Thursday, January 31, 2008

die Katze kamera

I don't know what is about Germans and their pets.

I saw this interesting take on photography by severals Germans. One is Mr. Lee, who uses his cat to create art works. He also sells cat cams and has a concept for a live camera on his site, as well as photos by other cat cam users.

Mr. Lee is quite the comedian too... he says, 'Either this is a Drag-Queen-Cat or also dog owners are interested in their dogs life ...' (photo courtesy of Mr. Lee)

There is also a woman named Ramona Markstein... and her cat Fritz (as seen above). Her cat wears a camera that takes photos every 15 seconds, which she then uploads for an intriguing look at a cat's daily life. The results are quite captivating.

You can see more about Fritz, including a video, by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Luck in Germany

Brock + Manel invited me to go to Nürnberg tomorrow, to enjoy the small Bavarian city that is well known for their lebküchen (christmas cookies). Surprisingly I have not been, especially with history that I find so appealing - it was on an old Roman trade route and home to the master print maker, Albrecht Dürer.

It seems many German cities have a legend to go with something you touch. In Munich it is the four lions by the Residenz, however you are only to touch three for luck, touching all four is greedy.

In Frankfurt there was a feng shui Chinese garden created in memory of the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Guarding this park are two lions and it is said to bring luck if you spin the ball in their mouth. This was one of my favorite places to spend my days when we lived there.

Nürnberg appears to be no different. They have a ring in the Schönebrunnen. Their legend says the daughter of a nobel man fell in love with a blacksmith, who her father didn't approve of. In order to prove his love and skill he created this seamless brass ring in the middle of a monument in the Market Square. The nobel man had a change of heart and the blacksmith and his love were able to be together. They say that if you turn the seamless ring 3 times with your love, you'll have a love that endures the test of time.

Hopefully I will be up for that and see what kinds of trouble we can get into. I'd also like to check out the rock cut caves that beer was made and stored in. If it's anything like the chalk caves where they make champagne in Reims, it will be really fascinating!

heiße schokolade

I've never been one for coffee, however I love tea and hot chocolate. Munich has a unique hot chocolate brand by a company called Becks (mentioned in the previous post). If you read this blog, you have probably noticed I am decently adventurous in the food department... just don't expect me to eat any kind of organs or meats. I won't even get started on things I have seen in the meat cases here.

Becks gives creative names and flavors to hot chocolate. Stefan found the mint hot chocolate in his stocking this year. I wanted to get the wasabi, but that would be more for me - yes, wasabi hot chocolate. Unfortunately I haven't tried it yet. Just yesterday during my winter blues pick me up stop at Delgado's, I also found an interesting flavor - Bavaricoa. And since everyone knows Bavaria loves beer, this hot chocolate includes hops and malt - complete with a Lion (Munich was founded by Henry the Lion) and the white + blue of Bavaria. I haven't tried it yet, but I'll let you know if it's any good.

These are a few of my favorite things: Munich

Since there isn't too much excitement lately, besides all of my doctor's appointments, which I will spare you the details of, I was thinking about my favorite things here in Munich.

There are the obvious - beer gardens, Viktualienmarkt, Englischer Garten, and the view from Alte Peter for example. And then there are my little hidden secret places such as chocolate shops, cafés, restaurants, and what makes Munich home for me. Since I am so kind, generous, and giving, I will let everyone in on my favorite places around town. Perhaps if you visit you'll want to stop at a few of them and feel like a local yourself... or if you visit me I will drag you around to the various places. These chocolate shop owners should really start paying me a commission!

These are listed in no particular order...

As my gay friends say, this is 'boys town'... and while you will see the rainbows flying by random store fronts, there are many great little cafes and restaurants - however, I come here for the gorgeous flowers. In the spring they put so much attention and care into the flowers, then several months later they will replant things for summer. Just riding the bus through always begs me to get off and sit on one of the benches under the sun and read a book. I usually give in. And as a bonus, there is the occasional straggler with a few beers to watch for entertainment... these are the kinds of people I share my day with.

Ok, so this is an obvious, but the market is great particularly when the weather is warming up. They always have a great selection and I often buy berries there, which are seriously inexpensive. But be sure to shop around... the prices vary greatly. Also check out the honey shop - you have never seen so much variety... avocado honey, lavender honey... it goes on and on. This is also the place to go for flowers, various oils, and fresh truffles.

