Tuesday, August 26, 2008


My flight to Munich was scheduled to arrive late evening and when it ended up being late, I decided to skip trying to sort out the metro and decided instead to take a taxi, whatever the cost. My taxi driver was extremely talkative, complaining about American politics, German politics, the Olympics, Chinese politics and then full circle back to American politics. Finally we arrived at my hotel. I fell into bed and was soon fast asleep.

I woke up bright and early and walked through the Viktualienmarkt and Marienplatz just as it was starting to wake up. My first stop was the Residenz, a palace of one of the ruling families of Bavaria. The palace was a maze!! I don't know how people navigated through the palace without maps! I had problems and I had a map and arrows telling me where to go! I stopped in the Treasury and admired the jewels. Next stop was Glyptothek, a museum of Greek and Roman statues. Not having a lot of time, I decided to skip several museums in favor of taking a tram out to Schloss Nymphenburg, originally a summer palace. It reminded me a lot of Versailles. There was a museum of carriages which I enjoyed, imagining myself descending from a carriage, on my way to a grand ball. I ended up back at Marienplatz, which was full of people and activity. I took the elevator in the New Town Hall for a look down at the square. I stopped at St. Peter's Church before heading to the Beer & Oktoberfest Museum. It was starting to rain so I stopped in to the Hofbrauhaus, the famous beer hall, for a beer (hey I'm in Munich) and applestrudel. May not be the best combination, but I enjoyed it. The rain had lightened up a bit by the time I was done so I headed for the metro and out to the BMW Museum. I got there just before it was closed. Rick had said the museum would be open until 8, and it was on Saturday and Sunday, but on Friday it closed at 6. It was my own fault, normally I check the times (which Rick does say to do) but I hadn't this time. Because it was about to close, I didn't go to the museum but instead looked around the gift shop, a couple of the exhibitions (which were open later) and the show room floor. I sat in one of the models, which was nice! My next car may need to be a BMW! I wandered over to the Olympic Park and peeked in the Swimming Pool but Michael Phelps wasn't there! Do you mean he has something better to do than swim practice in Munich? (Just kidding - I HEART Michael Phelps!) It was pretty cool to wander around, especially considering the Olympics were still going on.

One of reasons I choose Munich as a weekend getaway was its proximity to Neuschwanstein, a fairy tale castle rumored to be the inspiration for Walt Disney. I got up early to catch a train which ended up being over 30 minutes late but finally we arrived in Füssen where you catch the bus to take you to the castle. The bus pulled up and a swarm of people pushed towards the opening. I was caught in the flow and ended up on the first bus. Of course after all that pushing and shoving, three more busses pulled up behind the first one. I collected my tickets and wandered up to Hohenschwangau Castle, King Ludgwig’s home growing up (Ludwig built Neuschwanstein). The interior of Hohenschwangau was decorated in a medieval style which I really liked. The tour ended and I started down the hill from Hohenschwangau over to the bus stop for Neuschwanstein. I arrived just as the bus did and didn’t think I would make it on as it was full, but I was once again shoved on as four people got on behind me. The bus let us off at the top of a hill and I walked up to Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge) and gazed down at Neuschwanstein. The view was incredible! I didn’t stay too long on the bridge as it was really windy and had started raining by then. During my walk down to the castle it started pouring. But finally it was time for my tour and I went inside the castle. Ludwig died before the castle was finished and the tour went through the rooms that were finished when he died. Ludwig actually had a grotto outside of his bedroom, a real grotto! With the tour finished, I made my way down the hill and back to the train station.

Sunday I visited Dachau. I'm not really going to say a lot about this because it is hard to put into words. I will say it was really hard to walk through the camp, harder than I thought it would be. But I'm glad I did it as it is a part of history and I think visiting places such as Dachau honors the memory of the survivors and those who didn't survive. And part of the reason I travel is to learn, and what better way to learn than observing the past.

Back in Munich I realized I hadn't taken any feet pictures. I had meant to take one on Marienbrücke (Mary's Bridge) but with it so windy and rainy I had forgotten! Instead I took my feet picture in Marienplatz before picking up my luggage from the hotel and heading for the airport.

I had been meaning to write a diatribe about the cost of water at airports in Germany (after security) as at both the Cologne and Berlin airports it was €3 for a little bottle of water. But at the Munich airport, water was only €1.45 which did much to lessen my annoyance.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Romans & Castles

What to do this weekend? A few of my co-workers suggested Trier, the oldest city in Germany and Saturday morning I set off. My first stop in Trier was Porta Nigra, originally a Roman gate but later a church. The city musuem was next, which I must say, is the most random collection of things. But on the top floor was a collection of clothes which was fun to see. Next I went to the amphitheater before continuing on to the Basilica. The Basilica is the largest Roman age building still intact outside of Rome. It was built by Constantine who left to go found Constantinople (later Istanbul, and you can imagine what song was stuck in my head for the rest of the day). Next, I walked over to the Imperial Baths, another of Constantine's projects. There was a festival going on so I wandered through looking at the booths and admiring the ruins. Karl Marx was born in Trier, so I went and saw the house where he was born, which is now a museum. From there I went to the cathedral, the oldest church in Germany. It was built over the palace of Constantine's mother, Helena. It also holds what is purported to be the Holy Robe of Christ, but it was not on view. After that, I wandered through the market, people-watching and window shopping before heading home.

