we had actually purchased three years ago.  We had only seen a partially completed sales model when we decided to buy it.  The finished version was even better than what we remembered i.e. an attractively furnished six person unit with a spectacular view of the Pacific ocean.  Being perhaps the first to occupy it, the smell of new furniture and fresh paint added to the delight of seeing for the first time what we had anticipate for so long.  The Mexicans have a talent and a lot of experience with ceramic tiles and our apartment is a testimony to their artful selection of colors, textures and professional installation.  The photos we have on the web page show the results.
During our week in Cabo we managed sunbathing, scuba diving, desert rides on four wheel vehicles, a mountain driving tour with visits to local villages, parasailing, beach walking, swimming, surfing, fine dinning and lots of good conversation around our own dinner table.  By week's end we felt we had experienced some of the best this area has to offer, and were even discussing what we would do when we returned again in a couple years.
Immediately upon our return to Germany we began preparations for Thanksgiving.  Having agreed to be the host for the local English speakers group turkey dinner we plunged into the details of cooking pumpkin pies and baking a large bird in our small European oven.  Having purchased the needed items for the pies in the US we were spared the task of finding canned pumpkin in the stores here.  For some unknown reason canned pumpkin is hard to come by even though one can find pumpkins in the local food stores.  Turkeys are also available but not in the large size needed to feed that group (18).  Fortunately, one of the members has a connection with a local farmer who raises the birds and could provide a 16 pounder.  Getting it stuffed and into the oven was a challenge, but we managed.  Most of the other items for the meal were furnished by the members.  A potluck is the only way to go with this many folks and it brings in a lot of tasty dishes.  Variety is the spice.

On to our Christmas trip....

Lana found a really good deal tour of Beijing and Istanbul combined earlier in the year, and we had booked it months in advance.  For reasons unknown, German travel agencies have very inexpensive, high quality tour deals.  So we took advantage of this one.  Both of these places were new for us and fairly exotic.  Neither is located in a Christian country and that explains why the air travel and hotel accommodations were inexpensive.  Few Chinese and Turks are returning home for the Christmas holidays.  Since we provide a trip story with our photos, I will not repeat it again here.  If you are interested in either of these places and our adventures there please check out the links provided below:

http://greg-lana.com/China/China.htm

http://greg-lana.com/Turkey/Turkey.htm

Our return from Istanbul coincided with the arrival of Lana's kids on December 27.  We had just enough time (2 hours) after our arrival in Stuttgart, Germany to drive to the Frankfurt airport to pick up Anna and George.  It all worked out, but made one Russian grandma nervous.  A couple days later we were off to the Haute Savoy, French Alps, for week of skiing or rock dodging would be a better description.  I took my new skis but ended up renting for the week due to the thin snow cover.  Our mountain chalet provided a comfortable respite in the evenings after sunny days on the slopes.  George took snowboard lessons and by week's end was cruising like a hardcore ripper.  Lana and Ann decided to take advantage of the winter sun... got some ultraviolet energy while lounging in the deck chairs on the patios of the slope-side lodges.  We even managed one evening at one of the local French restaurants and one only after running up quite a bill, but oh so good! It was all home cooking after that. Later in the week some friends from Germany joined us. We partied with them and enjoyed the sun, snow and beautiful views of the mountains.  And then it was a long day's drive home and back to work.

 

 

April-September 2004

It's been quite some time since we have updated our web page.  Last time was over a year ago.  Since then Greg has changed jobs AGAIN!, and we have moved AGAIN!

We are back in southern Germany near the city of Ulm.  Greg is working as a semi-independent aircraft engineering development consultant for an Airbus company building aircraft interiors.  The region has been called Schwabia from medieval times, but officially the name of the German state is Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Ulm is city of modest size having a population of around 115,000.  Like most German cities it can claim a history of nearly one millennium.  The foremost landmark is the Ulm cathedral, the Ulmer Muenster, on which construction began in 1377 and finished in 1890. It has the tallest church spire in the world at 161.5 meters (530.3 feet).  Once a Catholic cathedral it has been a Lutheran church since 1529. The following link provides more information of interest:

http://www.greatestcities.com/Europe/Germany/Baden-Wurttemberg/Ulm_city.html

The work in Italy ran out last October, and coincidentally we were looking for other opportunities in Europe or the US.  Just two weeks after finishing at Aermacchi Greg was offered a special opportunity to do some work for a Dutch firm on a very short schedule.  The job lasted only until Christmas but filled the time and the bank account nicely before the holidays.

