Church Towers and Skyscrapers Rising towards the Sky

We really enjoy seeing historic churches throughout the world and most of them can be found in the old town areas of the cities. There are times, though, when modern cities with skyscrapers surround the old churches and the images can be just as striking. Seeing the bell towers reaching towards the sky in parallel with the glass towers is quite a juxtaposition of images. Obviously it goes in direct opposition to the desire to have the churches and cathedrals be the tallest buildings in a city where people could see them from all of the surrounding areas as they ventured towards the city. Here are some of our favorite examples of churches and skyscrapers.

New York Cathedral
Sitting at the Base of the Skyscrapers
Bell Tower and Skyscraper Perfectly Parallel
Dwarfed by the City
Church Tower and Modern Buildings in Frankfurt

Shedd Aquarium in Chicago

We had been to Chicago several times before visiting the Shedd Aquarium, but we were glad that we finally made our way to this attraction. The aquarium hosts an amazing variety of species of both saltwater and freshwater fish and other animals. It is certainly a great place for families as there is plenty for children or adults that are children at heart. Not everyone agrees with zoos and aquariums, but it depends on both the treatment of the animals as well as their commitment to rescuing injured animals and conservation of animals in the wild. It truly seems that the Shedd Aquarium is committed to both and we were even told about a giant sea turtle that was rescued after being injured by a boat and now lives in the large Caribbean Reef exhibit.

There are some very interesting exhibits including Amazon Rising, Polar Play Zone, Wild Reef, Caribbean Reef, and more. In addition to the exhibits there are also several interactive activities that you can enjoy such as animal encounters, animal chats, and aquatic presentations. We were able to watch and listen to a diver as he fed fish in the Caribbean Reef exhibit, which has a prominent location in the center of the aquarium. If you are willing to reach out to the aquarium in advance, there are opportunities to do a variety of special activities like sleepovers in the aquarium, behind the scene tours, and even the opportunity to be a trainer for a day.

Diver Feeding a Stingray in the Caribbean Reef Exhibit

Beluga Whale Grabbing a Scarf

Part of the Amazon Rising Exhibit

We really enjoyed watching the Beluga whales play with what appeared to be strips of fabric, almost like scarves. They would grab them with their mouths, drop them, and then grab them with their fins or tail. It seemed that they really enjoyed playing with them and they were not doing it as part of a show or to receive any treats from a trainer. Another favorite thing to see while at the aquarium are the penguins as they are always cute and adorable. On the flip side, watching the sharks as they circle the large tank is equally fascinating, but everyone is certainly glad to be on the other side of the glass.

Diver Talking about Caribbean Ocean Life

Beluga Whale Playing

Sharks Circling the Tank (Sorry It is Blurry)

If you are planning a trip to Chicago, visiting the Shedd Aquarium is certainly well worth the visit. It is a perfect place to go when the weather outside is cold and rainy or snowy. Prices for non-Chicago residents are twice the price of Chicago residents although it is included in the CityPASS ticket, which makes that a preferable option to just buying tickets to the aquarium itself.

Colorful Fish and Reef

A Learning Experience


Christkindlmarket Chicago

Going to the Christkindlmarket in Chicago was definitely an enjoyable experience. This is the second Christmas market that we have attended here in the States and, although there are some differences compared to those that we experienced in Germany, they have both been very authentic. It was extremely cold during our visit to Chicago with wind chill temperatures well below zero, so having a warm glass of Gluhwein was a definite must. We visited the market on Saturday, two days before Christmas, and to say that it was crowded would be an understatement. It seemed that half of the city had shown up to squeeze their way through the maze of stalls.

Making Our Way Through the Crowds

Plenty of Food and Gluhwein

People Everywhere

There was a wide variety of food available, including traditional German favorites such as Currywurst and Bratwurst, but there were options to fit any desire from sweet to savory. There was a pancake house, candy stalls, roasted nuts, cotton candy, ginger bread, hot chocolate, and hot cider. And for those that craved something different that Gluhwein, there was authentic German beer and Riesling wine. For those that wanted to get out of the cold, there was a beer tent with benches and heat lamps for people to relax while they enjoyed a festive drink. There is definitely no excuse for leaving the market thirsty or hungry.

Stuffed Pretzels

Pancake House

Varieties of Sausage

Obviously, beyond the food, there were stalls selling a variety of goods. Some of them were authentic German items, but there were items from around the world. We even saw a stall selling hats and scarves from Ecuador. The most popular stalls were those that sold Christmas ornaments and decorations. One of the more unique stalls that we came across was one which celebrated Krampus, who is supposed to punish children that have misbehaved.

Krampus Stall

Ornaments and Decorations from Bethlehem

Traditional Christmas Items

It goes to show that you don’t have to fly over to Europe to find a good Christmas Market. Next holiday season, check out the cities near where you live to see if there is one in your area. Obviously, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t visit the Christmas markets of Europe, they are truly magical.

Beer Tent

Entrance to the Market