Rick recommended Burg Eltz (his favorite castle in Europe!) so Sunday morning I set out for the castle. It is a bit out of the way, but Rick described the walk as a pleasant, scenic jaunt. I got off the train at Moselkern, a little village, and began walking after spotting the first sign. Rick described the trail, saying you would basically follow the river to the castle, so after awhile when the road veered away from the river and I hadn't seen any signs I began to get a bit nervous. But in short order, the road curved back towards the river and then I saw a sign. The path kept going and going and going and my feet were beginning to say stupid Rick, stupid castle, stupid path when I happened to glance up from the path (which was uneven and rocky) and saw the castle peeking through the trees. It was beautiful! It was never taken by military force, and no wonder - no army would bother to come all the way out there! But really, the family were quite the diplomats and always on the "right" side. I hung out in the courtyard until finally an English language tour was called (the only way to see the castle is by tour and I have been on non-English tours and I much prefer English tours!). When the tour was over, I looked around a bit more before making the trek back. The way back was a lot easier then the way there, probably because I knew the way. Halfway back I saw a little cave up a hill a bit. If Stacy had been with me, I'll bet she would have climbed in there! So of course I had to climb up and take a picture and while I was doing that a family came along and the kids were really interested in the fact I had climbed up there and so as soon as I came down they scrambled up. Sorry parents, I didn't mean to be a bad influence! Finally I reached the train station and before long the train came to take me home.

As a side note, I met up with Mandi for dinner last week. You can see a picture of us on her website.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Erdbeeren und Himbeeren

I knew there was a small fruit & vegetable stand near my apartment but I wasn't sure exactly where it was. Matthias had taken me there on my first day. The strawberries I had gotten from the grocery store weren't as good as the strawberries I had gotten from this stand so I really wanted to find it. On my way home from work I decided to walk try and find it. Fortunately I remembered the right road and found it without too much difficulty. In fact it isn't too far! The strawberries & raspberries were delicious! The strawberry season is almost over so I am going to enjoy them as much as I can.

Erdbeeren: Strawberries
Himbeeren: Raspberries

Sunday, August 10, 2008


My weekend in Berlin started off with a bit of a hiccup. I left work and caught the train into town to catch the bus to the airport. Everything was going along swimmingly when a stop and a half way from the train station (where I could catch the bus) the train stopped. There is probably another train in the station ahead of us and we are just waiting until it pulls out I thought to myself. A few minutes turn into 10. An announcement (in German) is made and everyone groans so I take this is not good news. The conductor makes his way through the train and finally the train starts moving, backwards. It makes it back to the previous station and everyone leaves the train, me included. Not sure what to do next, I head outside and start walking towards the next station (fortunately I had an idea of where I was). I get to the next station just as the train I had gotten off pulls into the station. It leaves a few minutes later and I decide to wait a few minutes to see if another train will come along (I’m anxiously watching the clock at this point as my cushion to get to the airport is melting away). Another train did come along and I catch not the bus I wanted to, but the one immediately after (they come approximately every 30 minutes). Whew!!

With that excitement over, the flight to Berlin is nothing. We land and I had already decided to take a taxi even before the escapade with the public transportation which just fortified my decision. The hotel is something else. According to Rick, it once housed the Nazi Chamber of Culture. The bathroom smells like I don’t know what but I’m only here for 2 days and as long as I keep the bathroom door closed it is fine.

I wake up early and head to the Reichstag (Parliament). Even at 8 a.m. in the morning the line was long, but it was even longer when I came out. This turned out to be one of my favorite things - I really enjoyed the cupola at the top of the building. From there I walked over to the Brandenburg Gate and after admiring it, I walked along Unter den Linden, stopping at the Neue Wache (where the tomb of the unknown soldier and the tomb of the unknown concentration camp victim are buried) before continuing on to the German History Musuem. The museum covered a lot!! I then walked over to Museum Island. The Pergamon Museum's line was way too long so I went to the Egyptain Musuem to visit Nefertiti and then visited the Berlin Cathedral and climbed the dome. From there I had lunch in a little cafe before continuing on with my exploration of Berlin. Next stop was the German Cathedral before continuing on the Museum of Wall and a visit to Checkpoint Charlie. I never knew why it was called Checkpoint Charlie - it was the third checkpoint (c = charlie). The museum was very moving with tales of escape attempts. The Jewish Museum was next. It is a very interestingly designed museum, and very haunting at times with stories of Jewish persecution.

