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Christmas 1992

Dearest Friends,

Once again the Christmas season is upon us. Our Christmas wish to you is that this letter finds you and all your family happy and healthy for the holiday season, and may that happiness and healthiness continue throughout the new year.

We're actually starting this in November because the mail system from over here is so bad we are supposed to mail our Christmas cards by December 8th if we want then to be sure to arrive before Christmas. Let's hope this arrives in time, which means we planned ahead for once! If not, we'll blame the APO mail system this year; yeah, THAT'S IT!!

Can you believe we've been over here in Germany for well over a year now? This will be our second Christmas in Germany.

Now that we've been through one, we know what to expect and what to look forward to. We can expect little snow in Stuttgart proper (mostly slush and freezing rain), but spectacular winter scenes in the Black Forest and the Alps. We are looking forward to the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) visits, and the hot spiced Glüewein that we like so much, and the fireworks in every neighborhood for New Year's Eve, just like last year. This year we will be ready to participate! Germany is a great place to spend the holiday season if you have to spend it away from "home," but we will miss the houses and town commons decorated in colorful Christmas lights (Germans use mostly white lights, if at all), and having friends and family around for the holidays.

We've been busy this past year, as a lot of you know. Thanks so much to all of you who took the time to write to us. We can't tell you how much it brightens our day to get letters from friends. Please don't feel you can't write unless you've been doing something that you judge to be as exciting as living in Europe. Our letters and postcards are not meant as competition. We only want to share our experiences with you, and we LOVE to hear every last detail about what's happening at home! We heard through the grapevine that the sunken buildings over by the Burlington Mall were rebuilt, and now there's a Staples, and a CompUSA, and a Tower Records, and a Boston Chicken over there! That's exciting to us! Megan and Audrey especially love to get mail, so if you don't have time to write to us, jot a quick note to them instead! They love it!

Our year has been busy, as we welcomed visitors and tried to make the most of our opportunity to visit Europe while we are here. We had a wonderful visit from Lynn's mom just after last Christmas. Marga arrived on the 28th of December, and stayed with us through the 12th of January. We visited the Black Forest, France, Holland, the Alps, and lots of southern Germany. In February, the Vogts got a taste of what REAL skiing means by spending the weekend in the Bavarian Alps, where we all took skiing lessons. March found me (Gene) doing some traveling for business, including a week in Naples, Italy. Naples was as crazy as ever. I had been there twice before, but those trips were when I was based back in the States. Now traveling to Naples from Stuttgart is not much more than flying down to Washington DC from Boston, which I used to do all the time. I've also done quite a lot of driving to the Netherlands; at least six trips or so this year. Usually I try to stretch it out over two or more days at a time, but some of the trips have been day-trips up to a southern Dutch city called Brunssum. It takes about four hours to drive it when I can cruise the Autobahn at 160 to 180 KPH (100-110 MPH). My favorite mode of business travel, though, is on the Inter-City Express train, a sleek, white, bullet train that can cruise at 250 KPH on some stretches of track. The cars are more like jetliners than trains, and I arrive relaxed and ready to go. When I go to Munich, Augsburg, Heidelberg, or Wiesbaden on business (often), that's the way I go.

April gave us spring in Europe, so we decided to take a trip to where spring is a major attraction; Holland. We took a "family" bus tour of Amsterdam and Holland to see the spring tulips and other flowers. It was, in a word, WONDERFUL! In May I got to visit Oslo Norway on business. Oslo is a beautiful city, and the Royal Palace was one street over from the hotel where I stayed. Lots of tall, blond people in Norway, and they eat a lot of fish!