Over the summer of 2003 Lana's kids, Ann and George, arrived for their vacation visit. They really were anticipating the time in Italy as they had come the previous summer and made friends with one of the formerly Russian families now immigrated to Italy living nearby. They were introduced to some late night discotheque adventures by the daughter of this family, Cassina, who is a few years older and speaks Italian as well as Russian. She introduced them to her friends and the disco scene.  Soon Lana was taking her kids to the nearest teen fashion stores to buy the needed duds.  George got a new belt and some cool shoes while Ann got some racy skirts and tops Italiano style.  They also managed to make three trips to Gardaland, a Italian knockoff of Disneyland located at the south end of Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy.  Some of the photos on the Kids page show the results. See them on: KIDS

In late September after the kids returned to Russia, Greg and Lana managed a holiday visit to the islands of Corsica (French) and Sardinia (Italian). We stayed in a first Club Med resort named Cargese on the west coast of Corsica not far from Ajaccio.  Club Med resorts usually provide a complete package including half or full board and many indoor/outdoor activities.  We enjoyed the self serve French cuisine in the large restaurant next to the beautiful sandy beach.  Imagine being hungry and walking into a restaurant full of French delicacies all for the taking including good table wine and beer.  Although we do not speak French we still managed to meet some folks at the dinner tables which seat about six.  Everyone shared their table and folks became friendly quickly.  Greg went scuba diving in the beautiful blue Mediterranean while Lana took advantage of the nearly perfect opportunity to soak up the rays on the beach. We also managed several car trips around Corsica.  One day we went to Ajaccio, the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte.  He is still the favorite son of that town and they have built him quite an impressive memorial.  We visited his boyhood home which is now a museum.  Check out more about this famous figure of history at: http://www.napoleonbonaparte.nl/ On another trip we drove north from Cargese to Calvi, a well known yacht harbor on Corsica's west coast.  Here we were able to tour the ancient fortress that once provided protection against pirates and walk along the marina where we enjoyed the ambience of the seaside cafes and beautiful yachts.  See our photos of Corsica on our France page: FRANCE

Sardinia which belongs to Italy is a half hour ferry ride from Corsica's southern most city of Bonifacio. Not the mountainous place that is Corsica, driving in Sardinia is considerably easier and faster.  We covered distances here at twice the pace.  We were only able to explore the northern half in the two days we allotted, but that was enough to give us the flavor of this Italian holiday destination.  Sardinia's economy appears to be healthy and not dependant on tourism.  Much of the island is farmland.  Viniculture dominates, but we also noticed vegetables and livestock are abundant.  Sardinian wines can be excellent. No wine tasting was offered at the winery where we stopped which we thought strange.  Perhaps the Italians have learned that once folks have had a couple sips they tend to hang around for more.  Whatever the reason we decided to take a chance that any of the wines we bought would be good so bought a couple boxes to take home.  We were not disappointed.

Over Christmas we flew back to the US to visit Greg's brothers and their families. Ryan and Justin joined us in Washington D.C.  While spending the week visiting both in D.C. and Cincinnati, Lana was able to meet both of Greg's brothers and their families for the first time. The following week Greg, Lana and the boys flew up to Boston where we rented a car to drive to a time share resort in Rockland, Maine.  While in Rockland we spent most of our time looking for skiing opportunities.  We managed to ski several resorts in Maine and New Hampshire, even driving as far as Breton Woods, NH, the site of the famous 1947 World Monetary Conference where most of the post WWII nations met to establish the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and set the US Dollar as the world currency standard.  We were kind of short on funds that evening so we opted for a $25 hotel cheapie near the ski area.  The next day we skied Breton Woods and paid the highest price for lift tickets that we have paid anywhere in the world at $60 per person.

In April we finally managed to take our Greek Island cruise after nearly a year of planning and arranging. The details of our waterborne adventure can be found in the Greece link under Greece_Our_Story.  Check out the many photos and music.

