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.