April 23, 2011

Biking to Starnberg

There was a point during our 20 km bike ride to Starnberg See (lake) yesterday that we thought we wouldn't make it there. We happened to get lost and end up in the middle of some forest track that city bikes were not well-suited for. Luckily, we weren't the only idiots who got lost, which made me feel better at least. Even two German riders missed the sign to turn. Getting back on the right track was much easier than I thought.

In general, biking anywhere is pretty easy. The whole country - both city and rural areas - is connected by lots of trails and bike-specific paths. There's usually lots of places to stop along the way, too, if you feel thirsty or hungry.

The ride yesterday - despite the getting lost part - was great. We were biking through small towns, pastures full of spring flowers, cool pine forests and refreshing streams. Sadly, we didn't have our camera with us, but I found the one below of Starnberg See on flickr.

thanks to spirosk from flickr for this pic
We ended our bike ride with a gelato along the lake - tiramisu for Greg and pistachio for me - and a walk along the boardwalk. Lots of people were out enjoying the beautiful weather so it was fun to people watch as well. Hopefully, Greg and I get to explore on our bikes again soon.

April 18, 2011

Back in Bayrischzell

Last weekend we went tree hunting.

European Larch (Larix dedidua)
There were no rules or actual objectives when we started off our hike in Bayrischzell (skied here in the winter). Greg had just won 40 cents off bets with Ayelet, grabbed his borrowed tree guide book, and we started our hike up the Wendelstein King-Maximilan Way.

The path was quite empty, once again reinforcing our idea that Germans tend to get a late start on Sundays. We did see many people on our way down, but on our way up this mountain in the Alps all we ran into were wildflowers, trees, and piles of animal crap. We decided that the trail doubled as a path to get the animals to mountain pastures in the spring.

Beech (Fagus sylvatica) - looks like elephant skin
As we hiked up the hill, Ayelet and I were happy to focus on the many different species of trees along the way. We realized that many of the trees we saw have some very ornate expressions in the spring. We settled on identifying 3 for the afternoon. You probably think, "That is not too many," but it is a start. For our readers, I will even call it a challenge for you to identify more trees (or species) in your local habitat. Let me know what you find and have happy spring!

Norway Spruce (Picea abies)

April 8, 2011

It's all different in the second year

Now that we've been here more than a year and a half, it feels like there's been some changes since our first year in Munich.

- I can read the paper much easier now so we have more cool, fun stuff to do on the weekends and at night. In general, I think we know more of the surrounding areas, streets and neighborhoods so it's easier to figure out where things are.

- Greg and I like to meet up midweek to go out to dinner in the city. It's so easy with the metro system and it makes the week go by faster when there's an unexpected meetup. Like this week, Greg suggested the place, found it and took me out for pizza on Thursday night. Very sweet!

- I understand a little bit better what the Germans are saying to me when they ask me questions. I'm still horrible at answering anything beyond the normal questions or if I'm tired/hungry/distracted, but I can give directions, make appointments and order food like a pro.

- I understand that not everyone bags their groceries quickly like I first thought. Now I find that I get impatient when someone takes too long to bag their groceries. It's like c'mon, everyone's going to think I'M the slow one here! I only take pity and relent for the infirm or the elderly - those with children have no excuse. They're never too young to learn the art of fast bagging, in my opinion.

- I am much more accepting of help and of being helpless. I think of myself as a fairly independent person and a strong-minded person as well. But since being here and traveling around (especially in Budapest last month), I've realized there's often times when you are much better off not knowing everything. You might never have found that fantastic restaurant if you didn't lose your way or you may been saddened if you knew exactly what that person was saying to you on the metro. Things like that. :-)

It has been a very fun year and a half - we're counting down the months to our trip back to the US (only 2.5 more) and then our move to Ecuador (4 more...OMG!).

April 3, 2011

A Few Nights in Neuss

I have managed to get a few extra opportunities to travel in Germany to areas that we had never planned to visit. I never thought I would get to travel for my job - as a teacher. It wasn’t really in the job description.

To make a long story short, I decided I wanted to try coaching for once. The differences of an international school from an American school are pretty major so I won’t get into that. I would like to mention one of the benefits. No, it is not that I get to chaperone 10 middle school boys on 6-hour train rides across the country. It has been this extra opportunity to travel. When we arrived in Neuss, I was excited to have a night away from the boys and go explore this small city. Very few of the international schools seem to be located near a city, but I was able to walk from the school to my hotel.

After settling in I made a quick move to go find toothpaste because it was 6:30 p.m. and German stores tend to close early. I instantly found a pedestrian street with stair-stepped roofs and a bustling after-work crowd. Every time a side street appeared, I turned down to see what it had to offer. There was an amazing diversity of places in the small area from the cathedral-dominated square to the green tree-lined river to the small Turkish town to a cafĂ© filled plaza. 

Spring was in the air with the fresh moist scent of flowers and tons of blooming trees. I realized this city was telling me a story. For example, I kept seeing old city walls. My guess was that Neuss had a good reason for having what looked like lots of protection in its past.

As always, my mind keep going back to my usual travel buddy and how I wished she were able to join me. Anyway, this teacher will keep goin’ walkabout. You can be sure to hear about the next adventure soon: Rome.