Yesterday, I took a look at Frankemuth’s Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland; today I’m looking at a special location on their property…the Silent Night Chapel:
The Silent Night Chapel is a replica of the original in Oberndorf, Austria, which sits on the location of the former St. Nicolas church, the site of the first performance of “Silent Night” in 1818. It is a tiny building, but that doesn’t stop it from having a lot of lovely details, including some beautiful stained glass windows.
It’s a neat little place, especially for someone like me who has some Austrian blood…for now, it’s as close to visiting my grandfather’s homeland as I’ve gotten!
I have waited over two months, but I’m finally sharing the pictures from our visit to Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland in June!
As the Christmas Queen, this store was a dream come true for me. Imagine it…the world’s largest Christmas store. It’s the size of almost two football fields. Ornaments are arranged by color, or the country they represent, or interest, or…well, whatever! There are over 300 decorated Christmas trees and over 500 nativity scenes. And collectibles! Hummels, Precious Moments, Department 56 items representing all kinds of interests including A Christmas Carol and Harry Potter. Plus German collectibles (of course, in Michigan’s “Little Bavaria”), such as steins and smokers!
Naturally, we picked up a few souvenirs while we were there, including our standard trip magnet, a personalized ornament, and a vintage-style ceramic trees (details to come closer to Christmas!). I have wanted to go to Bronner’s for as long as I’ve known it’s existed, and this was an amazing experience for me…I hope I might to go back someday!
I’m still trying to get caught up on our fun travels from this summer, so today I’m focusing on St. Lorenz Lutheran Church in Frankenmuth, MI. There are several Lutheran churches in that town, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this one is the most notable:
Normally, I’d think the pink walls behind the altar were weird, but somehow, it really works at St. Lorenz:
And the stained glass was outstanding:
The sanctuary is quite large:
There are many beautiful details everywhere you look:
And the pipe organ is quite impressive!
Of course, I also enjoyed learning the historical significance of the place:
We saw the log church, and the church bells across the road:
It’s a beautiful building from every angle!
Stay tuned for a few more Frankenmuth locations before I finally wrap up our summer adventures!
Just like that, another year’s summer school has come to an end. I think our Rick Steves’ Europe themed summer school might be my favorite that we’ve done so far, because even though I didn’t have to do as much work (until it was time to start cooking), and hands-on activities and field trips were a little elusive (although I did make a few things work!), we all learned so much, and had a lot of fun while doing it!
So what did a primarily video-based summer school look like? We watched (if I counted correctly) 72 episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe over the course of two months. While we couldn’t “visit” every place I would have liked, we did get a great overview of Europe with “trips” to Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, The Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, Turkey, Israel, and Palestine, plus a few other places. We also watched all three regular travel skills specials and the cruising special. We even found time for all three other specials: Christmas, Easter, and Festivals! (We watched The Story of Fascism in Europe last spring, and since it was kind of intense, we didn’t watch it again this summer.) I bought my oldest students travel journals, and Chickadee a sketchbook, and they wrote and/or drew something for every episode we watched. Places they hope to visit someday, interesting facts, travel tips…anything that jumped out at them. I really hope they’ll keep these journals, so that if they ever do have the opportunity to go to Europe, they can look through them, and see what their younger selves thought would be cool to visit, and maybe add some locations to their itinerary.
I mentioned field trips and hands-on activities. Some of them were a bit of a stretch, but I did my best. For example, we visited Frankenmuth, MI, this summer, which is known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria.” I figured this was as close we could get to visiting a European town, and it really did look like I imagine some German towns do. We also got to eat a lovely German meal while we were there:
Speaking of food, we also tried a new-to-us cuisine this summer when we went to a local Bosnian restaurant. We were all very impressed, both with the dishes and the “slow-food” way of eating there…I’m sure we’ll be going back!
And how could we make it through the day we learned about traveling in Greece without having gyros?
The St. Louis Art Museum is hosting a special exhibit of work by a European artist, Paul Gauguin, which was a nice way to experience a bit of European culture:
Now, on to “other activities.” We played a lot of games this summer: Ticket to Ride Europe, 10 Days in Europe, and Ticket to Ride: My First Journey (European Map). These all gave us a chance to talk about the various cities/countries on the maps, and recall things we had seen watching Rick Steves’ Europe, and talk about the places we’d like to visit. I also gave my students a few special assignments…Chickadee made a poster about her favorite European city, (Paris), Ladybug wrote a 1,500 word essay about hers, (Rome), and my oldest students read Travel as a Political Act, and I have to say, I think our discussions about that book might have been my favorite part of the whole summer. They certainly learned a lot about life in Europe and the importance of travel, and I think their worldview changed a bit because of it! For one hands-on activity everyone could enjoy, we built the only Lego Architecture European skyline set we didn’t already have: Paris. It was a fun little build, and a nice addition to our collection!
And finally…cooking at home! This is always one of my favorite parts of summer school, but I have to confess, I kind of put this off to the end of the summer, and was rushing to cook all the things I had planned. In the end, we tried French, Swiss, Norwegian, Spanish, Hungarian, British, Italian, German, and Middle Eastern cuisines at home (full details on what we tried next week). I think we all have some new favorites, and I definitely learned a few new cooking techniques along the way!
Obviously, traveling to Europe as a large family isn’t a realistic option, at least not for us. But I did my best to give my children a glimpse into European culture and history, and more than that, I really I hope I inspired in them a desire to travel when they’re older and have the opportunity. There are so many interesting places and great people throughout the world, and I am grateful for any chance to explore them, even if we had to do it vicariously for now!
