February 28, 2010

Interesting Lesson about Banking Here

It's always fun to talk to the bank. You learn all this stuff that they don't tell you unless you hound them for the answer. Fun fact of this month: there is a fee they charge every time we use our debit cards!

Beyond the fee that we pay each month to keep the account open, we also pay for the privilege of having our cards because they don't accept normal credit cards here. We can hardly ever use our Visa card, American Express, etc. This is just one example of the nanny state Germany sometimes feels like. It makes one miss all the choices available in the States.

I should specify here that the charge is not a lot, but it highlights the major difference in opinion about how cards are viewed here versus the US. Germans would rather do cash for everything than risk going into debt. They don't trust themselves to keep track of their money if it's not on hand (of course, they're so organized, they'd be the best at it). In this instance, it's not like the Americans (or Ami's as my co-workers told us is the slang word for Americans in German) do it much better with their crazy amounts of debt. I wish there was something in between that would blend the traits of the two countries.

Prague Day 2 and 3

Continuing on with Prague... On the second day, we hiked up to the Prague Castle (with a stop in a great bead/jewelry store). We got there at the right time because the guards were changing and their band was playing, too.

Left to right: Entrance to Prague Castle; Greg in front of St. Vitus Cathedral looking pensive (and cold!); and the stained glass in St. Vitus Cathedral

The castle actually consisted of quite a few buildings within it. We saw St. Vitus Cathedral (beautiful stained glass windows all around), a Romanesque church, Vladislov's hall and the Golden Lane full of little houses and shops (one where Kafka lived at one point). We had a fantastic view of the city from up there.

Left to right: Ayelet on the Golden Lane; view from the Charles Bridge; and Greg makes a friend.

After the castle, we walked across the Charles Bridge and randomly found a pizza place for lunch. We even got the happy hour deal because our lunch was so late! Greg was very happy with that. He was still recovering from his cold so we headed back to the hotel to relax and warm up before crossing the river again to try out a lovely Spanish tapas place. The tapas were similar to the ones served in Spain so it brought me back. The Manchego plate and tortilla espanola were especially delicious. Afterward, we tried to watch a band in a bar, but they still allow smoking in the Czech Republic, much to our dismay! With Greg being a little sick, it wasn't worth making him feel worse by staying there. C'mon Czech Republic (and Austria), smoke-free is the way to go!

On our last day, we went to the Museum of Decorative Arts for its Swedish and Czech glass exhibit. This was a quirky museum filled with more than that! They had old clocks, fabric, textiles, Czech jewelry, furniture and commercial Art Nouveau posters. After that, we had lunch and grabbed some bagels (from the fabulous Bohemian Bagels) for the train ride back. Since then, we thankfully have found a nice bagel shop in Munich.

All in all, it was a lovely trip and a great city. We highly recommend it! We'll leave you with the view of Prague's famous Astronomical Clock (and all the gawking tourists)!

February 22, 2010

Beautiful Day and Taxes

First off, it was a gorgeous, teasingly Spring day today. Scoots even felt it - and showed it by acting all crazy most of the evening. I must have been feeling it too because I totally forgot to season my quiche. The sun was shining for a big part of the day and it was just warm enough to keep our jackets unbuttoned and scarves hanging loose.

Second, I had to pick up my tax card today for my job. Unlike my work permit frustrations, I have to say they made it much easier to get a tax card. The longest part of the whole ordeal was when I went up two flights of stairs to be told to go to the basement (or so I thought) and then to figure out they must have said to go to the first floor (where I had come from in the first place). But I was proud of the fact that I conducted all these conversations about asking directions and telling people what I was there for in German. It feels good to have the power to communicate with the locals after so many months of being helpless. Now I obviously need to work on my understanding of the responses. ;-)

Anyway, basically what I got out of today was that the government here hates the idea of me working in German, but it loves to take my money - about 20% in taxes and 10% in health insurance/social security. It's all part of living somewhere different though.

February 21, 2010

Prague Day 1

Sorry for the week-late post. It seems like after even a small vacation, it takes a while to catch up. We both loved Prague for its charm, walkability, great architecture and yummy food (as described in this post). Our first day we did a walk around town, visiting the old town and Jewish Quarter. In our borrowed guidebook, we saw that because Prague has been largely spared from bombings in past wars, there are plenty of different architectural styles throughout the city.

