September 30, 2009

Trip to Stuttgart

We had a wonderful mini-trip to Stuttgart this last weekend to celebrate Greg's birthday. Stuttgart turned out to actually be a very relaxing trip for us. It's not a huge city, but there's some fun things to do and it's very easy to get around. Greg was so excited to take the train (as many of you know, he loves anything mass transit-related) and it was about 3 hours away.

After we checked into our hotel, we headed to the mineral baths of Leuze, just beyond the city. All that Greg had asked for (beyond going by train) was a hot tub, so I did one better with the mineral baths. This area had 4 or 5 pools, each with a different temperature. You're supposed to go from cold to hot so the hot bath will feel very hot. But we did it all backwards, ending up trying the hot first (34 degrees celsius, maybe 90 degrees F) and then heading to the cooler ones. Needless to say, the hottest was not as warm as a hot tub, but because of that, we were able to hang out in there for longer than you could hang out in a hot tub. Plus, the hot bath was carbonated! Bubbles landed on our bodies and it was a funny feeling! We also went into the sauna area, but walked right out again because we realized no bathing suits were allowed and we hadn't brought our towels. We strolled from the baths through Stuttgart's city park, which is long but wonderful. We decided on dinner at an Indian place in town and the food was lovely.

On Sunday, we headed out to the Wilhelma Zoo-Botanical Gardens. There were so many cool animals, birds, fish, and butterflies to see there. It helped that we had fantastic weather for all this, too. You can see more in our photos which I put in an online album for you all. We grabbed lunch and then headed to the train station to catch our train back to Munich. Overall, it was a great trip to start our travels as a couple here.

September 24, 2009

Cake for Lunch

I'm going to start off with the best part of my day yesterday (and this part will probably make some people cringe and some people jealous): I had cake for lunch and nothing else! It was a delightful hazelnut torte. I shared it with three others, meaning I got to taste theirs too: blackberry streusel-topped cake, marzipan-covered white cake, and a layered apple cheese pie topped with almonds. I even took a picture so this day could live on on this blog:

My aunt Na'ama, her friend Marlene, my friend Sophie, and I went on a day trip yesterday to Schliersee and Spitzingsee area.

We started off the day with a quick cafe und tee stop on the shores of Schliersee. The fog was rolling off the lake and it made for some awesome photos.

Then, we hiked around the Spitzingsee (see means lake). On the way, we ran into some cows who were crossing (or rather, standing in the middle of) the trail. A few of them still had shorter horns on, but man, are those things menacing when they look at you sideways like that!

I included them in the photos because they were a nice part of the hike. Everywhere you could hear the cowbells (I think we need more cowbell kept jumping to mind) ringing and jingling. It was distracting music to keep my mind off my huffing and puffing (yeah, I haven't joined a gym yet).

After our hike, we had our cake reward. Na'ama's friends do day hikes every once in a while so I'm looking forward to future ones as a fun way for me to see the countryside more. Luckily, the weather was gorgeous and it was a fantastisch day!
p.s. Greg and I are taking a surprise trip for his birthday this weekend. I'll post pictures and updates once we're back. Have a great weekend all!

September 18, 2009

Shana Tovah!

Happy Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) to my Jewish peeps out there! If you want to learn more about the holiday, click here. Our family isn't religious so we generally just celebrate with food and family: apples with honey, challah bread dipped in sugar, pomegranites, fried spinach patties, honey cake ... such a wonderful holiday! We're celebrating with my aunt's family, something we've never done before so it'll be interesting what customs they recognize. This is by far one of my favorite Jewish holidays.

Welcome into year 5770!

September 17, 2009

Weekend Fun

We had a great weekend last weekend with my little cousin's birthday party on a beautiful Sunday. Here's a photo of the birthday boy:And here are some more random pictures since I haven't put any up in a while. Notice the swollen eye on me--Greg thinks it was stress-induced, but I disagree, just don't have any good theories yet. This was a walk around a garden in town after surviving the American consulate.

