December 29, 2010

A Beer Culture -or- Jobs my Dad Would Like

As you can see, I could not decide on the title for this post. I feel like the two topics of discussion are  intertwined in such a fine way that separating them is difficult.

Before moving to Germany, I never thought of beer as cultural. Beer seemed like a good excuse to hang out, something used to quench your thirst on a hot day, or that drink by the campfire late at night. For Germans, beer is the drink of choice, and that makes it cultural. Ounce for ounce, it is always the cheapest drink at a restaurant. You can walk around in public with open bottles and no one finds this strange. Also, there are endless festivals held for different reasons and the beer tents tend to consume the biggest area of them. If you read back to some of our older posts, you will find "Biergartens" as a common theme. Not because we love them, but because it is just the cultural thing to do.

Munich's 6 Local Beers - 1 Liter = almost 3 cans back in the U.S.
That brings me to a couple of jobs I think my dad would like. First, and probably illegal, is the beer radler. So, in practicing your German - radler = cyclist. I was in the park last summer and some guy was just biking through the hundreds of people laying out in the grass while yelling "bier radler." Then, just like at a baseball game, someone would raise their hand and give the guy a few Euros for a beer. The beer radler would gladly take the empty bottles too since he could return them to any grocery store for money back.

The second job would be to work for the Deutsche Post. Rick knows all of the ins and outs of the US postal system, but there's an important perk to working for the German postal service. The other day when we were taking Scoots to the vet, I noticed a postman taking his lunch and drinking a beer in a cafe. You might this legal? Well, I doubt he was trying to hide the beer since his uniform is bright yellow. The best part was that he was not going to hop into a vehicle after his drink, but onto his envelope-laden bike. Beer for lunch and then he burns the calories right off! Sometimes, those dream jobs feel just within reach.


December 27, 2010

Cross-Country Skiing in Bayerischzell

Greg and I took a train about an hour and a half from Munich to a town called Bayerischzell (pronounced "by-risch-tsell") in the Alps. We were on the train with a lot of downhill skiers and snowboarders, but we were on our way to do some cross-country skiing. And it was a beautiful day for it - bright and sunny, not too cold, some wind (warm at times even).

Greg on the trail
We're not hardcore skiers and this was immediately obvious because people were passing us left, right and sidewise. Especially when I got scared I wasn't going to make it up a little hill while going parallel on the skis. I thought for sure I was going to fall into the river ditch and so plopped down in the middle of the trail to pull myself along past the scary section. The people behind me didn't think it was very funny, but then again, I think Greg and I were the only ones laughing on this trail at all. Everyone else was doing some serious exercise.

Not sure how this happened, but my hair frosted itself!
I would say we did a good 8 km trail - a warm chalet stop along the way would have been nice, but there were sadly none along this trail. On the way back, we were greeted with forceful winds, but they were fairly warm so it was not much of a hindrance. Overall, it was a fantastic cross-country skiing day and the trail was superb. We were even lucky enough to grab some seats on the train because we were the first stop on the way back to Munich. The train was packed with everyone tired after a long day of skiing. I'm hoping we get a few more weekend skiing trips in before spring.

December 25, 2010

Favorite Smell of the Season: Roasted Chestnuts

At every Christkindlmarkt and almost every pedestrian street at this time of year, the Heisse Maroni (roasted chestnut) sellers are out in full force. And I love them! The smell is so uplifting and makes this time of year seem that much more special. There's nothing like walking down the snowy streets, cradling a wrapped packet of warm chestnuts fresh off the pan, peeling away the crackly shells to reveal the dry, but sweet nut. Delicious!

A Heisse Maroni stall on the main shopping street

December 23, 2010

Medieval Chriskindlmarkt

The last Chriskindlmarkt we went to this season in Munich was the Medievel one near Odeonsplatz. It happened to be a beautiful night and I think everyone had the same idea we did because it was packed. We managed to get some fun pictures regardless.

I like looking at all the vendors in their renaissance costumes and the people walking around with their clay drink goblets. It's fun to imagine this was how the market used to be like way back when. The wares the vendors were selling also were more old-fashioned: bows and arrows, wooden swords, furs, gowns, wooden bowls, wax seal, glass cups, soaps and more.

