December 31, 2009

Salzburg Trip

We took a trip to Salzburg for a couple days and enjoyed the city very much. It has a great city plan with a river winding through it and the old city on one bank. There was plenty of pedestrian areas and squares for people to gather. The hilltop fortress, Hohensalzburg, had amazing views to the Alps and the city below. We even met a real-life gangster... thankfully, only armed with his teeth (not to his teeth :-). You'll just have to check out our photos in the link below. Unfortunately, we didn't get to do a Sound of Music tour, but maybe next time we go there with guests.

Short Trip to Salzburg

December 29, 2009

Walking around town

Greg and I enjoy exploring the local areas when we have a mild, sunny winter day. Here are a few glimpses of Munich downtown near dusk (and one of the interior of the Villa Stuck museum and one of Santa Scoots). Enjoy!

December 28, 2009

Last Days of Safta's Visit

Sorry for the delay, but Greg and I were having planning issues. Finally, we decided to spend the next two days in Salzburg, then return to Munich for New Year's Eve, and from there, go to Verona (ITALY!!!) for a couple days. No more travel procrastination for us!

The little Gremlin and his library Lonely Planet--it came in very useful!

Our last couple days with Safta were more relaxed. On Tuesday, we spent the morning doing some long-neglected chores and grocery shopping. Later, we went into town to the Residenz museum, but only had time to see the treasury. That in itself was comprehensive and well-worth seeing. We walked over to the Fairy Tale Christkindlmarkt in the Residenz courtyard and ate Greg's first roasted chestnuts (the verdict: "they're okay, but a little dry"-GG). Safta wanted a big beer and sausage so we went to the Augustiner beerhall (see picture at the end).

Left to right: The cow udder ketchup and mustard containers at the sausage stand; the crown jewels in the Residenz treasury.

On Wednesday, we took a daytrip to Regensburg with our Irish friend, Treasa, her daughters and mother-in-law. It was a mad house on the trains as people left Munich to go to their hometowns across Germany (it was the day before Christmas Eve). But we had gotten seats early so we didn't need to stand up for the whole train ride like others did.
Views of Regensburg: Cathedral and looking back on the town from the bridge
Regensburg has wonderful medieval architecture, a large cathedral and a cool bridge spanning the river... perfect for my grandmother. We spent much of our day walking around town, halfway over the bridge, walking through the cathedral and grabbing lunch at an Italian place set in a former 17th century chapel. We came home exhausted.
On Christmas Eve, we relaxed in the morning as the only thing we had to do was go to a concert at 4 pm. It was not a typical Christmas-y type concert with its three musicians: a tenor, a organist and a trumpeter. But it was a lovely nonetheless. Greg and I especially liked when the organist turned evil and took the organ to full capacity. They ended the concert with two American classics, too.

Safta enjoying the big beer (it was really Greg's). Her sausage platter came later.

Those were our last days of Safta's visit. In a few days, I'll be able to tell you all about our adventures in Salzburg. Happy New Year's!

December 24, 2009

Safta Rachel's Visit to Munich

Here are the highlights in images and words of my grandma's visit to Munich. Safta and I started the vacation without Greg because he was finishing his last day of school. We hit the Christkindlmarkt in Marienplatz, the Jewish museum and synagogue, and tried the Asam church (beautiful baroque chapel) but it was closed.

View of the Rathaus and part of Marienplatz's Christkindlmarkt at sunset

The next day we actually were able to get in and see some of the church as well as another larger church, Theatinerkirche, in Odeonsplatz. Along the way, we stopped by a gallery showing amazing black and white photos from New York in the 1940's and 50's (think Breakfast at Tiffany's). We also stopped by the Alte Pinakothek, which houses the older paintings and is one of the three Pinakotheks in the area.

Koeningsplatz near the ancient museums and close to the Pinakotheks

Sunday was museum day!! We began the day with two museums of ancient greek, roman and egyptian artifacts. The Greek and Roman museum was interesting because it had been heavily bombed during the war and when they rebuilt it, they couldn't paint the same level of decoration or detail to it. So instead they showcased photos of what it looked like before the war.

