10 Reasons I Love the German Mountains

I first visited the Alps in 2001 as a 17-year old on a post-graduation France trip. It was my first time to see “real” mountains, and not from an airplane either. Initially our group had fought our teacher on the decision to do a 3-day extension to Chamonix at the end of our 17-day tour. We all wanted to go to Italy, but our teacher wouldn’t budge.

The kids last year hated Rome. It was hot and crowded.… we’re much better off going to the Alps,” she told us. We whined a lot, but it was to no avail.

We arrived in Chamonix after a hot and crowded few days in Paris. We were there for the end of the Tour de France, and so the city was packed and our un-airconditioned hotel provided no relief from the heat of the city in July. We were all country kids, we’d been traveling for two weeks, and this was so far out of our comfort zone it wasn’t even funny. But then…

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…and also this….

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I was sold. We took two cable cars and an elevator to visit the Aiguille du Midi, which gave us a view from 3842m. Far below us the brightly colored jackets of the mountain climbers stood out in the snow as they made their way up Mont Blanc. It was an amazing view, and I couldn’t believe that some of our group had opted out due to their fear of heights! 

On the way back down we took a break between cable cars and ran around the side of the mountain. There was snow in the shade of some of the huge boulders, and we went sledding in our jeans. We’d been traveling for over two weeks, it’s not like they were clean anyways. In the sun the grass was green and full of wildflowers. I wanted to change my name to Heidi, get some goats, and move on in.

Turns out, our Madame C. knew best. Just don’t tell her I said that. 

…………………………..

After France I had to lead a mountain-free existence for many years. It was sad, and sometimes I felt like Bilbo Baggins….

But then I came to Germany. 

One of my first trips in Germany was to Berchestgaden. And once again, I was hooked.

I love everything about the mountains in Germany. Here are 10 reasons why….

1) I love the rolling landscapes…

View from the Feldburg in the Black Forest

 

2) And the ummmm…. pointy-er landscapes…

View from the on the Zugspitze

3) I love getting to see the same views in summer and winter…

Both views from before heading up the Zugspitze

4) I love the picture-perfect mountain towns…

5) And the picture-perfect mountain town festivals…

All from Berchtesgaden

6) I love fields of sheep behind Alpine hotels….

In Ettal

7) And hiking through fields of cows wearing giant bells….

On the Feldburg. Shhhhh, don’t tell BV he’s on THE INTERNET.

8) I love whatever this is….

9) I love the view from the top…. oh, and the feeling of accomplishment from getting there on your own two feet….

View over the Blaueishütte, Berchtesgaden

10) And I love that you can get a beer at the top whether you took the hard way-hike or the tourist train (or bus, or cable car, or whatever).

At the Eagle’s Nest, Berchtesgaden. Shh, don’t tell my dad he’s on the internet either.
 …………………………….

Now I’m not saying that I’m looking into real estate or anything, because I’m not looking to “settle down” right now. But someday I would love to live in the mountains. I’m okay with being a city mouse for now, but in my opinion nothing would be better than waking up to this every morning…

Unless of course, it was if I was looking at that view from a house that looked like…

It’s a little close to the road for me, and a little big, but  you get the idea. Wooden shutters, geraniums, cows next door… I love it all.

And of course I’d have to go whole hog on the decor….

A little blurry, sorry.

But if you’re going to live in an Alpine-style house, you have to go all wood and floral and deer on the inside, don’t you? In retrospect I think this is all due to the fact that when I was a kid, I wanted to live David the Gnome’s house.

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And over a nice big fireplace, I want to hang these pictures. They are currently for sale at a nearby antiques shop, and I know this is REALLY WEIRD, but I love them. LOVE THEM.

Actually these pictures are what started this whole post off. Talk about a train of thought rerouting. Yeesh. On second thought, it might be time to leave Germany, because I’m clearly going insane.

Mountains? Beaches? Where do you want to go?

‘Tis the season for spiking things…

This week has not started off well. I wasn’t feeling great most of last week and spent most of my time laying on the couch or asleep. Then I pulled an ill-advised all-nighter to watch the Packers game on Sunday and spent all Monday wanting to die as a result. On top of that, I had a meeting with my bosses this morning that made me want to throw myself out a window. I’m a bit frustrated, and am so ready for vacation it’s not even funny. My wallet might disagree, but I am in dire need of a few weeks off. So that’s been part of the reason for the lack of posts again. But I don’t want to talk about feeling craptastic, so let‘s talk about something else, shall we?

At the risk of sounding like a borderline alcoholic, one of my favorite things about this time of year is the plentitude of delicious drinks. I wrote the other week about the increased prices of the Glühwein at the Nürnberg Christkindlesmarkt this year, and the complaints people had about that. After visiting the market last Saturday night, it’s safe to say that the extra 50 cents a cup is stopping exactly no-one from having a glass or ten. The market was packed, every Glühwein stand was crowded, and more than one person had that glassy-eyed “time for a sausage” expression that says they’ve had too many.