Clay-baked drink goblets in front of the flame

Rows upon rows of initials stampers

Ordering a dough ball covered with chocolate and coconut for Greg and I to share... definitely not my favorite German Christmas-time sweet.

The "oriental" dried fruits stall (must have been exotic during medieval times)
Not sure what they were cooking, but it was in an old barrel!

December 17, 2010

Tollwood Chriskindlmarkt

Another Chriskindlmarkt that is going on in town that I love is Tollwood. It's actually larger than a Chriskindlmarkt with a tent for exotic food, one for a bazaar, a marketplace for local and eco-friendly vendors and a music tent. Outside of the tents there are all the traditional food and drink stands. It seems to always be busy when we go with people both inside and out. It's amazing how long the people here can stand to hang out outside in the cold, but I guess they are warmed by the lovely winter drinks they have.

I like this festival best in Munich because the vendors are reasonably priced and the stuff they sell is unique. Plus, they have a strong focus on the environment so you feel good buying stuff from them. This year, my aunt Smadar and I went when she was here the other weekend. We got quite a few presents for family there and had a grand time strolling along and munching on good food. Smadar even managed to pick up a little something for me as an early birthday present in the course of the afternoon - a cute little snack tray that reflects my love of shoes from a Berlin photographer. I eat my breakfast on it every morning now!

December 15, 2010

Munchner Freiheit Chriskindlmarkt

Greg and I visited a fun Chriskindlmarkt last Friday in the hip neighborhood of Schwabing. There are all sorts of Chriskindlmarkts in and around Munich at this time of year and everyone has their favorites. This one was very artsy. When we were there, a Swing christmas band was playing (as you'll see in the video) and all the stalls were filled with artisan crafts. The food was delicious - Greg and I sampled a mushroom-and-emmentaler baquette (made to be eaten from both sides, it looks like!), Eritrean food and hot chocolate with heavy whipped cream... yum!

Enjoying the hot chocolate
The central Munich Marienplatz Chriskindlmarkt, on the other hand, has more kitschy crafts like sheepskin slippers, wooden toys and of course, all the traditional festival foods and random vendors like modern-day cooking supply stuff (think: silicon baking trays and cookie cutters). All in all, Greg and I have not been impressed with the vendors at these things, but it's fun to walk around with a hot drink and be among all the people milling about.

December 9, 2010

Last Hanukkah post - I promise!

Last night was the final night of Hanukkah. It's always a fun holiday to spend with family and we were lucky to have my aunt Smadar in town to celebrate all together this weekend. Enjoy the pics!

My cousins Shai-Li and Amit with Smadar in the background - only photo I got of them together!

Family lighting the candles on Friday night - there was no shortage of menorahs so all the kids could light one. L to R: Shai-Li, Amit, my aunt Na'ama and uncle Gil, and cousin Yuval.

Greg lighting our candles last night at home
 And our Hanukkah gift this year: a winter wonderland this morning of snow-covered trees and pockets of sunshine peeking through! I hope to have a few pictures and a blog post from the Christkindlmarkts around town for you guys so stay tuned. It's a super fun time of year around here!

December 4, 2010

My Herb Garden

I've never been much of a gardener. Greg took care of our garden back in Denver during his summer vacations and I was content to eat the produce and not kill anything. But I've been experimenting with our cooking here and wanted fresh herbs at the ready. With Greg's help, I created a little container herb garden that's been taking off. I basically just watch it and water it every once in a while. And nothing has died yet!!!
Basil buds!
To save on buying new pots for an experiment I didn't know would work, I just used cleaned out cans and food containers. So far, so good. I hope to have chives, dill, basil and parsley that I can use soon. 

Parsley ~ eventually it will make its way into my tabbouleh recipe

December 2, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

To everyone celebrating and not, HAPPY HANUKKAH!

The holiday of lights started last night and will go on for 8 days so if you didn't say happy hanukkah to that special Jewish person in your life, you still have some time. ;-) In the picture below, you'll see the cool painted folding menorah that my Safta Rachel got us a few years ago. It's painted on both sides with paintings of Jerusalem's old city and folds down into a rectangle - pretty nifty! This year I'll be celebrating with family again, which makes me appreciate that they are so closeby even more.

Picture of last year's candle lighting - looks more impressive when you have more candles than just one or two.