In honor of National Fried Chicken Day, I thought I’d share a related vintage road sign from last month’s trip to Michigan. Zehnder’s is one of two restaurants in Frankenmuth famous for fried chicken dinners, and while it’s not the restaurant we ate at while we were there, I did love its sign!
I really think Frankenmuth, MI, also known as Michigan’s “Little Bavaria,” is the most charming town I’ve ever visited. The German architecture, specialty shops, and Bavarian flags everywhere really make you feel like you’ve stepped into a storybook village!
We might not be able to visit Europe as part of this year’s summer school, but I think going to Frankenmuth and experiencing the culture (and food!) of the town was the next best thing!
When we decided to go to Frankenmuth, we knew we’d have to try one of their famous fried chicken dinners. There are two places in town that offer such a meal, and they’re right across the street from each other! After checking out the full menus, we chose to dine at the Bavarian Inn:
It’s a beautiful (and extremely large!) building:
There are many dining rooms, each one as charming as the last:
They had both their own beer and root beer on the menu:
And they start you off with bread, both plain white bread and stollen. They also offered us fresh rhubarb jam to go with it!
We decided to try their ultimate family style Bavarian dinner (the perfect fit for our European-themed summer school this year!), which we had a coupon for, and which would allow us to sample many of their offerings, including the famous fried chicken.
We started with noodle soup and a variety of salads:
The fried chicken was just as good as promised:
We also tried the sauerbraten, bratwurst, kasseler rippchen (smoked pork loin), and schnitzel:
There were also plenty of side dishes, including buttered noodles (my favorite!), vegetables, dressing, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and potato cheese puffs. It was seriously delicious, and we definitely did not leave hungry!
The meal included housemade ice cream for dessert, and I tried the cranberry, which was amazing…I can’t believe I’ve never had cranberry ice cream before!
We also split a piece of apple strudel:
This was a pretty expensive meal for our family, even with the coupon, but it was definitely worth it…and we even had enough leftovers for a second dinner once we got home!
Monday morning of our Michigan trip began with another walk along Frankenmuth’s Main Street while we waited for some of the shops to open. It is such a beautiful place!
We stopped at the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus, where we picked up a few things to try at home. It’s an amazing store!
We also visited beautiful, historic St. Lorenz:
The main event of the day, however, was stopping at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, A store I have wanted to shop at for years! And of course I had just the right outfit to wear:
There are many photo opportunities throughout the store, and I took advantage of several of them:
Some people say Disney is the happiest place on earth, but I think Bronner’s is. It’s always Christmas there!
We also visited their Silent Night Chapel, a reproduction of Oberndorf’s monument which stands on the site of the former St. Nicholas Church, where “Silent Night” was first sung.
All too soon, our time in Frankenmuth drew to a close, and we had to say “Auf Wiedersehen.”
Our fun for the day wasn’t over yet, though. We stopped for lunch at Big Boy!
And stopped to see beautiful Lake Michigan from its eastern shore:
And then, for the second time in less than a week, we got to eat at Portillo’s!
It was quite late by the time we reached home, but we got to cheer the St. Louis Blues to victory along the way, which helped the time pass. Look for more details about our visit to Frankenmuth in the coming days!
Last Sunday was a very busy day! We started with breakfast at the restaurant where Ryan had his first job as a teenager. I had a Greek skillet, which was basically gyros for breakfast…delicious!
We then headed over to Christ the King’s second campus, where the retirement festivities were held, beginning with the Divine Service, where both Ryan and his mom got to sing in the choir.
There was a very nice lunch reception after the service, and it was obvious even to an outsider how much that congregation loves their pastors. It was a lot of fun to be part of it, even if we weren’t members there.
After the reception, we drove through Detroit on the way to our next destination. We stopped at historic Fort Wayne on the Detroit River (not to be confused with Fort Wayne, IN, which was named for the same general), to see a place that had been built as a defense against Canada, of all places! Unfortunately, much of the fort is falling apart, but we still got a good sense of what it used to look like.
While we were there, we saw two fighter jets flying overhead, which seemed very appropriate:
We then headed over to the Detroit Riverwalk, where we once again got to gaze upon Canada, but this time, in a more urban setting:
We also drove past Comerica Park…I know it’s home of the Detroit Tigers, but I couldn’t believe just how many tiger statues they had outside!
And then after what seemed like a longer drive than it was, probably because I was so excited to arrive at our destination, we reached Frankenmuth, Michigan’s “Little Bavaria!”
Even our hotel, which is definitely part of a large chain, had a Bavarian look!
All of Main Street is in on the Bavarian architecture, and it was just as charming as I expected it to be!
We had late dinner reservations at one of the two restaurants in town that are famous for fried chicken dinners…the Bavarian Inn. Our dinner was amazing, but you’ll have to wait a few days for the full details!
Even though our dinner lasted almost two and a half hours, it was still light outside when we were done. We were so far north, the sunset was almost an hour later than it is here at home! So we were able to enjoy a nice after-dinner walk, and actually see the town. I loved the covered bridge…but I’m really glad we walked across it instead of driving over it!
We stopped at the Bavarian Inn’s lodge, where they have a huge fun center, and we found my favorite game…skee ball! I think the dinner weighed me down, because the best I could do was tie for first!
We needed to stop at the store and pick up a styrofoam cooler for our dinner leftovers, and I was tickled to discover that even the Kroger looked like it was built in Bavaria!
It had been a long day, and we were all full and tired, so we headed back to the hotel after that. I really wish we could have spent more time in Frankenmuth, but we did have a few more stops planned for Monday morning before we left town!