I only snagged one glass on that visit, but I have been sampling some of the other options around town. In that spirit, I present the first week of my Christmas beverage count:

One:

Last week I got my Christmas package from my parents, and as requested, they managed to track down the instant Starbucks Pumpkin Spice mix. Because a Lebkuchen latte is just not the same. Nice try, Starbucks Deutschland, but no dice.
  

 Two:
Nothing says “warm and cozy German evening” more than a guy turning up at your door with a bottle of Heidelbeer Glühwein. Normal Glühwein is a mulled wine with spices, but this adds a blueberry twist and it’s my favorite version so far.

 Three:
If you go to Bar Celona here in Nürnberg, you will find an assortment of special holiday drinks. I saw this on the menu, said, “really?” and promptly ordered it. It’s a Glühbier, and if you guessed that meant a mix of Glühwein and beer, you are correct. It pretty much tastes like you’d expect that to taste, and while I’m not sure I’d order it again, it was worth a shot. If I get back there soon, I’m trying the hot apple drink with rum and cinnamon next. That sounds promising…
 
Four:
 

The last drink of the week came on Saturday night when I actually ended up at the market. It was my first trip there this year and it was craaaaaazy packed. Too packed to see anything, and my crowd issues flared up again. I’m sure I‘ll be there at least a few more times this year, but I’ll be avoiding the weekend if at all possible. But that‘s another Heidelbeer Glühwein in the cup, and it warmed my fingers right up. Which is what you need on these chilly German evenings…

So that’s the first week of the holiday beverage season. In the name of research, I shall try as many things as possible in the next few weeks… that’s my Christmas gift to you. And me. Which brings me to my next question, any holiday favorites you can recommend? Or any other German specialties people have come across?   

Three Days in Deutschland: Day Two

For our Tuesday day trip, Courtney and I settled on heading down to Munich. I’ve been there a whole pile of times now (insert jaded expat voice here), but since there are plenty of options on what to do in a day there, that’s where we decided to go. 

Day Two: 

Courtney asked what there was to do in Munich, and we discussed the options. We could do a free tour, visit the Hofbräuhaus, the English Garden, check out some palaces, or the Olympic Park. But like many Americans who have been far over-exposed to the History Channel, when I said the word, ‘Dachau,’ she said, “let’s do that!” For me, I’ve done the concentration camp thing, both in the Czech Republic (Terezin), and in Poland at Auschwitz. I pretty much feel that if you’ve seen one horrible reminder of human tragedy, you really don’t need to see another. But since Courtney was into the idea and we have no idea when her sperminated self will be able to travel to Euro-land again, I said okay.

Again we used the Bayern ticket for our day’s travels, which very handily covers your trips on local public transportation as well. This was great in Munich, as we needed to use the S-Bahn for the 20-minute trip to the outskirts of the city where Dachau is located. When you reach the Dachau Bahnhof, you will have no problem finding the bus to the camp. Just follow the crowds of tourists with cameras slung around their necks. Done and done. The bus was horribly crowded, but at least we knew we were going to the right place.

The bus drops you off right at the Visitor’s Center, where you find the usual information center, cafeteria, restrooms, etc. Entrance to the site is free, but you can arrange for a tour, or pay less than 5€ for an audioguide. We picked up an audioguide and followed the stream of people down towards the gate. In front of the gate you can see the remainder of the brick road that prisoners were made to walk on from the station to the camp. 

Slight digression: There was a family a bit in front of us, and they all stopped for a photo op on the road by the gates. We saw this a few times throughout the day, and I saw it when I visited Auschwitz as well. I took a few pictures in both camps, but to me it just seems odd to have a picture of your family grinning away in front of the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ gate. It’s such an infamous image and in my mind there is nothing but sadness associated with it… I just don’t understand why you’d want a happy family photo in front of something like that. There are so many other great photo opportunities in Germany, I guess I’d just leave this one off the list. Okay, digression over.

Okay, so I think smiley photos are weird, but I did take a couple…

We started in the main exhibition building which you see in the picture above. Inside is enough information to make anyone’s head start to spin. It goes chronologically through the rise of the Nazi party, and the start of the war. There is also a history of the Dachau camp specifically, the different prisoners and groups that were brought to the camp, and what the conditions were like for the different prisoners. In the middle of the exhibition is a theater, and you can watch a movie that covers the history of the camp from the beginnings to the Allied liberation. If you have a weak stomach, I would skip the movie. That’s all I’ll say about that. 

After the film, we had enough of the exhibition, and headed back out into the sun.  That means we skipped the whole second part of the inside, which apparently covers the final years of the camp and liberation, but really we couldn’t see/read anymore. We had the audioguide, but there was more to read than our eyes could handle. Instead we went outside, and into one of the remaining bunkhouses that you can see. Afterwards it was a long walk down the tree-lined central road, past the foundations of all the long-gone prisoner houses.  Visiting places like this on a nice day always feels a bit strange, but not too much we could do about the weather. At the back end of the camp there are memorials from the Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish faiths, as well as a Carmelite convent where The nuns regard it as their duty to offer prayers of worship and atonement at this sight of immeasurable suffering and inhuman atrocities.” (via

From there we turned left and went to the site of the former crematorium. The sight of people snapping pictures inside made me kind of nauseous again, so it was a short visit for me. Once you’ve seen people-sized ovens, that’s kind of enough for the day. 