Once again, I particularly love it when the outdoor seating area is open, but that calls for warmer weather. I believe this was the first restaurant I went to where I was not disappointed. The food is just terrific. The menu is quite varied, but every single thing I have had there is delicious. Brunch is also great. In late summer and early spring they even put blankets out on the chairs, which is a great little touch. Nearly every visitor we've had ends up making a trip to Memo.

This is my personal gem of a chocolate shop. I still recall walking past during my first visit to Munich and seeing a woman with white gloves meticulously putting chocolates in the display case. Stefan and I walked back to peer into the windows. Low and behold, when we got engaged Stefan used this chocolate shop in combination with our 'circle journey journal' to propose... he had scratched 'Will you Marry Me?' into the back of a chocolate bar. Obviously that was kismet! They have a tremendous variety and great samples.

Preysingstraße + Garten
This is one of the sweetest streets in all of Munich (at least in my experience). It has an old town feel, but it's in the middle of Haidhausen. I'm always a sucker for old world charm like that. The Preysing Garten restaurant at the end of the street also has a delightful outdoor area.

The Isar 'beach'
This is a bit bizarre, but people hang out down by the river. The smooth stones and glistening water are great on a warm day. I love coming to watch the ducks waddle past and the dogs frolic about or play fetch with their owners. I should give the word of caution, you may also come upon the random nude sunbather (insert here about how they are always the last person you'd like to see nude).

Bernard + Bernard
When I am in the mood for something French this is where I go. It's so cosy and perfect for a romantic rendez vous or night out with girlfriends, which Stephanie and Michelle can attest to. We had a wonderful evening chatting with the bartender, who kept the wine filled all night long. If you'd rather have the beer garden experience you can still enjoy their crepes at the Hofbräukeller Biergarten, where they usually have a stand.

Delgado Chocolate shop at Max Weber Platz
If you need a hot chocolate or brownie this is the place. Last time I had the coconut hot chocolate and the brownie was the best I've ever had. I think it had fine sea salt on the top, but it is ridiculously good. They also sell chocolates, fresh truffles, and coffee or tea, as well as a huge assortment of hot chocolates.

Stolberg Schokoladen
What this shop lacks in sleekness, it makes up for in variety, and tourist locale. Walking down the cobbled street from the infamous Hofbräuhaus towards Tal / Isar Tor is this great chocolate shop. If you are interested in a picking up an exotic bar of chocolate this is the place... shiitake + white truffle chocolate, red pepper chocolate, or another interesting variety. (photo courtesy of Stolberg)

Fünf Höfe
Ok, so this is our downtown mall, but it's really a beautiful place and has great shops to top it off. My mother in law and I went to the art gallery, which is on top of the mall, to see the Rodin exhibit a while back. They have a cute café above the mall as well. The name literally means 'five courtyards' and it contains some wonderful shops and restaurants including Muji, Alessi, Camper, Butlers, Hugendubel books, Vapiano, and Kaimug Thai restaurant to name a few. Be sure to walk around a bit if you appreciate architecture. Each entrance is a bit different.

As listed above... it's fresh made to order Italian food. This is a German chain that's reaching out to the US. Weather permitting check out the courtyard -it's really beautiful. I also love that they have fresh herbs on the table that you can simply pull off and use on your salad, pasta, or pizza.

Surfers at Eisbach
If you are ever riding the subway and notice someone in a wet suit or with a surf board they are probably heading to the Eisbach wave. We are blessed to have an interesting wave that leads into the English Garden. Surfers gather and entertain spectators, although I am sure they go for their own enjoyment.

This is a Vegan restaurant, which ironically is housed in an old butcher's shop. During a visit there was a little dog scampering around which made it feel like you were having dinner at a friend's place. The food does not make a carnivore miss meat. It was very elegantly prepared and delicious. There is also a cafe and small grocery underneath the restaurant.

Paulaner am Nockherberg
You may be the only tourist here, but don't let that discourage you from coming. It's a great place that is nicely shaded and we love riding our bikes over. We were unexpectedly there when the 'Abendszeitung' (evening newspaper) awarded them with favorite beer garden of Munich... so we aren't the only ones that love this place!

Kunstareal / Königsplatz
This is the area with all of the art museums. I really enjoyed the Neue Pinakothek and the Pinakothek der Moderne, because I am more into modern art... but there is something for every patron of the arts in these wonderful collections.

Schuhbeck's Eissalon
Schuhbeck is a famed German chef and he definitely keeps patrons of his ice cream shop guessing with flavors like chocolate chili, lychee pepper pistachio, and rose petal. They also have the generic sorts, but try something exotic! Definitely check out the photos on the wall too... they are rather interesting. You can stop here after walking past the Hofbräuhaus in the Platz'l.