Greg looking like a priest in the Pinakothek der Moderne
(and doesn't Safta kind of look like Julie Andrews here, right?)

After Pakistani food, we stopped by the Pinakothek der Moderne, which was amazing. It's large, colorful (well, at least many of the paintings were) and ranged from German expressionist painters to designers to Chinese wood architecture to more modern art installations.

The next day we went to Chiemsee to see Ludwig II's Versailles-wannabe Herrenchiemsee palace. Let me tell you this: they do not heat the palace in the winter and you could feel it. But the grounds were beautiful, covered with fresh powdery snow, and the inside was extravagant and a homage to the French kind, Louis XIV. Greg especially enjoyed the mammoth-size hot tub and table that could be lowered through the floor. That night we dined with Nami and Gil (aunt and uncle on the other side of the family) at an Italian restaurant.

Snacking on the warm boat to Herreninsel and Herrenchiemsee

Fun times at Herreninsel

As this post is getting quite long, I will stop here and write another post tomorrow about what we've done from Tuesday until today. Merry Christmas to those that celebrate!

Safta enjoying her first cup of Gluehwein
(and not our only picture of her drinking alcohol...stay tuned!)

December 13, 2009

Turtle Cookies Debut in Munich

I was reminded of these cookies when a new co-worker of mine asked for our favorite Christmas cookies for a design or something. She demanded that we all didn't respond with Lebkuchen or gingerbread. Well, I had something different for her--Turtle cookies! Greg's mom, Priscilla, makes these fabulous cookies right around Christmas time. They're called Turtle cookies because they look just like turtles with little pecan flippers and chocolate-covered "shells."

They are easy to make and fairly quick, too. So if you're in need of some Christmas cookies, let me know and I'll send you the recipe. A certain German co-worker asked for it once she saw the picture. Kudos Priscilla!

Tollwood, the Alternative Chriskindlmarkt

A weekend or two ago, Greg and I headed to Tollwood to check out the Chriskindlmarkt on the grounds of Oktoberfest. This time, we took the metro together so we wouldn't get lost (for the backstory, see our separate versions of Oktoberfest here and here).

Tollwood encompasses an outdoor food area packed with groups enjoying their gluehwein and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks; ethnic food tent with food from Thailand, India, Africa and the Middle East; indoor bazaar filled with handmade and non-handmade gifts; and a music tent. We unfortunately decided to go when it was super-crowded, a Saturday night, so the lines were long. But we eventually enjoyed some falafel and couscous, lychee juice, crepes with cinnamon and sugar, fragrant gluehwein and swing music. We even have a commemorative cup that made its way home with us. ;-)

Music in the Metro

We were out with our German neighbors the other night and the topic of Germany's numerous rules came up. Our neighbor mentioned that the musicians in the subway need to get special permission to play. I never really gave much thought to the musicians we have along the entryway to our metro station although it's always fun to guess what we'll get today--accordian, flute, or violin. I'm still waiting for some bongos to show up though. :-)

Apparently, there is a regulatory office that authorizes the street musicians and performers in the tourist areas to do their work. They only give out something like 20 permits a day and every day a performer wants to perform, they have to go to this government office for the permit. They play for a government official and if they're deemed good enough and there are still permits left for that day, they are allowed to play. But just for that day. The next day, they have to apply again. If they do get a permit, they are supposed to display it for all to see.

In any case, I love walking down the tunnel lined with bikes (even now!) with music enveloping you, welcoming you into the shelter of the station's entryway.

First Schnee in Munich!

We woke up yesterday morning to the dazzling sight of snow on the streets of Munich. I've been waiting for this for weeks and finally, it came!! Not much, but enough to stick to the ground. It must have snowed just for Hanukkah, which started the night before. ;-) I've heard from friends in the States that it's been very cold, but here it really hasn't gotten much below 20 degrees fahrenheit yet.
All bundled up, ready to go to the store

This is my favorite shot because the berries look cartoon-drawn eyes and nose, and the snow top looks just like a beehive hair-do!