In short, if you haven’t been to one of these places before, and you have any interest in going, I’d say it’s worth a visit. Maybe it was just me, but it seems like we spent a ton of time in school studying World War II, and there are no shortage of shows about it on TV, so most people have at least some knowledge about it. But seeing it in person is a whole other horrifying experience. Both Dachau and Auschwitz were excellently done memorials, with more information than anyone should ever read in a day. That’s all I have to say about that, but if you want more info on Dachau, you can visit them at Dachau Memorial Site

After a few hours at the camp, we headed back into the city for a mid-afternoon lunch at the Hofbräuhaus. Because even though Courtney couldn’t drink the beer, that’s where you should go in Munich, right? On the way, we stopped at the Frauenkirche, Marienplatz, and saw the Rathaus/Glockenspiel. 

When we arrived at HBH (I’m lazy, sorry), I was a little surprised to see how empty it was inside. I’ve been there quite a few times now, and it’s allllllways busy! But when we got to the back of the restaurant, we could see that it was only empty inside because everyone was out in the beer garden! It was a gorgeous day, so we decided the garden was the place to be, and we grabbed the only free table we could see right next to the central fountain.

The waiter came around to take drink orders, and while poor Courtney was stuck with her typical German drink choice of Apfelschorle, I could at least indulge in a beer. I asked for a beer, the waiter looked and me and said halb?”

Seriously guy? What do I look like? A girl? An American? No sir. 

“Nein, ein Maß, bitte.”

Happily, Court could still pose with and smell my beer. Next trip she’ll get to drink some… 

Just like the day before at Weltenburg, the menu at HBH was a bit tricky for me to translate. They did have an English menu of course, but before we got one, I got to take a very amusing video of Courtney attempting to read the German one for us. Unfortunately I can‘t get the damn thing to load on here, but I‘ll work on that one for the future. Because it‘s funny!

I have no idea what we ate, bread and pretzels for a starter definitely, and I think Spätzle may have been involved, but I remember it was good. Food at HBH has always been good in my experience, so if you‘re in Munich, head on over. 

To walk off our lunch, we decided to go check out the Olympic Park in Munich, the site of the 1972 summer games. We got down into the U-Bahn and settled in for the ride. However, we had a few problems. 

The first problem came when two very loud middle-aged American women sat down across the aisle from us. They then proceeded to have a full-volume conversation about a large family group who got on, wherein they tried to deduce where the family was from, by spewing a whole pile of stereotypes right in front of them. Guess what? They might not understand every word you say, but most people here do speak SOME English. So when you’re talking about the women in brightly colored clothing/headscarves, and their several children/strollers, and the two guys with them, some of those people can probably understand you. They then went on to have a conversation with another woman who was definitely not a native English speaker, but was an  English teacher in Munich, who proceeded to wax philosophical about life in Germany. My favorite part came when she was describing how small the country was, and told the two Americans that Germany is 1/10 the size of Texas. Now, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure my geographical knowledge isn’t that far off. To be clear, according to the mighty and all-knowing Wikipedia, Germany is 137,847 square miles, and Texas is 268,581. Smaller? Yes. 1/10? Not even remotely close. I shouldn’t judge though… math isn’t some people’s strong suit. 

Idiots aside, a few stops into our trip we ran into train delays. We sat in one station for quite a few minutes, and heard some unintelligible announcements. Then, we found ourselves going backwards on the train. When we arrived in the next station we could see the delay announced on the notice board, and something about a bomb. Yep, a bomb. 

We were there August 28th, also known as the day when a 550-pound American bomb from World War II was found in the middle of the city. Needless to say, we weren’t getting anywhere we wanted to go at that point. Finding old bombs is fairly standard issue here, but this was the first time I’ve been so close to it. Here are a couple of articles, and videos of the explosion that we could have stuck around to hear that evening….

Spiegel Online: WWII Bomb Discovered in Munich City Center
BBC: WWII US Bomb Detonated in Munich

Courtney found it a bit ironic, as when she was studying abroad in France, she had to skip a planned trip to Madrid because of the bombings there. Maybe it’s her…

Since it was apparent we weren’t getting to the Olympic park that day, we scrapped the plan, left the U-Bahn, and did some wandering around the city before going back to the station to get a train back to Nürnberg. 