I finished up the day at KaDeWe (or Kaufhaus des Westens), a huge department store before walking back to my hotel. It reminded me a lot of Harrods. I checked my map and decided my hotel wasn't too far. Turned out to be a case of it looking closer on the map than it was in real life!

Sunday I woke up a little stiff and decided to take it easy. I checked out of the hotel (leaving my luggage there) and made my way to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. It was not open but I looked around and took a few pictures. Next I went to the Berlin Wall Documentation Center. The street is lined with another remaining section of the wall and from the center across the street you can look down at the "death strip" between the wall and the border. I ended up back at the Brandenburg Gate and visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Next I toured around the city on one of the hop-on, hop-off tours, stopping at Potsdammer Platz and walking through one of the art museums in the Kulturforum. I finished up the bus tour and got on a train back to my hotel. In Germany, as opposed to other places, there really isn't a ticket checking mechanism. It's on the honor system and if you get caught there is a penalty. So far I hadn't ever had my ticket checked. Not anymore! I, like Mandi, had expected these ticket inspections to be carried out by a potentially scary police officer, but no, it was a regular person in street clothes. He paused for a second looking at my ticket, which to me seemed like an eternity before thanking me and turning to the next person.

I got my luggage from the hotel and headed to the bus stop to catch the train to the airport. I just caught the bus and as I was heading to the back to find a seat, I haphazardly stuck my ticket in my purse thinking I was already checked today, surely I won't be checked again. That was an incorrect thought. She ended up looking a little more official than the last one and asked to see our tickets. I started rummaging through my purse and my pockets. She passed me by and looked at everyone else's before coming back to me. I was still rummaging, thinking oh crap when finally I found it! I triumphantly handed her my ticket and she smiled and thanked me.

Note to self: ALWAYS put your ticket in a safe place!

And that was my trip to Berlin.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Wo sind Sie?

We have a German phrase of the day! I share an office with two other people and Beate came into the office asking "Wo sind Sie (where are they)?" before realizing she was talking to me and switched to English. She told me I can answer "Ich weiß nicht" or I don't know. Not too much later someone else came looking for Thomas and asked something similar to Wo sind sie and while I understood what he was asking, I answered in English that I didn't know. I am not thinking in German.

I've been here about 2 and a half weeks so far and what I miss at the moment, as it changes based on the day and my mood, is Target - one stop shopping with scads of choices! Yes, I would be a suburbanite. Oh how I miss you! And what else I miss right now? The medicine cabinet at work. I had a huge headache and had forgotten ibuprofen at my apartment and there is no medicine cabinet (or at least that I have seen) in the kitchen at the office here. How easy it was to walk into the kitchen at work and get a packet of ibuprofen! I am enjoying my time here, even without Target! :)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Weekend Fun

So the weekend started on Friday with me trying to figure out the washing machine. I ended up putting my clothes in and pushing buttons, which seemed to work. I wasn't as sure about the dryer and kept running downstairs to check (the washer and the dryer are in the basement so two flights down). Finally I got tired of running up and down the stairs and just stayed downstairs doing some hamstring curls and grapevines to pass the time.

Saturday I took the train up to Cologne. Stepping out of the train station into the shadow of the cathedral, I am once again in awe of this magnificent building. I wasn't sure until I got there whether or not I was going to climb to the top of the tower. Looking up and up and up I made my decision. I would climb the tower, and my incentive, a stop at the ice cream shop on my way home of course! :) 509 steps later I was at the top! Coming down I looked around the cathedral before visiting the Roman museum, and Museum Ludwig. I enjoyed the Roman museum, but not so much the Museum Ludwig - a little too much modern art for me. I did a little shopping, mainly of the window variety before heading back towards the train station. I passed by the cathedral again which was hopping with activity. A mass amount of tourists, along with statue people, musicians, artists and protestors filled the square in front of the cathedral. I people watched for awhile before catching the train back to Bonn.

Sunday I ventured to Sieburg to visit the St. Michael's Benedictine Abbey. The abbey was founded in 1o64 or so. You could climb up the tower so of course I did. The view was great from the top. I'm not sure how many steps - around 170+. I counted on the way up but forgot and was counting on the way down when I missed a step and slipped down a couple. Fortunately I wasn't too far up from a landing and I landed on my feet, if a bit hard. I forgot the count after that!

Bonn is a bit like Seattle in that during the week the weather seems to be great and get to the weekend and the sun has a tendency to disappear. Well, not disappear exactly, but there is more rain here on the weekends. But the rain doesn't last too long.

And let me just say switching between a German and an English keyboard is not as easy as you think! I am currently typing on my laptop which is an English keyboard but at work I use a German keyboard where the z and y are in opposite places (there are several other keys that are different as well). The y is becoming second nature on the German keyboard except now when I'm using an English keyboard.