The girls closed off their first year at the International School of Stuttgart (ISS) in fine fashion. In June, Megan spent a week on a German farm with her class, and loved it, and Audrey went camping in France as a class trip. At the end of the school year, Megan had one of the starring roles in the sixth grade school play. She played the part of Sarah in the musical production of "Huckleberry Finn," and did a wonderful job. Audrey's class performed a stage production called "Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish." It was an interesting play about a man who pollutes the earth so badly while building a rocket that he wakes up all the dinosaurs. Audrey was in the chorus and she had some strong lines to deliver, which she did with aplomb.

We had a busy summer in July and August. As summer rolled around, we immersed ourselves in the 4th of July activities over here. The base I work on (Patch Barracks) did a BIG shin-dig for the 4th (they called it an American VolksFest), with a carnival (German-style, with a beer-tent and everything), fireworks, country-western music, barbecue, the works. Also in July (close to our anniversary), we went on a get-away weekend in the German Alps, without the kids! We went to Chiemsee, east of Munich, and had a wonderful time walking in the alpine meadows and touring around the Bavarian countryside. We expected to see Julie Andrews come over the crest of the hill any moment, singing away; "The hillllls are alive......... with the sound of MUSIC!!!"

Our summer vacation this year was one week in August, spent in the Austrian Alps, and it, too, was WONDERFUL! Very scenic and peaceful. We rented an apartment in a chalet in Oberndorf, Austria, an alpine village in a valley. The house itself was outside the village, up a bit on the hillside that started the rise to the mountains. We had a panoramic view of the valley and village below, and we could see right across the valley to the stone mountains on the other side. Magnificent! The Thursday after we got back from our week's vacation, we picked up the first of our string of summer visitors; old friends from Lexington, MA. They used our house as a base for lots of excursions, and we all (four adults, four kids) went to Paris for the hottest weekend of the year! We saw the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe, Le Louvre, the Cathedral de Notre Dame and other sights. It was a grueling, whirlwind, weekend tour, but we enjoyed it.

The girls went back to school on the last day of August this year. Audrey is in fifth grade and Megan is in seventh (we're not that old, are we??). So far they're really enjoying themselves. Megan's class will be heading to Rome (Italy, not New York) for a week in March or April, and Audrey's class is going to the European Space Camp in Brussels, Belgium for a week in May. A bit more impressive than the day-trips to the zoo I remember in school!

Just as the Fest season was starting up, we welcomed our second set of visitors, my (Gene's) sister Joanne and her husband David, from Colorado. We met them at the Stuttgart train station on the 22nd of September, and we traveled and partied for three weeks. We visited castles, and spent a weekend in the Alps, drank our way through the Munich and Stuttgart OktoberFests, and traveled through the Black Forest, France and the Mosel River Wine country. They headed home on the 12th of October, tired but smiling (or was that grimacing?)! The next week, our old friends from Carlisle via Nashua, Bob & Sarah, spent the last week of their vacation with us. We toured more castles, drank a lot of beer, took in a local concert, and shopped 'til our credit cards glowed! Most of the time we just sat and talked and enjoyed good friends and old memories.

November was a relatively quiet month, with only the election to liven up the early parts. Living in Europe during a presidential election is interesting. The Europeans take quite an interest in the process, but its frustrating being so far away from it all and being six hours ahead of everything (or more). We had to wait until six A.M. the next morning to hear anything at all. Yes, we DID vote, by absentee ballot.

As November was turning cold and damp on us, we welcomed our fourth set of visitors, my (Gene's) sister Betty and her husband Jim, from Woburn. Betty and Jim were with us over Thanksgiving, but our holiday was anything but traditional. They arrived on Saturday the 21st, and on Sunday the 22nd we did an early Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, complete with our German neighbors (no we didn't cook them, we invited them!)! After a few days of local poking, Jim headed off for a week of business, and Betty headed off with us to Austria! There wasn't any snow in the valleys, but the mountain-tops were well covered. Thursday during the day we roamed around Salzburg, and Thursday night we had an Austrian version of Thanksgiving dinner in the pension (pen-zee-own) in the Alps where we stayed! Jim met us on Friday night, and we spent Saturday in Innsbruck, visiting the old part of town (and we do mean OLD), and the Innsbruck Christmas Market. Sunday we all drove back to Stuttgart in the rain. Jim headed off Monday morning for more business before heading home, but Betty got to stay a few extra days, so she and Lynn spent a day (and a lot of money) in the Black Forest, and also visited the Stuttgart Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) for a day.