During the House Hunters International shoot, we were pretty much dead to the world at the end of the day, so we hadn’t been out in the city at all in the evenings. I decided that we should get out at least one night, so when we got off the train in Nürnberg, we went straight down to the river to one of my favorite places for an evening drink, the Kettensteg restaurant. This is a really nice beer garden and German restaurant right on the river near the Hallertor in the old city. I don’t have any pictures of it, but here’s one from the interwebz…

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We were joined for a drink by HP of my recent hiking adventures, because I felt that Courtney needed to meet some more of the lovely German people. So we had a nice evening by the river, and relaxed a bit before her last full day in ze Deutschland…

Three Days in Deutschland: Day One

After the insanity of the Budapest/Greece trip, I came back to Germany and into the insanity of the House Hunters International shoot. 

As I mentioned mid-shoot, my friend Courtney came over and was my co-contributor for the show. This was pretty awesome, as she had wanted to come visit me for some time, but couldn’t due to her insane schedule. For some reason she thought that working full-time, going back to school to become a nurse, and getting married last year were all more important than visiting me in Euro-land! The audacity, I tell you. But when I said, “hey, they want me to do HHI,” she pretty much jumped across the ocean at the chance to do it with me. That solidified my decision on whether or not to do the show, and got her ass over here, so I figure that‘s a win-win for everyone involved. 

I picked her up on Thursday morning, and we spent Friday-Sunday filming the show. But that left three days after we wrapped before she had to fly back to the States. I had some ideas about different things we could do, but hadn’t planned anything specific for her time because we thought it would be a bit better to just play it by ear. We tossed around a few ideas, but finally settled on just doing two day trips, and then going to Frankfurt the day before her early morning flight. 

Day One:

For our first day trip, we decided to go check out the Klosterbrauerei Weltenburg, which has been brewing beer since 1050. I’d wanted to go see this brewery for a few months, but hadn’t had the opportunity to do so yet. The only flaw in this plan (and the rest of the plans in Germany), was that Courtney had found out that she was pregnant one week after she booked her ticket to come here. Well played, indeed. But she said that if she didn’t visit one of the oldest breweries in the world, people would be disappointed in her, so off we went. 

The good news is that it isn’t just a beautiful old monastery, but the trip there is lovely as well. With our trusty Bayern Ticket in hand, we had a nice morning train/bus ride through the countryside to the town of Kelheim.  

From there, you can board a boat that takes you through the Danube gorge to the monastery. We did have some trouble finding the boat… it’s literally across the parking lot from the bus station where we got off, but as we had crossed a river on the way there, we walked back that way and found ourselves at the wrong place. This was partly due to my diabolical plan to make Courtney walk more than Americans are used to (sweeping generalizations!). No, not really. We just went the wrong way. But a bit of backtracking and we found the right place. 

I had heard from a few people that a nice thing to do was to take the boat to the monastery and then walk back (or vice versa), so we thought about doing that, but figured it was best to buy round-trip tickets just in case. That will run an adult 9€ apiece, and one-way is 5€. When we got on the boat, we were the only ones there, so we had high hopes that we would have the place to ourselves. After all, it was a Monday, so shouldn’t people be at work? But then again, it was the tail end of August, which means it was still holiday time here in Bavaria, so of course our boat filled up before we took off.

Courtney surveys the seating choices.
Boo, people.

One of the things I love about Germany is that you can almost always get a beer or an ice cream somewhere. Since we didn’t have breakfast yet, I skipped the beer for the moment. Instead we both opted for ice cream in orange juice. The best kind of breakfast!

The boat trip to Weltenburg takes about forty minutes, and they provide the usual boat tour commentary, in German and English, which was nice. They point out different things in the rocks, and I had flashbacks to the Dells Boat Tours back home. Fun stuff. Although I don’t think they serve beer on those boats. Anyway. It’s a nice trip up the river, and you can watch the less lazy people walking or cycling along the river path. 

I think there were faces here. But I don’t remember.
Prague reference: St. John of Nepomuk.

Weltenburg Kloster

When we arrived at the monastery, it was right about lunchtime and the beer garden was completely packed. We decided to walk around a bit, and I had heard that there was a nice view up the hill, so that’s where we started. 

Nun-spotting.

We followed these signs and found ourselves in a small store selling paintings, prints, and a whole lot of frames. I took the opportunity to do some Instagram self-portraiting…

After we had decided that we weren’t in the market for any paintings of old German gentlemen or birds, we continued walking up the hill. There were two paths to follow, both with the stations of the cross, but one going to the top of the hill, and one going to a small chapel. We went towards the chapel…

Path up the hill…
View down over the Kloster.
In the chapel.

Courtney resting her feet.
Sweet sunglasses pic!

After the chapel, we walked back down to see if we could visit the inside of the monastery itself. We went into the main church

… another Baroque hall….

 
…and a gift shop. Sorry, no photos of that. Disappointing, I know.

After our short tour, we were ready for some lunch, and luckily the beer garden had cleared out a bit so we could get a seat. Even more luckily, they had an English menu at the restaurant. I normally do alright with menus, but there was a fair amount on this one that I had absolutely no idea what it could be. And neither did Google translate on my phone. Not so helpful. I went for something off of the seasonal menu

Pasta with venison, mushrooms, and preiselbeeren. All the translators keep claiming that those are cranberries, but I don’t buy it. They’re too small and they don’t taste the same. Similar yes, but the same, no. Either way, they are often found with venison dishes, and it’s a good combination. And of course, I had a beer with it, which you can see up in the corner there. 