December 10, 2009


Jaywalking here is just not done. The Bavarians feel very strongly about their traffic rules. Although there are some rules they break fairly often (e.g., talking on their cell phone while driving or smoking in non-smoking areas in the metro), this is one that is sacred to them. They wait patiently at the lights, not even looking down the street to see if there's an opening they can take advantage of.

I've only ever seen teens and young hipsters do it. Greg and I jaywalk on a regular basis though. And we don't even have to hold hands to cross either! It's not that we don't respect the rule--we understand the purpose for those who have trouble seeing the cars or can't walk across the street quickly enough. But we're young, healthy, spry things who can make it across the street fine without a little green man showing us the way.

However, sometimes the peer pressure from the crowd is so great that I do wait at the light. That's why I think this social more isn't going away any time soon.

December 6, 2009

St. Nikolaus Day

My German teacher explained that today is St. Nikolaus day here. St. Nikolaus however is not the same as Santa Claus, although they look similar with their red clothes and white beards. St. Nikolaus is a religious figure and has on a bishop's hat, carries a curled staff and has a golden book that lists the good and naughty children.
Here he is in the doll version
(thanks to Gertrud K. on Flickr)

The children leave out their shoes and if they're good, they'll receive sweets, lebkuchen cookies, nuts, and mandarins. If they've been bad in the last year, then Krampus--St. Nikolaus's filthy, branch-wielding sidekick--will stick branches in their shoes and in the past, used to beat them.

Here he is next to the Santas.
(Thanks to Denni Schnapp from Flickr)

The only one in our household that has to worry about Krampus is Scoots. I've warned him that if he walks me up at 5 am again, I'm going to call Krampus over to straighten him out. And it won't matter that St. Nikolaus day is over because I'm sure he'll make a special exception for a certain grey-haired cat.

December 3, 2009

For you guys, I collect

To be honest, I didn't know what to write about on this blog for the longest time. And some might argue at the end of this post that I still didn't have a real topic to write about. Oh well!

Today, as I watched a guy walking along the subway platform with a shrink-wrapped Christmas tree (?!?!), I had an epiphany of sorts. First, I was so glad that someone was taking something weird on the subway (but that's really another post all together). And second, lately images have stuck out in mind as though they're reminding me of daily things I should be telling the people back at home about. However, I don't think even if I was at home, I would try to describe these images out loud.

But in any case, here are my mental images of this week that I've collected for you.
  • Yesterday evening, I waited for Greg at the metro station near my aunt's house and was looking at the almost full moon through the trees. Then as I looked away, I noticed a fog had thrown itself around everyone and everything near me. Cars blurred in the distance and people bundled in their coats faded in the mist. The fog by itself turned everything into a sort of fairy tale land, magical in its own way.
  • I had an evil-sounding subway car driver today. It was like he was imitating the Count on Sesame Street (whatever they call it here-- I'm guessing Sesamstrasse). Eins....ha ha ha...Zwei....ha ha ha....Drei....ha ha ha. You get the picture, except with subway stop and "keep away from the door"-type comments. Wouldn't it be nice if he was some broke, has-been actor who became a subway driver and lives now for the sole enjoyment of scaring small children and yippy dogs?
  • This evening, Greg had Scoots curled up in the crook of his arm, just chilling on the sofa, reading his e-mails. Scoots hasn't done that since we moved to Munich, but he used to do it at home in Aurora, CO. It's also sweet when I look over and Scoots is headbutting and giving glasses kisses to Greg (leaving his smudges on Greg's glasses like a granny leaves lipstick stains on her grandchild's cheeks) while purring nonstop.
I hope you enjoyed the random images, but I guess if you don't, that's okay too. At least Greg's mom and my mom will be happy (mostly because I mentioned cute things that Scoots is doing).