Not more than a couple weeks after returning from Greece we took advantage of an unexpected four day weekend to fly to Stockholm.  Read about our impulsive Swedish travel adventure and listen to authentic traditional music on the Sweden link. Sweden

Over Memorial Day weekend Ryan and Justin along with a couple of buddies rafted the Rogue River in southern Oregon.  They had good weather, always a plus on river trips.  The water level was a nice medium flow.  The Rogue is a pristine wilderness river that flows west our of the Oregon Cascade mountains into the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach, OR.  The run is about 25 miles through a volcanic rock canyon that twists through the coast mountains. The challenges include a Class V waterfall, Rainy Falls, which is usually bypassed down a side channel, three Class IV drops including Blossom Bar, which is listed in the American Whitewater Register of most challenging drops in the West and numerous Class III and II drops.  The scenery along the river is equally impressive. As the river winds its way to the ocean it passes through unspoiled forests and meadows.  Along the banks one can still visit the sites of pioneer dwellings including a cabin built by the famous author of outdoor books, Zane Gray, and a ranch that dates back to early settlements of the American West that is now become a museum and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  You can check the following site for additional information on this jewel of American rivers: The Rogue River Recreation & History Southern Oregon - Rogue Web  Check out R&J's photos on our web page at: Rogue Photos

June is the month for weddings and graduations.  Ryan's graduation from Lake Washington Technical College on June 19 included a solemn and impressive ceremony followed by post graduation celebrations attended by many family and friends. Having achieved excellence in his formal education, all of us wish Ryan the utmost success and happiness in whatever field of endeavor he may choose.

The summer in Germany was a bit of a disappointment from the weather standpoint.  Cold and wet until mid July, it was a mirror image of the previous summer.  But eventually the clouds blew away and we had some of the brilliant blue skies that appear in many German baroque paintings.  Lana's kids arrived late this year.  We had multiple struggles with renewing passports, mail delivery problems in Russia and residency visa red tape to handle.  It was already August before they arrived.  Once here though they settled in and had a lot of fun and adventures.  George, 15, who is now well over 6' liked the local workout guy where he spent afternoons building a beautiful physique.  Anna, 14, who also grew several inches over the past year is now quite an attractive young lady.  Slender and toned, she spent many hours with Lana in the local clothing shops picking up on the good deals.  Both like our weekend trips to places like Europa Park, a Disneyland, knockoff a few hours drive from our home.  During the evening when they weren't watching DVD movies they spent hours Playing Warcraft on our PC.  They returned to Russia to begin another school year in early September.  Both indicated that they would like to come back here to attend school.  We are working on that possibility.

May 2002

NEW JOB JUST IN! Greg was offered a new position with aircraft component manufacturer Aeramachi in Varese, Italy. Work is to start on May 13. That just gives us time to close down our place in Munich, take a week to ten days vacation in Greece and get on to the job. The work in Italy will put us in a great location to check out the many other places we have yet to visit. Varese is north of Milan, situated between lakes Como and Maggiorc and just a short distance from the Swiss border at Logano.

Greg's work is part of the design effort for the Airbus A-380 super jumbo aircraft which will be the largest commercial aircraft even larger than Boeing 747. The A-380 program has just gotten started so it could be a long stint depending on the completion schedule for his part of the job.

The relocation should be much easier than the move from Spain to Germany. The distance is much less and the work permits and other administrative items are already in hand. Apartment hunting should be a little easier in Varese as compared to Munich. A recent visit to Italy over the Easter holidays gave us a preview of what to expect for prices of things like food and clothes. We found that most of the everyday items are no more expensive there than here, maybe even less and definitely cheaper than Spain.

What we will find about getting along with the Italians and the new boss is anyone's guess, but that's part of the adventure and challenge. We have certainly enjoyed out time here in Munich, but look forward to new territory to explore in Italy and the other conveniently located areas nearby including: Greece, Sardinia, Sicily, Corsica, Elba, the Dolomites, Italian Tirol, the Italian region of Switzerland and the southern coast of France. We may even venture into some of the Balkan countries if the situation seems safe.

December 2002

Six months have past. We are still in Italy, Greg is still working for Aermacchi, Lana is managing the home front, Ann is still in Siberia. Ryan, Justin and Stephanie have been over for a visit, and there is a new family member, Aermacchi, a homeless cat. Lana's kids came for the summer. All things considered life is good and we are happy. No way to know how long the job will last, but it seems like another year is fairly certain.