We went in and felt like it definitely wasn't the welcoming, hospitable place it perhaps once was. They're even pissing off the locals with refusing to hold visitors' laptops at their security spot and instead directing people to store their stuff in a local museum. The museum lady had a thing or two to say about that, ending with "just typical of the Americans to behave such a way. If any of those bags have bombs in them, it wouldn't matter to them if a museum is blown up." She wasn't mad at us, mind you--just the consulate security guy who in fact was German. Point for the lady in the museum, zero for American consulate.
Beautiful church on Leopoldstrasse before a street fair started. Thankfully, the clouds parted and we had nice weather that afternoon.
A picture of my lovely bike, which the salesman politely referred to as "the one that probably won't get stolen." It's kickin' it old school and I love it! Now let's just hope it makes it for 2 years!
Circus Krone is a local concert hall. The outside is so funky with its old sign and lamp posts. I wouldn't be surprised if a clown jumped out at me from behind a poster or something. It'd be nice to go there at night sometime when they have a show to see what it looks like all lit up.
I've been like a little squirrel lately, picking up these nuts off the ground. My Irish friend calls them conkers, but I highly doubt that's the proper term. They fall off the tree in this crazy spiked fruit and have such a simple, beautiful wood grain and finish to them, I can't resist. I'd love it if any craftsters out there have an idea of what to make with them. I'll keep looking, but please send ideas my way!!

September 9, 2009

Accidental Coin Flip

*Not sure if this went out already or not as Blogger was doing wierd things yesterday. If so, sorry! If not, then enjoy!*

Another thing I learned yesterday was how to have my little cart coin not flip out on to the sidewalk. They lock up their carts here and you can only use them if you put in a euro (you get it back when you return it) or have a cart coin. I got a really fancy one from the school (see to the right), but it is so lightweight that it ends up flipping all over the place when I try to take it out of the cart thing. So I'm constantly scrambling around on the floor for it. I figured out (yeah, I'm a bright one) that you just have to put your thumb on the side of the place where it comes out and that stops the reflex. So no more looking like an idiot for me.

Tomorrow I'm sure I'll find something else to make me look like a dumb foreigner.

Fastest bagger in the West(ern Europe, that is)

This kind of goes along with my last post because this is a major part of the hausfrauen's day: household shopping. I can go looking for something for days here, forget what I was looking for, and then find it a week later in the most random place. I wouldn't say it's a waste of time because I generally find other good stuff along the way and fill up my mind with best places to get this or that. However, it does take a lot of time, which at the moment I have.

My big deal today was that I got my groceries out of the way in the bagging area before the next person's stuff slide unto mine. This is monumental because grandmas in their nineties can go faster than me in the bagging area. Well, I showed them today!

That and they always seem to have the exact change for what they bought. I think they mentally tally how much their items cost while in the store and it's probably a little internal victory for them when they're right. Although I have yet to see one jump up and clap their hands out of happiness for having gotten it right.

Classic American over here: I either hand over my EC card (German bank card) to the cashier or a twenty and hope it covers the bill.

September 8, 2009

Midafternoon break with other HF

Before we moved to Munich, we found a wonderful online forum community called Toytown Germany (probably is in our blogroll to the right). Anyway, the community organizes all sorts of meetups for different types of people. On Friday night, we met up with the American stammtisch (meetup) at the Hard Rock Cafe for drinks and apps.

Today, I went to the meetup of the League of Accidental HausFrauen (housewives). While this might bring to mind women from the 50s wearing cute, frilly aprons or the incredibly good-looking, but unreal housewives of the Desperate Housewives show, this was neither of those *thankfully*. The LOAHF-ers are actually a really cool, interesting group of well-educated women who happened to have followed their husbands to Germany and now find themselves without full-time employment. Some work part-time with casual jobs or consult for places back in their home countries.

To give you an idea of the variety, we had a lawyer from Chicago, a former philosophy major from Ireland, an interior designer from Hawaii who's going back to design a multi-million dollar home (no, she doesn't need an assistant), a consultant from Seattle, a woman from Iceland who just went to a gorgeous house made from clay and handmade tiles (and showed us pictures), and another woman who is thinking about sub-ing at the school Greg teaches at. And there are a couple more I didn't talk to so I don't know interesting bits about them.

Every week they go to a different cafe and end up talking for hours. Today's cafe was overlooking the Glockenspiel in Marienplatz--we were eye-level with the dancing figures! I had a sour cherry and nut cake (sorry I don't have a pic) that was really delicious. So, today at least, I did not feel antsy about not having a job yet because I met these wonderful ladies and am looking forward to seeing them again sometime soon.

September 4, 2009

Apartments in Germany

It's funny how different renting in Germany is versus the States. As much as the Germans are very pro-recycling and reusing, they want their apartments to be utterly customized. The kitchens are completely empty without any appliances or cupboards. The new renter is expected to want to make the kitchen their own. Everything is often bare white with a fresh coat of paint done by the previous resident. The older buildings usually have the kitchen as it's own room with a door. We got lucky in a new building because we have the open kitchen.