That's been our year, in a nutshell. Lynn's mom is planning to come back for a visit in March, and we're all excited about that! So's Audrey, because Gram will be here for her birthday! At work, we've had almost a complete change of the guard. The Department Head who lured me over here has gone back to the Washington office, and the Associate Department Head has moved on to the Norfolk VA office to do Associate Department Head type things there. We also rolled over the other group leader in the Stuttgart office, so as far as longevity goes, I guess I'm the senior manager type in the Stuttgart office!! Zowie! Things change quickly, don't they! We've also gotten a whole new crop of workers in, too, so its like a whole new office over here in a lot of ways. Things seem to be working out quite well, though.

That's all we can think of for now. Keep writing letters. We love to hear from all you. Oh, I almost forgot, did I tell you that I bought a new computer! We decided (actually I pleaded, and Lynn consented) to bankroll some of the raise from my promotion into a new computer. I decided that I couldn't afford to piece-part a computer in the flea market style from over here. If any of the parts had trouble, phone calls back to the vendor to get replacement parts would cost anywhere from $1 to $3 PER MINUTE. Add to that the 2-3 week delay for mailing stuff back and forth, and that route gets very tenuous, to say the least. So, I bought from a reputable mail-order house, and we are now the proud owners of one of the fastest, most powerful personal computers on the market! If you or anyone else might be interested in what's "under the hood," its a Gateway 2000 486DX2/50 with 16 MB main memory, two 200 MB hard disks (400 MB total), 5.25" 1.2 MB high density diskette, 3.5" 1.44 MB high density diskette, 250 MB tape backup, ATI Ultra display card (1024 x 768 at 256 colors), CrystalScan multi-synch 15" flat panel hi-res monitor, 9600bps modem / 19,200bps send/receive fax (not hooked up yet), NEC CDR-73M external CD-ROM player, MediaVision ProAudio Spectrum sound board, and Future Domain SCSI controller. I'm having fun with this one, and so are the kids. I do everything I used to do on my little one (which I still haven't been able to sell), and much, much more. The kids have their games on it now, and even they are starting to try their hand at writing letters by computer! Lynn still hasn't gotten into it yet, but she might some day. At least now I have a machine that can handle the graphics necessary to get her interested!

Don't forget, the welcome mat is always out, but don't plan on visiting us over here next summer. Instead, plan on visiting us at one of our parking spots while we are back in the States!! That's right! We'll be coming home for a visit next summer! Every two years of a "tour of duty" like this, MITRE gives me extra vacation and sends us all home, so we can take care of any needed personal business in person, and also to let us visit with family and friends. The girls get out of school at the end of June, and soon after that we'll be winging back to Boston for our Home Leave! Plans and schedules are not finalized (heck, they're not even initialized), but we plan on being down on Cape Cod for a week, and up in Maine for a while, and probably up in the White Mountains for a while. Gene will be home for 3-4 weeks, Lynn and the girls will stay longer, but we won't all be back to Germany until mid-August sometime. Much as we'd like to go visit everyone, we're going to be brassy and ask that people come visit us instead. We'll let you know when and where sometime later.

Eight years left in the century, folks!


Lynn, Gene, Megan, and Audrey


P.S. Just as a reminder (some of your addresses haven't been exactly correct, and that can throw the mail delivery system over here for a loop - its so fragile), you can send mail to us through the regular old US post office. It costs 29 cents per letter, just as if we were in the US of A. The address is (use all four lines):

The Vogts
Unit 30400, Box 746
APO AE 09128






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