Italy has turned out to be the best place in Europe so far. The Italians are friendly, accepting of foreigners, easy going, and good humored. Driving can be a challenge at times, but once you learn the Italian rules of road etiquette you begin to relax. Unlike the US, no one stops at stop signs unless there is a good reason. Most drivers obey the lights, but a light really must be red before you stop. Passing is never illegal as long as you and the other drivers survive. There are very few enforced speed limits. Common sense is the rule. Yield to the right is the rule but there are many exceptions. Don't worry about passing a police car. He's likely going the speed limit which is not enforced. Beware of motor scooters. They are everywhere in the cities and will think nothing of passing on the right, left or over the top if they can. They expect you to follow the rules, but don't expect them to do the same. Bicycles are also abundant, especially in good weather. They always have the right of way. There is no way you can hit them and not be at fault. So just relax behind the wheel and let them whiz by. You'll get your turn to pass them when you get to the autostrada (expressway). The autostradas were built to allow Italians to get where they are going as fast as possible. Once you have stopped to pay your toll you have purchased a right to drive your car as fast as it will go, literally. If your car is a fast one that could mean 150 mph as long as the left lane is clear. Slower cars must yield to the faster ones. Don't travel in the left lane unless you are passing everything and doing it quickly. Campers and trucks are usually not even permitted to enter the left lane. We find driving in the middle lane to be the most comfortable because you can cruise between 90 and 100 mph which is just about as fast as our '93 Subaru wagon will go.

Day to day living here fairly easy. Most food stores are open six days a week and the big supermarkets are open seven. Availability and choice of products isn't up to US standards but still good by European standards. Prices are higher than most US cities, but not out of sight. The cost of labor intensive services is much less than the US. Body work on cars is less than half of what you would pay at home. Bet you would like to know why I know that; Doctors and dentists here are not expensive. Their rates seem much less than in the US. Drugs are significantly less. Gasoline is about $4 a gallon. Apartment rents are about the same, maybe a bit less than Seattle, but Seattle is high compared to many other US cities. Public transportation works here and is relatively inexpensive. You can get around by bus or train to almost any location.

In June Lana's kids arrived from Siberia. They stayed until the middle of August and we did our best to save them from the summer vacation blues. Lana took them to Rome and Florence on an overnight train. Being from Russia they are quite accustomed to train travel so didn't mind too much the little inconveniences of that mode of travel. Besides, they are 12 and 13 so could probably sleep on a sail boat during a storm. We're not sure if they actually will remember all they saw, but just telling your buds that you've visited Rome will impress them, maybe. Besides, it gives more meaning to those gladiator movies when you have seen the Coliseum. Later we drove to Venice for a day on the canals and little streets of that interesting place. While we walked over to St. Marks plaza we noticed a couple groups of Russian tourists. All over Europe Russians are appearing in noticeable numbers which has to be a good thing for all concerned. One of the highlights of the summer was our trip through the Mont Blanc tunnel (about 6 miles long) to Chamonix, a world famous ski area in the French alps. We camped near town and had a good time seeing the impressive glaciers, tasting the local French cuisine and going to a climbing park where Ann and George took the challenge of learning how to safely perform Tyrolean traverses using climbing harnesses, carabineers, and pulleys. From the ground we watched as they glided from tree to tree on steel cables 30 to 50 feet above our heads. Of course they were taught how to do this safely by the real mountain climbers who operate the park. There's nothing like this in Disneyland. During the final two weeks of their stay we drove over to Paris to meet Lana's sister and her husband who were out of Russia visiting the City of Light. We made our way back toward Germany via Luxemburg and the Netherlands stopping to see the Waterloo battlefield monument, museum, and the cities of Luxemburg and Amsterdam. Our destination in Germany was Frankfurt where the kids were catching their flight back home to Siberia. On the way we also stopped in Kassel, Germany where Greg lived with his folks in 1957-58 while his dad served with the US Army. The American military presence is now gone, but the city still looks much the same, a bit of deja vu for Greg.

With Lana’s kids safely on their way home we prepared for the next arrivals. One of Greg's goals while in Europe was to have his kids come for a visit. That became a reality in September with the arrival of Ryan and Justin. This event had been planned for the previous summer, but the job change to Germany interfered. The boys arrived mid month and after catching up on lost sleep from the flight set off to Rome by overnight train with Lana as their guide. Greg had to finish up his work week so the three travelers took advantage of the time to begin the tour of Italy. In Rome they took a city bus tour which visited many of the famous sites including the Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navorna, Santa Maria d. Angeli and the Vatican including a tour inside St. Peter's Cathedral. Later they visted the Coliseum but were unable to take the inside tour due to long lines. On the way back to the hotel Ryan decided he wanted to walk ahead and managed to get separated from Lana and Justin. Just when he seemed lost he appeared at the hotel.