There's often no shared washing machine. You are required to bring your own (I say "required" because there are very few laundromats in Munich). There's a basement room where all the resident's washers go. Each one hooks up their washer to their water supply line there. Dryers are pretty uncommon though. In our apartment building of about 13 apartments, I've only seen maybe 3 dryers in the wash room. Everyone dries their clothes on drying racks here. In the summer, I've hung clothes out on our balcony in the morning and they've been completely dry by dusk.

Rent also is a little different. Landlords will post cold rent and warm rent when looking for tenants. Cold rent doesn't include anything, but rent for the apartment. One would have to pay for trash/recycling, upkeep, water, and heat separately. Warm rent includes rent and all of the above. Electricity is paid separately. The electric company estimates a monthly charge for you to pay and then at the end of the year, they balance out what you paid with the actual balance due based on usage. So if you're super-frugal, you could actually get money back for electricity. And if not, you'll pay more to the electric company.

It all just takes some getting used to at the start.

September 3, 2009

Small victories (and frustrations)

It's not always easy to be here without knowing much of the language. However, when something works out well, we don't take those small successes for granted anymore. And when it doesn't work out so well, it's often a pretty good story in hindsight.

Here's a listing of our small victories and frustrations:

First day on the metro: We figured out the ticketing system all by ourselves. It was even better later when we found out that you can change the info on the screen into English!

Second time to Rewe, our local grocery store: We understood that the cashier wanted us to show her if we had anything in our reusable bags. It goes both ways though--this same cashier asked me something yesterday and I gave her my "I have no hope of knowing what you're asking me" look.

Hardware stores: I probably caused a minor heart attack for a young sales assistant at the OBI--imagine someone sweating bullets because he had to speak English to me. Really, like I'm that scary?!?
Then I gave my signature blank stare (see above, I'll eventually try to upload a picture of it here ;-) to an associate at Bauhaus. Both got me what I wanted and in the process I learned how to say zip ties in German ("kabelbinder").

Internet/Phone hook-up: I met the internet/phone technician and although I was expecting trouble, he hooked everything up quickly. Then, he told me to turn everything on and follow the rest of the instructions at 2 pm. And, I actually did it (without understanding most of what the pre-recorded voice wanted me to do)!

Web cam: I was having issues with our web cam and finally got the right driver downloaded! So it's up and working. You can now see the effect of the humidity on my hair when we're on Skype. *Argh*

Wireless driver: In Aurora, a Comcast technician had turned off our wireless software so I had to find and install the driver again. The wireless is so far working great!

Banking info: Somehow I managed to get us blocked from our German bank account by typing the PIN in frustration too many times. Who knew?! I've talked to our super-nice bank person and she's kindly unblocked us now, but I'm still going to have Greg try it tonight, not taking any chances.

Vodafone: I obtained the English-speaking line for Vodafone so we can set up free calling to US landlines...BUT the mean-sounding British lady said it was unavailable.

And the BEST small victory of this week: I got called for a job interview next Friday (the 11th) at an online search marketing company for a US/UK account manager position. Keep your fingers crossed for me! I'm starting to prep for's been 3.5 years since I've had to interview for a job!

September 2, 2009


We got visitors yesterday from Milwaukee--Jess and Chris--on their honeymoon through Europe. Here's a pic of them in Marienplatz in front of the city government building and Glockenspiel:I think I've fooled them into thinking I know stuff about Munich. Either that or they're just being polite. We tried to go to a vegetarian place (the one that gives big entrees and a free piece of cake afterwards), but it was closed. We ended up in a bistro called Colours, a restaurant of lifestyle (which translates to a restaurant specifically for gay men or artistic types because there were huge photographs of men in interesting poses and outfits on the walls). The food was great and the waiter spoke perfect English, which is always a plus.

Then we walked from Karlsplatz, which has a fantastic fountain that one can walk through, to Marienplatz, stopping for some shoe gazing along the way. We did see the Marienplatz clock in action with the music and twirling dolls. Unfortunately, the video from my camera is too grainy to show. Afterwards, we took a quick walk through the Viktualienmarket and then headed home. Chris and Jess wanted to experience the biergarten so we headed to the Hirschgarten's biergarten. It was PACKED yesterday, but wonderful to be with all the people, hanging out. Looking forward to showing more visitors around!