After we ate, we literally had to run for our boat in order to make our bus back. So there went our plan of walking back along the river. But the good news is that I got to have another beer on the boat. But if you plan on doing that, be aware that the trip back only takes 20 minutes. Which means that you might have to drink that beer much faster than normal. Consider yourselves warned. After that we grabbed our bus, and headed back to Nürnberg to plan our next day trip…
 
More information:
Weltenburger Kloster 

One Year In…

Today was officially my year-iversary here in Germany. I guess so far, so good. And now I’m officially committed with the iPhone to at least another 24 months. So that’s where we’re at. To celebrate (and this is really something to celebrate), I had some sweet-ass margaritas last night…

As they do in Deutschland, the margarita came in a martini glass. However, if this had been in a normal-sized margarita glass (with or without the cactus stem), we might have needed help to roll us home. These were stark, if you know what I’m saying.

And tonight, I had a couple of these to celebrate….

To be honest, Tucher is not my favorite beer in Germany, but that’s what they had, so that’s what we got. 

Happy anniversary, DE. Your garbage system is ridic, but I like you anyway. 

This Post Is Not For The Faint Of Heart….

In my musings yesterday, I mentioned seeing a particularly disturbing and (hopefully) unintentional cross-over ad campaign running around Nürnberg at the moment. The good news is that you are in luck, and I remembered my camera when I went to the city this evening and now I can share the glory with you all. 

But be warned: as the title says, this post is not for the faint of heart. So if you want your childhood imagination to remain pure and untainted, don’t continue reading. But if you’re prepared for the repercussions…. click on…..

SWEET MARY MOTHER OF GOD WHAT IS THIS?!?!?!

Granted, it has been a few years since I read “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” but I remember the following things being mentioned:

1) skin as white as snow
2) hair as black as night, or ebony, or something similar
3) lips as red as roses

I do not – I repeat – I DO NOT remember ANYTHING about a freakishly sized and shaped chest area. And are those dwarves not the creepiest things you’ve ever seen?? 

It is about 1.2 kilometers (.75 miles for you Americans) from my house to the train station. I walk that at least twice a day, at least four days a week. This billboard appears THREE TIMES between my house and the station. Does that seem excessive to anyone else? That means that I will see this at least 24 times a week. Holy Büsten overkill.

Now I just did a little looking into this, and it turns out that Veldensteiner Bier has been running this ad campaign since 2009, and it features the art of an Austrian guy named Bruno Haberzettl. Each year they have displayed three of his illustrations, and I am so, so, so hoping that they did NOT plan on having the timing of this ad coincide with the OTHER Snow White posters that are slapped all over town right now. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a movie out now called “Snow White and the Huntsman,” and so Kristen Stewart and her dead eyes are on every bus stop at the moment. So I’m really hoping this is a coincidence. Otherwise that’s super-creepy of Veldensteiner.

I quite liked the previous ad that was up a few weeks ago….

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Sorry about the crappy quality… they’ll only let you download a pdf. Lame. But you can check out the rest of the series here. The others are pretty funny, and not nearly as creepy as Snow White. I hope. 

This is why I don’t exercise.

I. Hurt. Everywhere.

Seriously, I just walked home from the Hauptbahnhof and must have looked like an 85-year-old. Not to mention getting up from my seat on the train which was a struggle. And it was  a struggle not to look like I was struggling. STRUGGLE.

I’ve never been the athletic type. You know how some people say they always got  picked last in gym class? I really, really, really always got picked last. It was usually me and the very overweight girl left standing there at the end of the kickball team selection. I was super-skinny as a kid, but hand-eye coordination has always been something that eluded me. Who am I kidding? Any coordination. I trip going up stairs. My glasses were always bent wonky because I routinely got hit in the face with stuff because I couldn’t catch to save my life. And running? Every time I try to run I feel like I’m going to die. In elementary school, a few girls had asthma, and I was pretty convinced I did too. My parents thought I was exaggerating and just hated gym class. I ABSOLUTELY hated gym class, but who wouldn’t hate something where they got hit in the face a lot and couldn’t breathe when they tried to run away? Seriously. Parents. 

Walking I can do. I will walk all day long. I will walk even longer if we can make stops for beers along the way… prime example, the Brauerienweg. When I was living at my parent’s house, I also used to go hiking all the time on the trails around our town. There was a four or five mile trail (depending which sign you read), and I usually did two laps around that. I would do that at least once a week, or up to four or five times, depending on free time and humidity/mosquito levels. I felt pretty good those two summers. On days when it was just too gross to leave the house, I did a couple of Crunch Yoga and Pilates videos that I could stream via Netflix, or walked on the walking treadmill that my parents had stuck in my room. That is probably the most exercising I have ever done in my life.