On the way back to Milan they stopped in Florence. The train comes into the middle of the city which is quite convenient. From there they were only a short distance from many of the famous buildings and art works. They managed to visit the Gallery of the Academy which houses Michelangelo's David, rested and did some girl watching outside the Pitti Palace, strolled across the Ponte Vecchio, to the Piazza Della Signoria where there are a number of large, impressive statues some dating back to the 12th century. The line of folks waiting outside of the Uffizi Gallery discouraged a visit, but just nearby is the Baptisry, a hexagonal building and one of the oldest in Florence dating to the 5th century. One each side of the building are carved doors depicting scenes from Christian history. The ride from Florence to Milan was aboard one of the fast trains traveling at 120 mph+.

That weekend we set off on our European driving tour. Our fist stop was Venice, but unfortunately the weather was rainy and cool. Venice which can be so nice was a bit chilly and wet. Even so we all had a great evening walking around St. Mark's plaza listening to an orchestra playing classical music on an outside terrace while visiting the Palace of the Doges. We capped the evening with a tasty dinner near the Rialto Bridge and a short ride back to our car on board one of the vaporettos (a boat which serves as a bus).

After an uneventful transit over the Alps through western Austria we arrived in Munich just in time to begin the Oktober Fest. For the celebration the Germans brew a special beer which is a little more potent than the standard formula which is about twice as strong as the average US brews. So after a couple "Masts" (one liter mugs) of the good stuff everyone was feeling quite mellow. We spent several hours in Munich's Hofbrau Haus which dates back to the 1300's. It was the place where Adolf Hitler gave some of his most notorious speeches and was the rallying point for the beginning of the first abortive putsch. On the Hofbrau Haus vaulted ceiling are paintings which date back to the pre WWII period. It is said that if you look closely you can still see the large swastika painted on the roof by the Nazis. We looked a lot but could never find it. Maybe we just hadn't had enough beer. The bottom of a beer stein wasn't the only thing viewed here. We walked through the hear of medieval Munich looking at the famous gates to the city which are remnants of the old wall, the old Rathaus (city hall), the twin steeples of the Frauen Kirche, Old St. Peter's Church, and the Victualien Markt, Munich's equivalent to the Pike St. Market in Seattle.

Leaving Munich we headed for the French Mediterranean coast via Switzerland. As the boys will attest, spending all day riding in a car with a hangover is one of life's low points. It rained all day so we missed any mountain views that might have been available in Switzerland arriving on the coast the next day. We started our drive along the coast at St. Trope viewing the spectacular sights of azure blue water, beautiful sandy beaches, shear rock cliffs and quaint seaside villages. Our route took us through St. Raphael, Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo and back into Italy. We stopped several times for snacks and a good seafood lunch. We just skimmed the surface on our drive. There is so much to see and do. A whole summer could be dedicated to exploring this beautiful coast.

We arrived back home in Varese with a couple days to spare before Ryan and Justin were to return to Seattle. The time was spent seeing some of the sights along beautiful lake Maggiore which is only a few miles from our apartment. Greg was back to work, but Lana and the boys visited one of the local points of interest near our place. Sacro Monte is a village located high above Varese on one of the foot hill ridges of the Italian Alps. Only a couple miles from our place it provides a spectacular view south to Varese and Milan on a clear day. The village is the site of the famous church from which it gets its name. In the 16th Century a pilgrim's road was constructed from below the village to the church. About one mile in length it climbs up through the forested ridge from the north edge of Varese. Along the route are thirteen chapels each signifying one of the beads on the Rosary. At each chapel are scenes from biblical events. Even if your trip has no religious intent it still makes a lovely way to spend a few hours walking to the top. Once there the sights are great and so is the food at the local restaurants. On their trip the boys and Lana had another companion, Oxana, a Russian woman about the same age as the boys who now lives in Italy and has become one of Lana's friends.

Our final excursion involved at little ferry ride on lake Maggiore from the town of Laveno to Isla Bella, one of the Boromean Islands. These islands were the property of the Boromeo family whose patriarch was the Viceroy of Naples three hundred years ago. The small islands included a royal palace, a country home in the midst of a botanical garden and an island which is now inhabited by local fishermen and their families. On that day we visited Isla Bella, the site of the palace and formal garden. Again the weather was cranky and we arrived a bit late, but still managed to salvage a nice trip and take some good shots of the past splendor in which this important family lived. The palace and the garden were meant to impress, and it no doubt accomplished that purpose.

 


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