Sunday, December 29, 2013

Seriously?!?

If you've been following my blog, you'll probably vaguely remember that back in April we bought a car. Later, in May we decided to utilize the freedom the car gave us and go on a short road trip. We chose to drive to the Eagles Nest right near the German/Austrian border because it was only a few hours away, and we figured it was an interesting spot historically. We didn't do a lot of planning for the trip, it was a bit spur of the moment, and we figured our handy smart phones would guide us where we needed to go. On the way there, it worked out great, the GPS worked wonderfully, the boys napped in the back seat, and we enjoyed the bavarian countryside immensely. After enjoying the view and a light meal at the Eagles Nest, we headed back home. We were surprised to see that our phones' GPS was guiding us through Austria to get back home (since we were coming from, and going to Germany) but didn't really think much of it. When we entered Austria, we saw some signs indicating we were on a toll road. We kept our eyes peeled for a toll booth, but never saw one, and when we reentered Germany a few minutes later, we figured we just hadn't been on the road long enough to come across a toll collection spot.

At the end of June we travelled home to the US for a few weeks. A few month later, in September, we received a letter from the Austrian government. The letter stated that we had been photographed, driving in Austria, without the proper toll sticker on our windshield, and that we needed to identify immediately whether we or someone else had been driving the car, if it was someone else, we needed to identify them. I complied right away, and indicated that it had been us personally driving the car on that date. I figured we in for a fine of 20, maybe 50 euros if they wanted to really stick it to us. Two weeks later we received a bill with a fine for…… 300 Euros (Approx. 420 USD)! Whaaaaat??? We thought their had to be some mistake. Seriously?! Who fines someone 300€ for driving in their country for only a few minutes?? Dylan took the bill to work and asked the advice of some colleagues. Not only were they not shocked, but they were sure there was nothing we could do or say to get out of this. They even called and spoke in German to them to confirm their suspicions.  Apparently the normal fine is 120€ but since we had missed the letter billing us that amount while we were gone in the US, we were now responsible for the whole 300€. We attempted to petition them to allow us to pay the smaller amount, since we had never received the initial letter, but to no avail.

Maybe I've been gone too long, and am remembering thing through rose colored glasses, but I just can't see this happening in the US. I've gotten my share of parking tickets, and late fees, etc, but I've never encountered something so ridiculous. And the fact that they're completely unwilling to hear any sort of excuse or sad story, it really caught me a little off guard. I'm sure we'll laugh about it someday... for now we're writing it off as all part of the experience of living in a foreign country.



James and David enjoying the view from the Eagles Nest

Friday, December 27, 2013

Motivation

I've been asked a few times recently what happened to my blog. I'm not sure. I've lost the motivation I guess. I waffle between feeling like no one reads, and then, what if everyone reads, and I'm over-sharing? Still, I know there are a few of you out that there that look for updates, so I'll try to do a better job, at least with pictures.

We had our second Christmas in Germany this week. Last year was our first Christmas here, but since the boys and I were home at the beginning of December we celebrated twice, and so our Christmas here was a bit of a non-event. This year, I knew if we were going to avoid feeling really lonely and homesick on Christmas, we were going to have to be purposeful about it, and really make it exciting for the kids. I think it was a success. We did lots of fun things leading up to Christmas like baking cookies, advent calendars, an advent wreath, and making gingerbread houses. Really the whole month of December was like one long Christmas celebration for us. Our families were really generous sending us Christmas presents both from the US and through Amazon, so we were very blessed with a full Christmas tree and lots of things to open Christmas morning. The boys are finally old enough to really understand what's going on with Christmas, and that was a real joy to experience.


Our Christmas tree surrounded by presents!!


James and David trying out their new "shaving kits"

video

This is pretty much how every present opened went. They were so excited and happy about everything!