November 29, 2010

Why I love Snowy Days in Munich

Walking back home from work tonight, I reflected on the snowy powder coating the ground and realized that I enjoy snowy days in Munich so much more than I did in the U.S. Here's why:

  • I'm not driving in it. It's much harder to die while walking in the snow than driving in the snow. I know that sounds melodramatic, but the crazy, horrible drivers in the US really come out on those days. I remember many a snowy day in Denver when I would have to drive to work and would dread it terribly because the roads were not plowed and the drivers could not control their cars well enough. I would grip the steering wheel the whole way to work. And it's not like it would be the normal 20-30 minute drive either - it took extra long because of the snow, too! Here I just have to go 7 minutes to my metro station and then I'm pretty much covered until I get to work. Focusing on my feet instead of the car in front of me is much easier.
  • Munich is gorgeous when covered with a layer of glistening snow. Everything seems to shine and twinkle so brightly with the snow. All the houses in our neighborhood look like a classic European town. Granted Munich doesn't have the old-time flare that other cities in Bavaria do (like Garmisch, Regensburg or Nuremberg to name a few), but it does have an understated European vibe regardless. The Christkindlmarkts get that added touch of nostalgic beauty to them when it snows. Everything just feels like how December always should be - warm fireplaces, chestnuts roasting, snowy winter wonderland all around. I'm just waiting for some reindeer to show up here somewhere.
Not quite a reindeer in Schliersee, but close!

  • People seem happier. Bavarians are an active bunch so I think when they see snow in their town, they picture themselves cross-country skiing in the city parks, trudging through the snow in their decked out winter boots, and warming up with hot drinks under the stars at the Christkindlmarkts. And it helps to have a variation to the gray skies, too.
  • It softens noise. Not that Munich is a particularly noisy place, but everything gets a blanket of quiet, especially at night, when it snows. The peace pervades everywhere.
  • We don't have shovel it. We had some back-breaking work in Denver whenever it snowed, but here our hausmeister (building caretaker) is supposed to do it. Apparently, it should be shoveled (sidewalk to the building entrance and sidewalk around the building) by 7 in the morning after it snows. Not that that happened this weekend or this morning, but since I'm not on crutches or using a cane, I could care less when he shovels it. As long as I can still get out my front door, I'm cool.
I, for one, hope the snow continues all winter long, but I guess the suckers people who have to drive or shovel probably would appreciate a few breaks in the weather. Happy snowy day to all!

November 19, 2010

Guest Post: Sarah and Davidian’s Visit

[Editor's note: Thanks to Sarah for writing a great guest post... if any one else has visited us and would like to write a guest blog post, please feel free! We love taking a break from the blog to show other people's impressions of Munich.]

Stepping off the S-Bahn from the airport to Greg and Ayelet’s place in Munich, Davidian and I immediately felt at ease. Not because the Germans are so friendly (it was my own personal challenge to get someone to smile back at me just once), but because the landscape was so similar to home. We felt the same crisp October air, saw the same evergreen and deciduous trees, and rode by the same gently rolling acres of farmland. Now I know why so many of my German ancestors settled here in Wisconsin.

We didn’t ignore the differences, however. For one, we were riding on a train. If we wanted to get from one neighborhood to the next right in the city, we would just have to buy a partner pass and wait a few minutes for the next subway-style train. If we wanted to head out and explore little towns outside of the city where the architecture is more traditional and people are few and far between—we would just hop on a regional train that travelled above ground. When we were ready to get out of Germany to explore the winding streets of Paris, we took a high-speed train. Being able to go wherever we wanted without getting road rage and yelling obscenities reminded me of the day I got a bike again. Hopping on my champagne-pink road cruiser and heading to the bike path gave me a sense of freedom and independence I hadn’t experienced since I was young. Sure, Davidian and I got lost and confused a few times when trying to figure out which direction we needed to go or which train to take, but we always found our way and were able to hop around the city with ease—even without speaking the language.

Sarah and Davidian enjoying their beers at the Augustiner Keller
 Germany probably never would have made it to our must see list if Greg & Ayelet wouldn’t have moved there. However, to say we were pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. As we are in the midst of disgusting partisan politics here at home, I often think of the things I experienced in Germany and hope we can bring some of those lessons learned to our little corner of the world.
  • Dogs make life better. We really missed our little Macy while in Bavaria. Everywhere we went we saw well behaved pooches in stores, on trains, in restaurants, at public parks, and on city trails. Believe it or not, I never even stepped in dog poo once—we never even saw any!

