Sunday, May 24, 2009

Week 12: The Ultimate Deutschland Experience

This was a great weekend, full of hardcore DE experiences. And another entry where video need to help me out to really get some of this across.

Since Thursday was a holiday, we had 3+ days to play with and couldn't go out of town cause 1/2 of Eric's birthday present kept us here for Saturday. More about that, when I get to Saturday. :)

Thursday was a fantastic and unexpected pretty day, so off we drove, southbound to the DE. Here's a cool map you can see of where we went! First stop was Kochelsee, a lovely lake surrounded by mountains. We had some cheese, crackers, juice, bier, and chocolate, dunked the kids, went for "brief" alpine swims, and saw an old german lady sunbathing topless. Classic DE.

Back in the car, and southward where we got a little "lost" and ended up on a very bad, winding, SKINNY road. After passing the a couple huts and t-bars, realized we were driving on the cat-track of a ski area! hmm. A nice lady hiking pointed us to the less steep "cat track" and we ended up at this drop-dead gorgeous, Heidi-like place with a bierhut, little lake, and gang of dirt bikers. Perfect! We stayed there for a while (while Eric had a conference call... ) and picked flowers, rolled in grass, and took pictures. Made me want to break out in Sound of Music leaps and singing.

Back in the car, found a lonely goat/sheepherd high on a hill, yodelodo yodelodo yo hey hoo, and wandered towards Garmisch- which we've been within 10 miles of now 3 times, but have never gone in! Stopped at a restaurant to get dinner and WOW- yodeling accordian player, dancing lederhosen boys-- again, this was a good day.

Friday was somewhat normal because Eric had to work, but then comes Saturday. I'll turn it over to Eric to describe his day:

For my birthday, Laurie gave me a day of driving at the BMW Fahrer Training. They basically handed us a 270 HP 330 and we got to run through the courses. Braking- fun. Braking with an obsticle- very
fun. Understeer training on a tight circle- awesome. Oversteer training on a tight loop with sprinklers- very awesome. Overall, a fun day and good training on how to drive a car under extreme circumstances. The good part is that I learned how to drive a high performance BMW, not sure if this will help with driving a lumbering van to Mazama. We posted a short version of the video here.
For the longer 10 minute version, click here to see it on YouTube. The instructor's directions are particularly humorous.

Meanwhile, the kids and I rode the bike up the Isar about 15 KM and found a nice spot to sit and play with rocks. Miles found two sticks that became his bass guitar, and they had a little impromptu show on the beach. That night, we took the tram to Hirschgarten, a beer garden we've been meaning to go to. I think it's moved to near the top of the list- every food you could imagine (DE food, that is), ping pong tables everywhere, boules, basketball, a carousel, and several playgrounds. Oh, and did I mention the deer you can feed? Yeah. Great place. :)

AND TODAY, Sunday, I am happy to say, I am caught up on the blog. :) This might end up being my favorite DE slideshow- classic.

Week 11: Hittin the Path(s) Less Travelled

Now that our germs are in check, and we've realized we're over the 1/2 way point, we're cranking up the travel a notch. It's very hard to be here and not try to go everywhere.... So we went two directions we haven't gone yet this week!

Can you believe we're in the CZ in 2 1/2 hours from Munich? We can't. It takes us longer to get to the cabin in Mazama. Twice as long, in winter. The locals think we're a little crazy with this tolerance for driving "that long," but really, when you're on the autobahn, driving nearly as fast as you can stand it through fields of dandelions, um.... it's not that hard to do. :) And Cesky Krumlov is in Bohemia, so for a weekend, we were truly Bohemian. Cool!
We were surprised at how interesting this 36 hour jaunt was.
The contrast of bleak and beautiful, old and new, eastern / western stood out in so many ways, like how we past several typically "Eastern Block" looking factories that have been converted into solar power plants. And then we were driving through gorgeous countryside and suddenly see some exposed ladies looking for business along the highway, and a farm with a big neon "Amor" sign on the side. All this surrounded by soft, unmanicured fields of grass and wildflowers. So surreal! I actually made Eric turn around so I could take a quick picture (he sped up a bit so no one would get excited and think we were bidness...)

So back to more G-rated discussion- Cesky Krumlov is a very old, beautiful town, with many of the buildings dating to the 1300's. The most striking thing was how totally 2-dimensional the buildings are on the surface, but then they have bricks and gargoyles and facades painted on them. So different! The detail was incredible and really contrasted against how smooth and flat really the surfaces were- afterall, the buildings were "canvases." The castle was amazing- covered in painted on brick and figures and surrounded by archway corridors, old stone walkways and even had a moat- with bears in it! Real live bears. Apparently this started in the 1600's and has continued to this day (although they're really an attraction now-- not trained to eat castle-stormers, but I'm sure they could)

Cesky Krumlov also had an amazing playground- along the river Vltava- where the kids played on a climbing wall built into the old city wall while we sat for a few hours enjoying original "Budweiser" beers and soaking it all in.