Before I moved abroad, I ordered actual DVDs of my two favorite workouts, and resolved that I would keep doing them. That totally didn’t happen… for several reasons.

  1. I’m lazy.
  2. Beer drinking is the national sport of the Czech Republic. Also, hockey. But I can’t ice skate. That involves coordination.
  3. I’m lazy.
  4. The CD drive on my computer died, so I couldn’t use it. I downloaded some other workout videos but wasn’t a big fan of any of them. 
  5. I’m lazy.
  6. I don’t like people seeing or hearing me exercise, and I shared airspace. What does that mean?

 Here’s my old room. Doesn’t it look nice and airy and bright? I bet it does. Here is why…



Yep. That’s the loft up there. Advantage: putting four people in a house for three and paying less rent. Disadvantage: never actually being alone. Ever. And on the other side of the wall is the living room, so if you were talking in any of those three rooms, everyone could hear you. Again, this is why I really appreciate my fortress of solitude these days.

Which brings me to today. As I mentioned last week, I have a new computer, and therefore a functioning CD drive. And I live alone. I’m still lazy, but after a long winter of eating cake every Friday, I decided I was out of excuses. I can’t keep rationalizing that my walk to and from the train station every day is a sufficient workout. Or the walks to meet friends. For beer. So over the weekend I decided to try and exercise. 

Via

For some reason, I very much enjoy weight-loss reality shows. I used to loooove Celebrity Fit Club; God knows why. I also love The Biggest Loser but the cast this year (or the currently remaining cast) completely sucks and makes me want to staple things to their heads. I miss Jillian Michaels and Anna Kournikova; I feel like they would have bitch-slapped the hell out of all of the contestants by now.

Anyway. I used to do this workout semi-regularly, and I vividly recall the first time…

It was the summer after I graduated college. (Young and foolish). I was still living in Eau Claire, and working at the grocery store deli where I worked during school. I ordered the video, struggled through it one day, and went to work the following day pretty much not being able to walk. It was particularly memorable, because we were expecting a state health inspector in the next week or two, so my boss had ordered a top-down scrubbing of the entire deli. The cold case, the hot case (small restaurant in front of the store), the cooler, the freezer, and the kitchen. My friend and I were brought in specifically to spend our entire eight hours scrubbing that day, and I could barely stand. I had to get milk crates to sit on and needed assistance to get up and down them. Needless to say, crawling on hands and knees and scrubbing every corner was a disaster. One of our employees was a very sweet friend of mine who was studying to be a physical therapist. She kept saying that is was the good kind of pain and I kept saying I was going to kill her and she was a crazy person. Who runs for fun? Crazy people. 

That should have taught me not to bite off more than I could chew. But nope. Yesterday I threw the DVD in, and got through about 20 minutes before I wanted to die. (There are two choices: 30 minutes or 50. I picked 50 because I’m an idiot.) So I decided to stop it there and switch to something more my speed. Also, another reason. *Full discretion: I’m still not sure if there is someone living below me. I don’t think so because the balcony still appears abandoned, but I was also afraid of someone banging on my door to stop jumping around like an elephant (at one point you’re alternating 30 seconds jumping jacks/30 seconds some other form of torture) and making so much noise because it’s Sunday.* Some people get kind of fussy about Sundays here. You’re also not supposed to mow the lawn. Anyway.

Via

So I switched out the drill sergeant for this…

This DVD was my favorite one at home. It was much easier than the boot camp nonsense, but you’re still stretching a fair amount of stuff that doesn’t get used when you…. drink beer. I was able to get through the full 45 minutes, but I’m sure my posture was completely shitty and I sure as hell didn’t do every rep. I guess that’s something to work up to. 

The hour or so of “work-out” was pretty much enough to render me useless today. At one point today I had to bend down and unplug my CD player from the floor jack and I damn near fell over in the process. That would have been mildly embarrassing in front of my students. And of course since there’s no way I’m going to be able to do the videos again today, that means it’s going to be difficult to make myself do it tomorrow. And the cycle of trying to exercise and failing begins.

This is why I don’t exercise. Also, ouch. 

The Ups and Downs of Amerikuh.

Over the course of my last few visits to the great land of Amerikuuuuuh, I started to put together a little list of pros and cons to the place. My students ask me all the time if I miss it, what I miss, why I don’t want to move home, what is good about it, what’s bad about it, and so on. 

Usually I try to be diplomatic, I acknowledge the positives and negatives, but I don’t want to put my bias on things too much. Plus it is exhausting sometimes to explain things. Particularly with the election coming up. I’m looking forward to the time when there are only two candidates competing, because the current three-ring circus is really a pain in the ass to try to explain.

Election aside though, here are some things that I enjoyed at home, and naturally, some things that made me crazy. Read on…

Living in Amerikuh: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Category: Food, Drink, Restaurants
Pro: The amount and quality of Mexican food available. Oh man, do I love a chimichanga. And the margaritas? Delicious and normal-sized. I haven’t found any decent Mexican food in Nürnberg yet, and my hopes are not high. There was a great place in Prague, and the margaritas were lethal, but they were about half the size of an American margarita. Visuals!