  • It’s okay to be tall. People from Munchen are T-A-L-L. For the first time in my life, I felt like the norm. Women my height (5’10”) or taller were everywhere. There they were just hanging out with their long legs and thick thighs walking with confidence and wearing jeans that fit them perfectly (*sigh*). If I would have known better, I would have planned to do some shopping. Davidian at 6’2” was also a typical height, but he didn’t like that so much. He says he likes “standing out” better.

  • Environmentalism can be a way of life. In Munich, the idea of taking care of the land, water, and air around us wasn’t a heated debate. It was simply a part of everyone’s lives. I don’t know what they had to go through to get where they are now, but they just made it seem so easy. Solar panels were abound on houses in the countryside. Recycling bins on street corners had individual spots for each type of waste and I never had to wonder, “Is this recyclable?” because the little pictures on the sides of the can told me exactly what do with my item. The streets and trails were not dirty and littered and the river next to where we hiked one day was clear and safe to swim in.

  • Drink beer. Often. Not necessarily because it is so good—cause it is (even when served warm). But because being at a biergarten means getting outside and getting to know your neighbor. Tables are lined up in rows and if you want a seat you might just have to share a table with the strangers next to you. It’s okay, no one pays much attention and everyone is welcome. Bring your little picnic, grab a mass, and share your breze with the guy next to you.

  • Take care of others. Even though people didn’t smile much, there seemed to be a strong sense of community. Big picture, people pay money out of their paychecks so that everyone can have health care and be trained to do their jobs well whether a waitress or a lawyer. We didn’t have to tip because people were paid living wages. On a smaller scale, people just helped each other out whether through helping an older person get off the train or by keeping an eye on each other’s children at parks or on the bus. Sometimes I think it feels easier for us to succumb to apathy rather than help a person in need. Oftentimes we are just so stuck in our culture of fear that we end up feeling a sense of helplessness.

  • You don’t need as much as you think you do. I had forgotten how when I was little my mother would string laundry lines in the basement and it was my chore to hang everything up to dry. Europeans don’t have dryers and they get by just fine. They are also okay with having just 1,000 square feet to live in. Entire families might do it. Greg & Ayelet also very much inspired us to think of this differently. Imagine the freedom that can come with being able to pick up, pack up everything, and move on to your next adventure. It’s the people you are with and the memories that you make that matter—not necessarily that Pier I Imports vase you got on clearance that is gathering dust on the IKEA throwaway end table.

  • No Davidian, “fahrt” isn’t what you think it is. Enough said. :-)

However, Germany definitely is far from perfect. While we really enjoyed many aspects of German culture, we were happy to come home to friendly faces and diversity of food. I was thankful to be able to surf anywhere on the Internet that I wanted and eagerly turned on my Pandora so I could finally listen to some music again. I’d never want to have to name my child from a “government chosen list” and I appreciate looking around and seeing all different types of people.

Hanging out in front of the Theater
 Thanks Greg and Ayelet for opening up your home and sharing a little of your adventure with us. We can’t wait to see what’s next in your journey…

November 16, 2010

Dramatics Everyday

I've realized recently how much my day revolves around using gestures and facial expressions to express my feelings. When I can't think of the right German words (um, pretty much all the time), I just resort to acting out what I'm trying to say. It's probably funny for anyone who's not trying to guess what I'm saying. And even those who don't know the answers, try to guess so really it's fun for no one!

The other day I was in the sewing store and I didn't prepare ahead of time with the word for snap closure, a word that I stumble through in English as well. I get to the store and I start trying to explain a snap closure to this German saleslady through gestures.

Only when I did it, I was not nearly as cute.

To paint the picture, it basically looked like I was making the baby sign language sign for "more" (thanks to our niece Abby and her mama Jan for this knowledge!). Have no fear if you don't know what that looks like, I've found a picture online to share. Is it any wonder that she just looked at me like I was an idiot and invited me to take a look around.

I was mollified afterward when she asked me what the English word for it was when I did end up finding it. To top it all off, I said the wrong word in English, too!