So we rested up and did our weekday thing, then it was off again, this time Northbound to Oslo, Norway. I've been waiting for this trip since I was 15, and got really into Edvard Munch. :) (The Munch Museum is in Oslo).

This was a fantastic time to go really- to visit our friend Johanne, get to the Munch Museum (finally) AND over the REAL Syttende Mai - how perfect! (For people who don't live in Ballard, Seattle's proud Norwegian roots run deep in Ballard, and to celebrate the NO independence day, there is a fine 17th of May celebration right through our hood in Ballard.)

We got in Friday, hung out and and dinner with Johanne and Arne, and geared up for a big weekend. Saturday was my Munch day- we hit the museum when it opened and I got my fill of all of his angst by going through twice (once with kids, once without). We haven't done a museum yet on this trip with the kids, and it was pretty fun watching their reactions and listening to them talk about the paintings. Miles had a "big spill with his juice" in "Death of Marat." Vivian thought the "melting people" were sort of funny. We also walked through the botanical gardens and then had a really nice dinner out with Johanne and Arne again.

Oslo is, as everyone says, a lot like Seattle! Lots of green, cherry trees in bloom everywhere, set by the waterfront, a strip of cool places to eat along the water. However- it is light about 21 hours a day now! We had some trauma getting the kids to understand that even though it looked like 5pm, it was 11pm! ACK! Vivian ended up in the windowless bathroom on the floor and we managed to stack blankets up against the skylight in Miles' room. WHY a skylight in Norway? No clue. :) This (along with the insane cost of everything and strict regulations on alcohol sales) makes people wiggy, and/or tired, and/or grumpy, and very bingy with their drinks. Judging by the noise and crazy people in the street at 4AM, it must all be disorienting, even if you live there.

Side story- I might add that I had a strange "Scruples" experience. Mom should probably not read this part. Early Sat morning while walking to get coffee, saw some paper fluttering around, stepped on it, and realized I had 3000 KR in my hand (worth abt 450 dollars...). A man was walking by and I asked if he lost it- "no- it's your lucky day!" he says, and walked away. I walked up and down the block, but there was no one in sight, and everything was closed. I went into the one store that was opening up. No one there lost it. --- um what would you do? Arne thought it could be drug money because no one carries that much cash, I was near a park and it was all folded up. Eric had an easier time accepting this "gift" and I figured as long as I spent it all and paid it back to Oslo, it would be ok.... ? Thankfully, this helped a lot with what was a VERY expensive city. A beer was 8 euro, and our dinner for 4 adults and 2 kids was $300, so that pretty much blew our jackpot wad.

Sunday was the parade! The Oslo parade includes all the schools and their bands, so I think every kid in town was in the parade in their traditional dress. SO cute.... We said hi to King Harald and Queen Sonja - they waved to us and several thousand people from their palace balcony. Vivian was pretty excited to see the fluttering of a real prince and princess. Then we enjoyed our best meal--- Arne's a fantastic head chef and with sous-chef J, they put together a stuffed trout, locks, potato and green salads, and gelato. yum. A fantastic, lazy and filling afternoon with friends. :)

Week 9: Baileyfest Deutchland

This is a little out of order, but it worked out better this way...

Week 9 was a big one, celebrating Eric's big 4-0 in style with Ginger, Walt, Doug, Kate, Matt and Sarah coming to visit us in Munich!
Ginger and Walt arrived first, treating us to a night out / overnight for E's birthday evening, which we spent at Haus der Kunst up the street seeing Sonic Youth. :) How weird is that? Haus der Kunst one of the first large-scale propoganda projects for Hitler, to house art that he felt worthy of showing the masses. Now it's a modern art museum (Hitler hated modern art) and having Sonic Youth play there is a great extra jab to his sensibilities (or lack of). Good show- probably about 300 people there.

We rendezvoused together in Bacharach, in the gorgeous Rhine area of Germany. After botching our reservation completely to stay in a castle, we found a great alternative in the Kranenturm Hotel, which was built into the city walls. Our hosts were great- Fatima was from the Philipines and was very chatty and Kurt made a mean schnitzel. We got lucky with sunshine too and had a really nice cruise up the Rhine to see all the old castles along the way. King Eric's birthday dinner at nearby castle Schoenburg was especially good, and really special with the family all there.