 

And just look at that disgusting portion size. Which leads me to the next…

Pro: The doggy bag. Sure you can get them here, but if I go out to eat at home, I almost always come home with lunch for the next day. 

Pro: Exotic and inventive beer flavors. In Wisconsin, we have tons of different breweries and there is always something new to try. Don’t get me wrong, I love German beer, but I like the variety you can get at home. 

Why hello there, Leinie’s Fireside Nut Brown and fire. I’ve missed you. 

Con: American beer gives me a far worse hangover than German beer. I had a particularly rough day following a night of way too many Batch 19’s, a pre-prohibition style lager. Delicious, but not good. 

Pro: Free refills. Soft drinks or water, bring them on. You can say to the waitress, “Diet Coke and keep ’em coming.” This is amazing. Some people might include ice in this pro, but I don’t love a ton of ice in my drinks, so that’s not a big deal to me.

Con: Unintended calories. I almost never order soda at restaurants here; I’m much more likely to get a beer. But if I do, I have one Coke Light. In the U.S., I might drink four or five. Not so good for the diet.

Pro: Quick service. If you want to go to a restaurant on your lunch break, it’s no problem. On more than one occasion here, we would not have had to ‘dine-and-dash’ so much as ‘dine-and-leisurely-stroll-away.’ Or if you want a refill, or dropped your fork, or whatever, they’re right there. 

Con: Several times at home, I found myself saying, “Well, I guess we’re done now because the check is here.” I’m sorry, but if my friend drove two hours to have lunch with me while I’m home, we are staying there as long as we want to. The lunch rush is over, the restaurant is empty, we aren’t hogging a table, deal with it. And you can just keep walking past the table all day, we’ll pay the check when we’re good and ready. There were a few times when we wanted to have another drink, but because we had told the server that we “were good,” previously, they brought the check. I like that in Europe you ask for it. Seems like a better idea than the server constantly coming by, wasting their time, and interrupting your conversation for no reason.

Category: Shopping

Pro: Sales, coupons, buy-one-get-one-free. Yes, Europe has sales, but not to the extent we do. Get on that.

Pro: Sometimes here you need something and have no idea where the hell to get it. At home, you know exactly where you need to go. You can find anything you could possibly need.

Con: This certainly doesn’t apply to everyone, but for me, it’s a 25-minute drive (minimum), to the nearest shopping centers. And by that, I mean strip malls, Target, etc. (There is a Wal-Mart 15 minutes away, but I don’t do Wal-Mart.) If you want a full shopping mall, it’s more like 45 minutes. So if you go all the way “into town,” as my parents say, you should probably make sure you get everything on the list. 

Pro: Target. I miss Target like the desert misses the rain (thanks, Everything but the Girl).

Con: Every time I go into Target, I end up spending four times what I planned. You go in there for cat litter and conditioner, and come out with shirts, jewelry, makeup, a DVD, random groceries, cat litter, and conditioner. I don’t know how they do it but they make me overspend every. time.

Con: Everything smells. A lot. I’m a bit sensitive to smell, and I had to leave the Yankee Candle store because it was too much for me. One of my friends here asked me to bring her some products from Bath & Body Works, and it was almost painful to be in there. Don’t get me wrong, people here love their perfumes and cosmetics, but the amount of scented products in the U.S. is absurd. Even showering gave me a headache from all the scented junk in the shampoo/conditioner/body wash. 

Pro: I now LOVE infomercials. They are amazing and hilarious. I mean, Pajama Jeans, really?

Or the magic screen door?

Con: The amount of crap for sale that no one needs. But thanks for the entertainment.

Pro: I still have a lot of stuff at my parents’ house. So I basically get to go shopping in my own closet. Which is fun. 

Con: Feeling bad for using my parents’ house as a storage facility. Playing the “keep or give away?” game. Wondering what is worth it to keep, and what should go… why hang on to all this stuff if you’re not using it because you don’t live in the same country. But then if you move home, you’ll have to buy all new kitchen utensils. Sigh. It’s a struggle.

Category: Entertainment 

Pro: Watching first-run shows on a normal-sized television.

Con: Constant, relentless ads that are screaming at you. (Minus the infomercials of course). I think every time I watched TV, I had to adjust the volume between the program and the commercials. They are so loud, it’s unbelievable. And don’t even get me started on all the ads for prescription drugs. When all the side effects you list are A THOUSAND TIMES WORSE than the condition the drug is supposedly treating, it is beyond me why anyone would take it. 


What. The. Fuck. Ridiculous.

Pro: Hearing songs that you forgot you liked on the radio.

Con: You like Don McLean’s “American Pie” a lot less when it’s been stuck in your head for four days.

Pro: Understanding everything that’s going on around you.