On the way from our hotel into the city, we stopped off at the Powder Tower and Obecni Dom (municipal building) next door. The Powder Tower was blackened with age and stood at a contrast to the municipal building, which was Art Nouveau from top to bottom.

In the Jewish Quarter, the most amazing sight was the Jewish cemetary. Just piles upon piles of grave markers all slanted at different angles and in different levels of decay. I tried to read some Hebrew on the gravestones for Greg, but it was pitiful. Apparently, almost 100,000 Jews had been buried there over the years, mostly in levels one on top of the other. I wish we had photos of this part, but instead I've found a good one from Flickr. In the ceremonial hall, they had paintings of how it would have looked like when it first started being used. They helped to imagine how the cemetary fit into the quarter.

Thanks to CxOxS for this one of the Jewish cemetary... now just imagine this whole thing snow-covered.

The Jewish Quarter itself changed throughout the years depending on the situation the Jews found themselves in in that particular century. Sometimes the leaders tolerated them, sometimes they hated them. As usual, a cyclical history of mild tolerance and severe intolerance continued.

We stopped off for a late lunch at the fantastic vegetarian lunch place, Lehka Hlava. Take a look at the photos in their gallery in the link. The room we were in was the night sky room with big comfy chairs and lighted wooden lookalike tables. The waitress actually came around in the room at one point with incense that smelled like campfire. Greg unfortunately was too stuffed up to taste the flavors, but it was a fantastic lunch. He instead kept the bowl of fresh mint tea near his face for most of the time. The fresh mint tea was the best over there!

I'll post the rest of the days in Prague over the next week *hopefully*. For a sneak preview, here's the link to our photos. Enjoy!


February 17, 2010

First Impressions of Prague

After a delayed start to our long weekend, we caught the train to Prague on Saturday evening. It was cold (colder than Munich), but still lovely to walk around amongst all the buildings, each with its own beauty to add to the city. The people were not particularly helpful - we got many blank stares to questions and even had a luggage locker attendant who repeatedly shrugged her shoulders and lifted her hands in antipathy to Greg's requests for change. However, many people knew English and that was a help since we couldn't remember the words quickly enough for thank you (dekuji) or the check please (Uchet prosim) in Czech. Getting an English word out of them was easier than getting a smile or *horror of horrors* a giggle.

Steering clear of Czech food as it is not vegetarian-friendly, we ate at some awesome places - vegetarian hippie place that was actually clean and used their spices in moderation; Spanish tapas (ay, manchego y tortilla espanola); Italian happy hour pizza and pasta; Bohemian Bagels (that's the actual name of the place - great for a bagel fix); and Mexican burritos and quesadillas. Not bad variety for a city! If anyone's going there soon, let me know and I'll hook you up with some names.

And I'll leave you with that because I'm beat and tomorrow is my busy day of the week with German in the morning and work in the afternoon. The one Czech word we were excited to use never came up so I'll use it here: "Ahoy" (hello) as in "ahoy to my bed, good night to you."

February 9, 2010

Schliersee in Winter

A few of you might remember this post (http://goinwalkabout-golz.blogspot.com/2009/09/cake-for-lunch.html) in which we went out to Schliersee in the fall and had cake for lunch! Greg and I decided to go on a daytrip with a few friends back to Schliersee where we thought we could cross-country ski or snowshoe. Turns out we could do neither - the ski shop was closed and there were threats of avalanches around the snowshoe trails. So, we opted to do the 7km hike around the lake. It was a lovely day with the clouds turning into some sun and warm enough for a good walk. It's a beautiful area with snow and without. You can check out our photos here:
Walk around Schliersee

We're off to Prague on Saturday for a few days, and we'll be sure to post pictures and updates when we return.

February 1, 2010

Birthday Week Successfully Completed

I'm a big fan of my birthday because it's the one day in the whole year that everyone has to be nice to you. It feels like even strangers know not to mess with your birthday. So I've commandeered it and stretched it out into an entire week of fun. That explains the long absence of blog posts... sorry!
Here are some highlights in pictures from the week:
Left to right: hanging out our buddies at our place; blowing out the candles at our tapas-game night; and me with my schnecke and candles care of Treas and the hausfrauen.

And here are a random one I just got of my aunt and I (back when she was here in November):

Lastly, a picture our friend took of another teacher friend while he was biking to school