January 20, 2010

Dogs in Munich

The best adjective to describe dogs in Munich is well-trained. One of the first weeks we were here, we went to the shopping mall and were astounded by all the dogs walking around without leashes and at a respectful, although close distance to their owners. No barking, no pooping, no shenanigans. We're still amazed by these dogs.

They train their dogs hard, but they love them, too. Our neighbors once brought their dog out to dinner with us. He sat on the bench they sat on with his little blankie, curled up and sleeping for most of the dinner. The restaurant owners didn't even look twice at him. Granted he's a little wiry-haired weiner dog, but still! Lately, I've seen his wide array of coats, which is not unusual for the dogs here or in Italy. A little more rough-and-tough style coats here; chic, trendy dog coats in Italy.

And today I saw a white and black dog in a cloth bag, hanging from the back of a lady's wheelchair. My question is: how did he get there?!? The lady obviously couldn't put him in because she was in the wheelchair and there was no way for him to just jump in. The fact that he stayed put and didn't go around chasing squirrels or whatever was unbelievable. Now that I think about it though, he could have been disabled too. Maybe he lives his life in that cloth bag on the back of that lady's wheelchair?

When you get a dog that misbehaves, it's such a relief! Yesterday, I saw a shaggy dog waiting outside the supermarket. Everytime the sliding doors would open, he would howl with a full-head tilt back. He'd quiet down until the next time the doors would open and then he'd start again. The lady in front of me turned around and said (what I'd like to think she said because I really have no clue) 'boy, that one has some separation anxiety.'

January 17, 2010

Cross-Country Skiing in Lenggries

We enjoyed a fantastic day cross-country skiing in Lenggries and we actually took along the video cam! Unfortunately, there's no footage of me wiping out, but trust me, I did... quite a few times. But Craig, a teacher friend who came along with his wife Sophie, also fell at the end (and he's Canadian so that's got to be a big disgrace to his country ;-).

We took a train out to Lenggries, which is only an hour away from Munich and has a few downhill ski hills as well. We did about 11 km of the cross-country skiing trails, which were all laid down by a caretaker and previous skiers. There were two tracks for what they call "classic" cross-country skiers, which was what we were doing. And then a trail for "skate" skiing on the side. This was more popular amongst the Germans - this was good for us because it was much less busy on the classic trails then.

Anyway, here's a mini-video Greg shot of us going down a minor hill. Enjoy!

January 11, 2010

Schnee-Biking Craziests

I know, I know... you all will stop reading if I keep talking about the weather. But today it was kind of exciting. We finally got the snow we were supposed to get this weekend! But the really exciting part is that I got to see all the crazies who come with the snow. Very specific crazies, indeed!! The biking enthusiasts who bike in the snow without snow tires.

It might even indicate something to you that I even knew there were snow tires for bikes. Even the postman delivered his mail on the bike today, although his is more of a tricycle with a box in the front and back for the mail. But he usually does that so that's not very exciting and I was not worried about his traction. On a side note, the postal system is fabulous here - so quick! And the post office people seem like they actually don't mind their jobs either.

In any case, biking in the snow without a helmut is not something I'm going to try any time soon. The idea of face-planting in a slushy, pebbly sidewalk appeals to me as much as "a stick in the eye" (as Greg would say, although now he's ranting about how the phrase shouldn't be used that way).

Oh well, that's us for you - traditional linguist vs. modern linguist. ;-)

January 9, 2010

Freezing Mist

We were supposed to get snow (LOTS OF SNOW) this weekend and instead, we got freezing mist! I don't know if you are familiar with this concept so let me explain *in the most sarcastic tone ever* - the rain freezes to the ground and can make walking like you're crossing a skating rink in your slippers. Lucky for us, it wasn't that bad.

And another side effect of freezing mist: any snow you did have is reduced to nothing special. Maybe it'll snow tomorrow when it's close to 8 degrees F, the coldest it's been here since I can remember. ;-)

Rant about the weather complete... enjoy the rest of your weekend!

