February 23, 2011

Downhill in the Alps

One of my hopes since moving to Germany was to ski in the Alps. Finally, after a year and a half I pulled my ski goggles out of storage to spend a day in Scheffau, Austria.

(Decent variety of trails)
My expectations were low before we even left. I figured nothing would compare to the Rockies. This ski hill was technically lower in elevation than where we lived in Aurora. For the entire drive up, we barely saw any snow and it looked like it was going to rain.

Luckily the ski companies had been making so much snow that they had about a 1/2 meter base. The snow literally dropped off sharply at the edge to the grass underneath. Apparently the previous two weeks of above freezing weather melted any hopes for a long ski season. Still, after the morning clouds rolled away, Ayelet's uncle (Gil), cousin (Yuval) and I were able to cruise around the wide trails with very little traffic. Most people avoided the shallow slopes we were sticking to.

As many of you know, I used to ski in the US on a pair of used skis with the appropriately-named "aqua boots." Thankfully the top-notch rental operation in Scheffau got me a set of modern skis that offered everything I had been missing. No longer was I destined to look like I had come out of the 70s with my skis. I was able to cut and curve and really keep up with my 5-year old cousin!

[Editor's note: one of the cutest "images" I have of this day in my mind was when Greg told me how Yuval would follow Gil down the slope like a baby duck follows his momma.]

February 10, 2011

Cross-Country Skiing in Oberammergau

Greg and I had a beautiful time cross-country skiing in Oberammergau a few weekends ago. I'm worried that it might have been our last cross-country skiing trip of the season because February already full of other weekend activities and the weather has been spring-like recently. And then it's March, which should technically be spring, right?

It only took us about an hour and 45 minutes to get up there on the train, and the ski rental place was just down the street from the train station. We went with the trail along the river for the first kilometer or so. Then, we were in a flat-ish meadow (which is good for me because I tend to fall when I'm faced with even a slight downhill). With this particular trail, you could get all the way to Ettal, which is a monastery established in the 1300s in a valley amongst the Alps, but we didn't have the steam for it this time. The trail was lovely and quite easy. Nonetheless, people (even the 70+ year old men) were still passing us left and right.

At a good turnaround spot, we stopped at a little restaurant so we decided to stop for drinks and ordered a very good Kaiserschmarrn - a thick, scrambled eggy pancake-esque dessert sprinkled with chopped almonds, raisins and sugar, and served with apple sauce. Maybe it doesn't sound good, but it really is.

And some photos from our first trip there with my family the first summer we were in Munich:

Ettal monastery with Alps in the background

Greg and Gil trying on traditional Bavarian hats

February 7, 2011

Das ist Football

"Oh, that's the chick from Glee," I said at the opening song of Super Bowl XLV. However, if you were sitting between two guys in a dark bar in Munich, that did not make a great first impression. From that moment on, I was much more careful to make only "tough guy" comments. You know, stuff about sports, wishing one of the players' long hair was a mullet, and Jennifer Aniston.

My Super Bowl night in Munich was one to remember, although my brain was very hazy by the end of the game given the time zone difference. I actually arrived home at 5 a.m. for an hour of sleep before work. I watched the game at Naumann's Huttnwirt, which is a locals-only bar with a very welcoming bartender in her dirndl. I was meeting friends so she sat me at a big table with all the usual Super Bowl snacks - chips and salsa, beer, chicken wings, and marshmallows on a stick with a little kerosene burner for roasting. Oh, that and the confederate flag tablecloth made it just like EVERY OTHER Super Bowl party I've been to.

As we cozied up in our booth and watched the Packers jump to an early lead, I realized I was getting to see much more of the game than the average American. You see, the German channel had at least 2 booths at the stadium for their broadcast and never stopped airing the field. And all of the boring Super Bowl commercials you got to see did not make it onto the German station we were watching.  This struck me as strange because Ayelet and I watched the commercials tonight online - I think I saw at least 5 German car ads and even German words (Das Auto - VW). I guess most Germans already buy mainly German cars anyway so there's no need to advertise for them during the Super Bowl here.

Well, you all know how the game went and Wisconsin puts its mark back on the world stage for another 15 years. I'll leave you with some of the highlights I heard in the wee hours of the night.

"Rothesburger ist gesacked."
"Die Green Bay Peckers seben, Pittsboorgh Steelers null."
And my favorite.
"Die blah blah blah ist Trash Talking." *

* Yes, German sometimes still sounds like that last one to me.

February 6, 2011

Wonderful Birthday

Many of you know I celebrated a birthday at the end of January... and it was fantastic, mostly thanks to Greg. He started off the celebrations a week early with the iPod touch I'd been hinting at not very discreetly. After that, every morning I found a little wrapped present waiting for me in the guest room. We've never been big into giving presents because we hardly need anything, but Greg put a lot of thought into each one. It was very sweet.

I also had a wonderful lunch with my friends and aunt on Thursday; brunch at Cafe Beethoven with a piano player and cross-country skiing last Saturday in beautiful Oberammergau. Thanks for all the cards, pressies (as my British/Irish/Aussie/NZ friends call them), calls and e-mails! It was an absolutely amazing birthday week!

I'd like to share two interesting observations about birthdays here before I sign off. First, at work, everyone came to wish me "everything good on my birthday" or the rough translation of that, and shook my hand. It felt very formal. I did get two hugs from the 20 or so people I work with, but the rest were handshakes. I'm pretty sure it wasn't because I smelled funny because I've seen them do it to others before. Thankfully, there was no singing of the birthday song at work.

Secondly, it appears that some Germans (not sure if this is how everyone does it) will take their friends for a meal and pay for it all. The waiter at the place where we had lunch on my birthday told us one time they had a group of 30 in there and the birthday girl ended up spending 7000 Euros ($9,500+) on her dinner. That's 233.33 Euros per person (yes, I did get the calculator out for that one ;-)! Can you believe it?!?

And with that, I'll leave you with a photo of the flower coming off of our spider plant.