Con: Having information overload because you are trying to read every word and listen in on every conversation that is happening. Headaches ensue and it becomes very difficult to focus on the person you are with that is actually talking to you. 

Pro: Going out with old friends.

Con: Not being able to hear what they’re saying because the music is so loud and you’re trying to listen to lyrics, the conversation behind you, and lipread the guy across from you. Remember: just because you understand everything does not mean you have to.

Pro: Turn on the TV and you can find news. No internet required, it’s right in front of you 24-hours a day.

Con: The American media is absurd. I particularly enjoy how they manage to beat a news story to death without actually having any information yet. To paraphrase:

Reporter: “Well Jim, we’re standing in front of the apartment building where something has happened.”
Anchor: “Thanks Trish, what can you tell us so far?”
Reporter: “Police were called to the scene about thirty minutes ago, but that’s really all we know so far.”
Anchor: “Were there any witnesses?”
Reporter: “No Jim, but neighbors saw the police car arrive and are now standing around. Let’s talk to one now. Excuse me sir, do you know what happened here?”
Random Guy: “Nope.”

I wish I were kidding. I remember watching TV one summer day in college; we didn’t have cable, I had the day off from work, and it was raining. So on the one channel we got, every commercial break all day long, I heard “local nursing home celebrates 20th anniversary! Story at 5p.m.” I’m sitting there saying, “isn’t that the story? What else can there possibly be to it?” But then again, nonsense news did bring us this guy:


So I guess it’s not all bad.

Category: People and Critters 

Pro: Everyone is friendly. People hold the doors and ask “how are you today?” at the cash register.

Con: I’m not a big fan of small talk. I don’t want to make it with the chick in line in front of me at Kohl’s, the cashier at the gas station, or the girl in the bathroom at the restaurant. Yes, the line is long, that doesn’t mean we have to talk about it. Sorry. 

Pro: I get to hang out with my dog. 

Con: Sleeping in our house is difficult, as the dog will hang out outside the door in the morning. She will cry, bark, and try to dig a tunnel to China until you wake up and let her in.

Pro: My sister and I composed some songs about the dog and her difficult life. We also have very loud conversations with her when she’s being particularly annoying, and it’s pretty funny. Helmets for all.

I think that about does it. If anyone has anything else to add to the ‘Living in Amerikuuuuh Pros/Cons’ list, by all means, go for it!     

Airport Update.

Like I said, my layover is too damn long. But a few more notes from Cinci….

People-watching at the airport is the best thing ever. Some of my favorites thus far include:

  • Every kid on the flight to Orlando a few gates down. So. Many. Mickey Mouse. Ears.
  • The one kid NOT wearing mouse ears, but wearing a Superman cape and whooshing around the terminal. 
  • All the ladies wearing nice traveling outfits… cute tops, nice pants, scarf, and blinding white Nikes/Reeboks/insert other athletic shoe here. Oh, Americans. 
  • Busy business people rushing around doing their George Clooney in “Up in the Air” impressions. 
  • The 5 or 6-year old girl walking in front of me who had the most adorable suitcase ever. It was pink (of course), sparkly, and had a Eiffel Tower/Arc de Triomphe motif. I wanted it. 
  • The gorgeous stewardess who strode confidently down the terminal wearing knee-high f*ck me boots. You know that she’s not only in the mile-high club, she’s the frickin’ V-P of it. 

So I totally caved and had a beer. But they had Kentucky Ale! And I’m in Kentucky! I should support the local economy and such. Sadly they don’t have Kentucky Ale glasses, so here it is in a Blue Moon glass instead….

Extra bonus: When the waitress set it down she said, “It’s coming out with a lot of foam so I think we’re gonna 86 it after this.” I had no idea that 1) people were still saying ’86’ and 2) it would sound so funny in a little Kentucky twang. Amusements. Plus she called me honey about 50 times. There’s the charm. 

Expat moments…

Some days being an expat is super exotic, interesting, and blah blah blah. And then other days, it’s more like this….

Yep, that’s my boys, the Green Bay Packers, with a side of German beer. And it’s halftime so you get a quick post.

There aren’t a tremendous number of things I miss from the U.S., but I do miss relaxing on the couch on a Sunday afternoon with a fridge full of football treats (guacamole or bean dip, Snyder’s pretzels, normal pizza, etc.). Huddling around a laptop like a hobo is just not the same. (Do hobos have laptops?) Not to mention staying up late because football games start here anywhere from 7pm to 2am. Gah. But German beer complements American football just fine. 

Speaking of beer, here’s a sure sign that winter is approaching….

Oktoberfest is out, Winter beers are in. Additionally, construction has started for the Nürnberg Christkindlesmarkt, so expect photos on the way from that! 

And lastly, here’s something you wouldn’t see in the States… in case you can’t quite tell from the bottle above, here’s a close-up shot!

Yep, sweet, angel-faced cherubs or Kinder enjoying their seasonal beer. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a bottle of Miller, Bud or Coors with kiddos on the label. Cultural differences are fun! And in this case, kind of adorable.