January 5, 2010

Fair Verona

Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene

First line of Romeo and Juliet ~ Shakespeare

Our new year began with a train ride, heading south through the Alps to Italy. Ayelet and I must have looked like travelers of the past as we played games of cribbage and read while most other passengers our age were plugged into laptops or iPhones. Even the older Italians on the train were constantly on their phones. At first I thought they were hard of hearing for how loud they talked, but upon arriving in Italy, it became obvious that the Italians are just socially loud (compared to Munich).

Left to right: Ayelet on the old bridge; tower of San Zeno church; and front of synagogue

Our first mission was to find espresso for Greg and gelato for Ayelet. Since the day was January 1st, we ended up walking all the way to the center of the old city, Piazza (plaza) Bra before getting our fix in a cafe facing Verona's Arena (their mini-Coliseum).

The next day we were up early with plans to explore they city. The sky was cloudy with a warm humid air. We walked along the old city walls and were greeted by the local lawn care crew ~ a bunch of sheep! Our first stop of the day was San Zeno – a large church full of frescos and statues. We ended up right back at this same piazza 10 hours later for dinner.

Greg supervising the lawn crew

One wrong turn on the map and we were back in the old city to Ayelet’s eagerness. She was on the hunt for a new pair of boots (which we didn't succeed in finding). We had passed many closed stores the night before that just needed to be checked out. Our walk continued to a Roman theater that was being reclaimed by nature.

Roman Theater

Nearby was the Gusti Garden with its brilliantly trimmed hedges, sculptures and a labyrinth (Ayelet beat me to the center, but only after a head start [editor: sore loser is what I call it]). The sky turned dark as we climbed up a tower to the highest promenade with an amazing view of the city. As the hail and rain started, we sought shelter in the tower and remained dry. As the rain let up, we returned to the hotel to rest before dinner.

Ayelet celebrating her victory

On Sunday, our first stop was Porta Nuova (the old new gate of the city) and then off to the modern art museum for an exhibit on Corot and his transitionary role to impressionist landscape art (Greg's written another post on this...coming soon). A hike along the river ultimately got us back to the train station and six hours later, we were back home. Scoots made sure to remind us at 3 a.m. that he missed us with profuse head butting.

~ Post by Greg

January 4, 2010

New Year's Eve (Late's Better Than Never)

Before New Year's Eve, I wrote a post and then abruptly lost it (although Greg said he got it ??). In any case, it would have gone something like this:

Happy New Year's! We've had a great, jam-packed year and look forward to the next one. In Munich, they light fireworks [a severe understatement as you'll see below], eat little pink marzipan pigs for good luck and drink a special fire drink (although I don't know what's exactly inside).

Now, here's what I'll add to the above statement after actually going through New Year's Eve in Munich. It's insane. From the middle of the morning on, you could hear anxious party-goers begin lighting their fireworks. Greg even saw them light fireworks in the subway station. They were not environmentally friendly or safe when it comes to New Year's Eve, let me tell you.

We couldn't even think about sleeping until after 1 am because everyone on our street had to run out of their fireworks stockpile (enough for any small town USA, no joke). On the good side, we got to see everyone else's fireworks from the safety and warmth of our home. And enjoy we did!!

People had professional fireworks - not just the sparklers and bottle rockets common on the US' Fourth of July. They had the ones that curly cued and squiggled in glittery gold; bright, hot white sparks shot from a free-standing monsterous sparkler; green, red and blue pom-poms burst, then faded into sparkly dust; and streaks of all kinds of color launched into the air. Throughout all this, Scoots thought our house was under siege and remained alert in case he needed to defend his brown blanket.

I don't think I've adequately expressed just HOW MANY fireworks there were going off. From every angle you saw, fireworks were shooting out and they were so close because they were basically were our neighbors' own private fireworks show, every 50 feet or so. Halfway through the fun in the streets, the smoke from the explosions had already settled into a thick fog, obscuring the people below us and the kindergarten yard across the street. It was that crazy.

The Germans definitely rang in the new year with a bang... bangbangbangbang... bang.