So somewhere in Munich, there's a German saleswoman who is trying to remember the wrong word for snap closure because some silly American lady stumbled into her shop and gave her misinformation. Oh well, at least she won't have to suffer through my charade attempts anymore!

November 12, 2010

Macro Pics

I have discovered a new favorite feature on my camera since moving to Germany. You know that small icon that looks like a flower. Well, I seem to using that feature known as "macro" all too often. I would like to share a few of my favorite pictures with you and encourage you to take a close up look at our natural world.

(a pipe in Israel)

(cut log at Plitvice National Park - Croatia)

(dubbed Mario Bros. mushroom - from hike near Hirschegg, Austria)
If anything, they make great personal wallpapers on the computer, or just give a way to zoom in on the small features we usually look right past.

November 5, 2010

Pictures from Lindau

Greg and I spent our second anniversary on the island of Lindau, about 3 hours away from Munich by train. It was fabulous - the weather was on our side, a little chilly as you'll see we're quite bundled up, but sunny. The fall colors were out and I couldn't get enough pictures of them. You can check out all our photos in the photo album on facebook.

We had two days in Lindau, which was more than enough to stroll around the island, walk along the lakefront and even take in the museum. Check out the video we took from a vintage music machine (from the 1880s!) while in that museum:

Plus an insert from Greg: Lindau was a great place as you can see from the photos. A very walkable and restaurant friendly place. We covered the whole island a few times. One word of warning though, just try not to let your wife chat with too many other dudes along the way. We had a great anniversary!
(on Bavaria's "largest" island)

(not too worried about this guy)

(this shaker is a whole different story)

November 4, 2010

Memorable Halloween

We spent Halloween in Lindau and the kids on the island actually dressed up and went around. It was funny to see them ring the "doorbells" because there weren't traditional houses around. It was all apartments - granted they were only three or four story buildings so I guess they could have hit up all the floors if someone let them in.

Anyway, we were surprised on Halloween to hear a commotion on the street outside of our second story window. Upon opening it, we saw a bunch of scary masks and face painted goblins, witches and wizards looking up at us.

"Suss oder sauer!" shouted one of the moms of the group and held her hands out. The kids all imitated her. Roughly translated that means: sweet or sour!

Ummmm, okay, we hadn't come prepared obviously for second-story-window trick or treating. Luckily, I remembered the two mini chocolate bars we got at the hotel and promptly threw those down. That really didn't do much to satiate the appetites of the twelve kids that were down there, but at least it was something! I'm not even sure if anyone caught the chocolate bars or if they got smashed in their tumble.

One little girl with her dad held her hands out expecting more to rain down so I had to explain in my halting German that we were in a hotel and didn't have more candy with us. They continued on their merry ways and I hope they filled their little orange plastic pumpkins with other candy.

November 3, 2010


Käsespatzle is probably the original inspiration for mac-n-cheese. This tasty German meal serves as a great vegetarian option whenever we find ourselves out at German restaurants. Most places give you the same basic platter which includes a basic green salad and a massive plate of potato noodles (like really small gnocchi) swimming in cheese and topped with fried onions. My personal drink pairing recommendation for this meal is a 1/2 liter of helles (light) beer.

Mmmmm....just look at all of that cheese. That's just one bite!

Ayelet and I have learned our lesson to usually split one order or try to come prepared with Tupperware for guaranteed leftovers.

October 27, 2010

Pictures from London

I've got to help Greg with dinner now, but I wanted to post my pictures from London (at least the first batch - the second album is just going to be inspiration from the Victoria and Albert Museum)

October 26, 2010

While the Wife is Away...

...the boys will play.

Ayelet had a great chance to visit London, and I fully wanted her to check out this city that is very dear to me. Usually when Ayelet goes away without me I do very little around the house. However, this time was different. Work was busy with planning for a field trip. Family was in town. And some friends and I had made plans for the night Ayelet left.

Munich has dubbed a phrase called "lange nacht," which is used for a variety of events in the city throughout the year. I attended the long night of museums where about 100 different locations around the city stayed open until 2 a.m. The highlights from the night included our first stop with a short tour of a local swimming pool (Volksbad) that is decked out in an Art Neuvo fashion. Then my last stop was at an old city restaurant where there was an original single bowling lane in the basement followed by a surreal marionette featuring a 10 foot tall lead character. Beautiful. Wish I had pictures, but the camera was in London. 