After that weekend, Doug and Kate went off exploring and Matt had to head back home. Ginger, Walt and Sarah went off to Venice for a few days, then back the next weekend to visit more and explore our local area. It was fun to do the rounds of Munich again as "tourists," and we went to the Deutsche Museum, the English Gardens, a couple bier gartens, Nymphenburg Palace, Andech's Monastery and Brewery, our local hangout restaurant- Lieb and Seele- for "Schnitzel Parade" Monday, and Marienplatz. We also did Linderhof again, which really is my favorite Ludwig castle here, although I got us incredibly lost - even with the Garmin. There are worse things though than driving through and around the Alps.

While in Munich, the crew stayed at a great hotel about 10 minutes walking from us, so we could easily converge in the mornings, have cheese and crackers on our balcony during nap time, and have GW read bed time stories to the kids. Perfect.

Many thanks to the family for coming out to celebrate!!!! Here are our favorite pictures from the visit. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Weeks 8, and 10... Ode to Munchen

I think it's only fair that since an earlier blog was dedicated to my frustrations, that I owe a big one to Munchen and need to tell you a little bit more about the wonderful place where we are hanging out....

Weeks 8 and 10 (sorry to be a bit out of order, but it just works better that way...) included Easter time and trips to the zoo, Schloss Linderhof, Dachau Memorial, Olympiapark and many trips to the English Gardens. Spring is definitely sprung, as especially noted by the constant sniffles, wheezing and even puffy eyes from all the crazy pollen in the air. This does mean that it is gorgeous here now.

So in honor of Munich, here is a list of my top 5 loves:

#1 Love- Biergartens every 5 blocks or so. Why don't these exist anywhere else in the world? Why can't Seattle pick up on this trend, at least every mile or so? Seattle is a beer city, and people enjoy it without going nuts- seems like it could work. Not only is DE beer fantastic, but to be able to safely sit outside, chat with strangers, and watch your kids play in a great park while you enjoy a cold one and/or a great brat and/or ice cream then walk home..... geez. Are we nuts? This is the best.

#2 Love- The English Garden. We have started spending more and more time in the English Garden (LOVE that). Eric even made brats one night and we rode 5 minutes to the English Garden, had a picnic, watched people tightrope between trees, do the drum circle thing, play soccer, etc. People here flock to the parks when it's nice. Not in little groups, but in herds. Germans really appreciate sunshine and green spaces.

#3 Love-Bike Paths. Not only is Munich flat (not that I would really wish that upon Seattle), but it is really a biking culture. There are at least 50 bikes in the lobby downstairs at our elevator. The bike paths are amazing- everywhere- along every road. I only ride on a street for about 5 blocks of a 1 1/2 mile ride to the kids' school. If we cross the street to the other side of the Isar River, you can ride uninterrupted by cross streets for about 20 KM each way on the river path. Geez I hope I keep this up at home-- but the disrespect between cars and bikes in Seattle is scary, and we certainly lack safe paths and good drivers.....

#4 Love- Neighborhood Market Days. In Lehel, our neighborhood market is Thursday. Local merchants from neighboring farms set up their stalls with fresh vegetables, meats, juices and eggs. Then there are the "cake ladies," famous throughout Munich, at the Lehel market, who bring homemade traditional cakes. The line up for a piece of cake is usually about 20 people long, and starts while the ladies are setting up. My favorite is the Hegeler Farm stand that has fresh chicken, homemade spinach and cheese ravioli, and homemade tomato and paprika sauce. I get a load of it every week. Something is seriously wrong with our overprocessed, and somewhat bland food-- and I say this even in the wake of our e.Coli scare. I think even Eric will support the New Roots and Crown S Ranch deliveries now. An egg should never be crystal clear and bright yellow on the inside. That's just creepy. :)

#5 Love- Beautiful buildings and fountains everywhere. Munich is gorgeous. Especially after seeing some other cities in DE, we are so, so, so lucky to be planted here. It's really unique in that after the WWII, which dessimated the town, the city made a commitment to rebuild exactly to original plans. This means, no buildings above the clock towers (about 4 - 5 stories) and even the rebuilt construction is made to look old. Hats off to the city for really sticking to their heritage and rebuilding it with charm and consistency. It is a beautiful.

We have also met some really great people from here and others like us hanging out here for a short while, or indefinitely. The Treehouse "family," the kids' school, has been an especially welcome outlet for helping us and the kids feel at home and make friends. So, I will miss these people and things about Munich a lot. And hope somehow to adjust life when we get home to bring more of this type of experience into our day to day--- like letting our lawn go crazy with wildflowers (neighbors will love this....), actually getting myself and the kids on the Burke Gilman, spending more lazy afternoons at parks and setting up our own Biergarten in the backyard. We'll be open August 6th. :)


Here's a link to this posts' slideshow. Enjoy!