A few days later I was able to live another first. Ayelet's new cousin-in-law, Roe'e, invited me to a futball (soccer) match. I jumped at the chance. Strangely, we went to the game with Roe'e's friend Roe'e that had just moved to Munich a month ago. Yes, I was a bit confused at first too. My confusion continued upon our arrive to the stadium. I was hoping to watch the game and enjoy a beer, but for some reason this was about the only thing in the entire country that was only serving "Alkohol-Frei" beer. I had a Sprite instead. However, my spirits were rustled very quickly as we walked down to our standing area. The tickets we got were with a rowdy bunch of young Germans that played drums, chanted, and waved flags during the entire game. The Munich team ultimately won 3-2. Thanks in part to the goalie name Butt (pronounced "boot" by the locals). See some highlights - I'm next to the waving flags in row 5.

It was a couple of late nights in a row for me. The day after the soccer game I joined Ayelet's family for dinner. Her cousin was wrapping up the European honeymoon with some quality family time. Scoots was having a quieter than usual week and really kept close by when I got home and attempted to finish some work for the field trip I had planned for the following day.

Early morning on Thursday did not look go. The sky was cloudy. When I got to school and stepped outside with 65 grade 7 students it started to rain and I think I even saw some snow. We were off to dig for fossils in a big pit. Ayelet and I had done this last summer and I absolutely loved it. I was very pleased with the kids reactions both at the museum and more at the quarry. Two of our students even found some great fish fossils. I'll leave you with the same question they got. If you found the 150 million year old fossil (seen below) on a hill in Germany, what does it tell you about Germany at that time?

October 22, 2010

Back from London

The blog has been silent for the last few days because I was in London and Greg was hanging out here with my cousin, Dana, and her new husband, Roe'e, who were visiting from Israel (and other various activities he had planned in my absence).

I guess I wasn't expecting London to be so absolutely charming ~ the streets and architecture; the people with their (mostly) lovely accents; the food (the choices were overwhelming); the fabulous museums of every type, make and model; the edgy, alternative fashion scene; and for me, the fantastic weather (I only got drenched once!).

Of course, there were parts that weren't nice, but generally I could ignore them like the weird subway delays and closures; the way I couldn't figure out which way to look when I wanted to jaywalk; and how it seemed like everyone lived with to-go cups permanently stuck to their hands. And I didn't have to convert from pounds to the dollars, which made everything seem so much cheaper than it would have if I came from the US. In any case, it's good that I'm a pretty frugal traveler although during this trip I definitely did my part to help the fabric industry. ;-)

I saw so much of the city and met with some great (new and old) friends while I was there - I'm still in shock at how much I did! The highlights for me include afternoon tea with friends at the Wolseley, the Victoria and Albert museum (third favorite museum after the Prado in Madrid and the Metropolitan in NYC) and a cute little trimmings shop in Soho.

For now, I'll leave you all with a shot of Kate, her (and now my) friend Raf who we stayed with, and myself frightened by the realistic moving dinosaur behind us. I look more like I'm ready to hop on, I guess. There were a lot of kids who were really scared by it so we shouldn't make fun, but oh well!

October 15, 2010

Your 61.8%

Blog Action Day 2010 - Water. The message below veers from this blog's norm, but still links to our lifestyle.

People often think change is difficult, expensive, or time consuming. Yet sometimes it can be as easy as having tea instead of coffee. Barley instead of rice.

Every day we take actions without really thinking about the long term results. I can imagine that we truly didn't know any better in the not too distant past, but knowledge is spreading. We have access to a vast network of information that helps us to think about the choices we make. For example, have a look at this link: The Hidden Water We Use (from National Geographic).

At a glace, you can compare a small range of products that we consume every day. I know consuming will not stop, but we definitely can have an impact on our future by making easy changes in our daily lives.

I cherish new ideas. If you have a suggestion, please leave a comment.

Here is a short list of my easy, affordable, and time-favoring choices.
> Soak and rinse showers - 1 minute total water use
> Economy cycle on the dishwasher
> Reduced my coffee consumption - aiming for 2 cups per week
> Eating less meat (did you see what one pound of beef takes?)
> Replacing grass with low water plants

The list could go on, but I would like to share one last thought. The best name I have seen for this invention is "Sink Positive." The picture speaks for itself.

October 14, 2010

Lovin' the Tightrope

The Germans are active - that much is obvious on a nice, sunny day when the hikers are on the trains going into the mountains with their boots, hiking poles and daypacks. They're always out biking, hiking, swimming and generally exerting themselves before sitting down for a beer, breze or dessert of some kind.

But what isn't obvious is the amount of circus wannabes in this country, too. I'm sure the image of the locals in sequins and tights was not one you needed in your mind, and I can assure you that they don't go that far thankfully. Sequins aren't very practical after all.

Tightrope-walking aficionados in Passau

On a good day in the local parks (and even on our daytrips), we come across youngsters tying up their tightropes good and tight. It seems like they spend hours taking turns at perfecting their mad skills on the tightrope. I haven't really seen anyone practicing tricks, but they do seem to like to jump off them, too. Either that or they make it look like they're falling off on purpose.

Greg and I even tried it ourselves at one of the fairs last year with unsuccessful results - we both fell off. One of us was more determined to get to the end than the other though (as you can see in the pictures below).

Right before I fell off! The German lady behind me doesn't look very impressed with my performance.

Greg got pretty far, but he raced across. He fell off right after this picture was taken, if I'm not mistaken.

October 12, 2010

Daytrip to Passau

Recently, we went on a daytrip to Passau with our friends, Craig and Sophie. Luckily, we had a fantastic fall day for it - crisp and sunny! Passau is at the confluence of three rivers - the Inn, Ilz and Danube - and we spent much of our time walking near them or overlooking them.

The confluence of three rivers as seen from the hilltop
We should probably learn to do our daytrips on Saturdays because on Sundays all the shops are closed (and there were a few nice-looking chocolaterias). It was still quaint to walk around the town's old center and see the church and their city hall. There was a great riverwalk and across the river, we did a short hike to a vantage point over the city.

Not sure which river this one is, but the riverwalk along it was gorgeous

Afterward, we stopped and had lunch at a Greek place. We came across their cathedral which was beautiful on the inside with lots of whitewashed, carved marble. They also had a display set up for the fall with a furry muppet-looking wheat crown and quite a few gourds, but sadly, we didn't get any pictures of that. You'll just have to believe us on it.

Passau Dom St. Stephen on the inside
You can see the rest of our pictures here:

October 10, 2010

Funny Experiences at Passport Control

Greg and I must have an aura surrounding us that requires something unusual to happen whenever we get into the vicinity of the passport or airport security. If airport people had a sense of humor and wanted to make a hidden camera-type show, we'd be on it for sure. That's just our luck.

Our latest funny experience occurred in the Tel Aviv airport. I'm walking a little ways ahead because I always walk really fast once I've been couped up on a plane and want to use a normal bathroom. Greg was behind me at a far enough distance that it looked like we weren't together. The agent stopped him - my blond-haired, blue-eyed innocent-looking husband - and thankfully, I looked back in time to see Greg waving me over to whip out my Hebrew. The guy must have thought it was unusual we weren't walking together. After he asked me to define our relationship, he asked how long we'd been together. Lesson learned: it looks suspicious if you don't walk as a couple... and so Greg needs to keep up! :-)

On the way back from Israel, besides being asked the origin of the last name "Golz" by an Israeli agent, we had a fun experience in the Vienna airport. We had a layover there and had to go through passport control because we were entering Europe again. What Austrian passport control seemed to fail to take into account is that a plane full of Israelis should not be underestimated when it comes to maintaining orderly lines. To one side, you could clearly see the line for EU passport holders - perfect, orderly, moving at a good clip. Then, you see the line for non-EU passports - no, you couldn't even call it a line - a mass of mostly Israelis with a few unfortunate Americans and other nationalities sprinkled throughout. CHAOS REIGNS! People are one solid link of humanity - an elbow here stuck to a shoulder there stuck to a back over there.

The passport lady rose from her seat a couple of times and yelled to those waiting (who were really pushing as far forward as they could) to tell them to stay behind the yellow line. I would not have messed with her and yet the Israelis made sure to antagonize her by stepping over the yellow line again and again. If I were her, I would have turned them away. At least I know one profession to cross off my list.

October 6, 2010

Our Only Oktoberfest Visit This Year

Many of you will remember our Oktoberfest shenanigans last year (Greg's version and my version). This year it was much more calm - we went together with my second cousin who was visiting from Israel on the U-bahn. We didn't get lost, but did get pushed around a bit by the drunks walking around on the Oktoberfest grounds. I hear it's quite fun to have a table reserved and to see all the insides of the tents during the weekdays when it's quieter, but this year that didn't pan out for us.

It was a special year for Oktoberfest, too - 200 years in existence! There's definitely advantages and disadvantages to the festival - on one side, you get hoards of tourists mostly interested in just drinking to oblivion and not caring about what they do to the city; on the other hand, beautiful dirndls abound and the lederhosen the guys wear always makes me chuckle. The locals tend to be happier and more social during this time - I wish there was more of that year round in fact!

I even got to go salsa dancing with the dirndl- and lederhosen-attired crowd last week. It was just like a country ball with contradictory music.

In any case, I'm sure the city of Munich makes a pretty penny from the tourists that come here, part of which I know will go into restoring the city back to its state of cleanliness before the tourists arrived.

October 5, 2010


One Sunday, Greg and I just got on a S-bahn and headed out to a local lake because the weather was absolutely gorgeous. The great thing about living here is that you can just do that - head out on a random train to a random town and you're sure to find some sort of path or trail to enjoy nature. They really value good weather when it comes around. Often it seems like they drop everything to head out for a hike or lounge by a local lake when it's a beautiful day. On this particular day, Ammersee was filled with sailboats!

October 4, 2010

What finally happened with the birthday ceramics?

This post is looooonnnnng overdue - here are the pictures of the completed dishes we painted in July for my cousin, Shay Li's birthday, in September. She just had her second birthday since we've been here so it's definitely time to share the success of our ceramics.

Greg's cup to the left with a bug inside (created for maximum surprise effect) and my hypnotic cereal bowl

 Greg's cup with pyramid and butterfly close-ups

Shay Li's plate with hidden gecko - can you find it?!

September 30, 2010

Portraits in Orange

Scoots hasn't gotten his own blog post in a while and since writing is not happening tonight, I thought I'd dedicate this one to a couple of cute photos I got of him while snuggled in our IKEA pillow/fold-out blanket that we love.
Holding paws

I'll try to be a better blogger this weekend and actually give you guys some substance!

September 23, 2010

Crossing the Street

As I sat on my balcony yesterday taking a break from my work day (at home!), I observed a strange lesson. The kids in the kindergarten across the way were learning how to cross the street. I don't actually remember how I learned how to look both ways and then cross so it was a little fascinating to see how they were doing it.

Holding hands, a pair of blue backpacked little boys looked carefully down one side and then the next for approaching cars. Their teacher was a couple steps behind, allowing them a little independence in their lesson. They had to make the decision for themselves whether it was safe enough to cross. They let quite a few cars pass before a car finally stopped to let them cross the not-so-busy street.

In the end, I think they learned their lesson about being cautious, but I hope for the sakes of their companions that they also eventually learn the lesson of not having to wait for every car within a one mile radius pass before they can cross. I mean, a car four streets down will not hit you as you cross the road - unless you're wearing black at night and it's driving really fast. Just my thoughts yesterday- is it obvious I'm not a parent?!

September 20, 2010

How School Should Be...

When we think back about our days in middle school, we often can come up with a short list of memories. I'm sure for you that might involve some friends, teachers, and classrooms but not much else.

Last week, I went with 70+ eighth grade students to a small town called Hirschegg, Austria. We stayed at different mountain huts, hiked, repelled off rocky cliffs, and practiced some full-on rock climbing.

To many of you reading this, you might think that doing any of those things with a group of 13- to 14-year-olds doesn't exactly sound like fun. Especially the part where they do your safety check and belay you up and down a 30-foot rock face.

Well, I can let you in on a little secret: for as quirky as we all can be in middle school, the chance to work with young minds has always been rewarding. While being on the job for 24 hours a day for 5 straight days really thins out my "hourly" pay, but the chance to build solid relationships with my students will be what pays off in the coming months. And don't worry - I dropped in mini-science lessons at every turn unless the students brought it up first.

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