Tea House
Because this is one area Germany doesn't lack variety it's a great gift to bring home. You can buy nearly any flavor of loose tea you can imagine... blueberry muffin, apple strudel, blood orange... again the list is endless.

I have written about this great Indian restaurant before. I've tried many, but this is still my favorite. The food is delicious, the workers are amazing, and the lunches are incredibly inexpensive.

Servus Heimat
This is the place to go for modern tourist wear or interesting Bavarian goods, such as rubber ducks in lederhosen. You can click here for a video tour of the shop.

I'll post photos for the remaining locations in the near future!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Munich is a rather posh city, although it does seem to have a bit of rebellion beneath the surface. When walking through Berlin I was always struck by the amount of graffiti... new buildings, old buildings, it was all fair game. It really seemed as though everything had been marked.

According to my friend who is a Dachau tour guide, Bavaria was part of Roman territory and northern Germany is still seen as the wild part that is undignified and uncivilized. I will never be able to get into the German psyche, but I can attest to Berlin and Munich being dramatically different. Berlin is very bohemian and still struggles with the reunification. There's still a tension between the people in former East Germany and those in the West. I also notice people in Munich asking visitors for reassurance of what a great city it is. Perhaps I am wrong and they simply want to chat with strangers, something Germans aren't too keen on, but Berlin seems to be more encompassing, accepting, and anything goes.

Lately in Munich, I have seen graffiti taken to a more elevated art form using stencils, similar to the well known street artist from Bristol, England - Banksy. Being the art historian that I am, I think it's comical how even in being rebellious there is a structure to a lot of the graffiti found in Munich. Here are several examples from around the city.

Some of the stencils are fascinating, others are strange, but they always capture my attention and cause me to consider what message the person was attempting to convey. The content varies from ants to monkeys, political to down right strange. There are some definite treasures to be found in the most unexpected places. One of my favorites is near our friend Dirk's old apartment. It's pretty straight forward and always makes me smile. So simple, yet so endearing.

I must admit I appreciate the thought that goes into creating these stencils. I've also seen this more refined form of graffiti in Vienna. Here are a few Austrian examples.

It's always interesting to observe random street artifacts that tell a lot about modern culture. I always take some extra time to observe my surroundings and find fascinating things - especially those geared towards America / war. Take it for what you will... everyone wants to leave some kind of mark on society.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Although it's nearly 8 months away, I am already getting excited. We are expecting a lot of visitors this year for Oktoberfest, which is wonderful. I love an excuse to wear my dirndl... and to see Stefan in his lederhosen. Having friends here to share in the excitement is the icing on the cake. We're hoping everyone is able to come around the same time so we are able to reserve an alumni table since we all went to the same university.

The difficult part about Oktoberfest is how quickly the tents fill up. Once they are filled they simple close the doors. My first year we went opening day at 7am to the Schottenhamel tent, where the mayor taps the first keg, which kicks off the festivities for the next few weeks. There are plenty of characters and long days. I remember meeting some guys from Australia and New Zealand who didn't even have a place to stay, and watching others fall asleep in their food around 11am. For the merry makers that make it past that, it's a really fun day that rolls into a crazy evening that is filled with lots of singing, happiness, and celebration. We all enjoy having a few maß and celebrating life.

There is also a lot of fascinating local history that goes with it, including the prized position of 'Münchener Kindl'. The young girl that receives the prestige leads the parade dressed in a black and gold (the colors of the city) robe, as depicted on the crest of Munich. She is typically the daughter or tent owners and must make appearances in addition to learning how to ride a horse. It is neat to see the horses dragging kegs in - and these are monstrous kegs. The parade is a big production of who's who in Munich society, or as they say here 'the schicki micki' - basically all of the tent owners who you are paying nearly 10€ to for one litre of beer... and you thought gasoline was expensive. But the revelry and fun are very much worth it.

What a great city to live in!


It looks like we will soon be taking a trip to Majorca (or Mallorca) depending on where you live. I know not too many Americans are familiar with this island, but may have heard of it's neighbor Ibiza. It's in the Mediterranean off the east coast of Spain and our friend Catherine is working in Palma, which is a fantastic reason to visit.

I was so happy when she called this week, because it's nice to have someone that's only one time zone over, so we are able to talk to each other without strategic planning, waking up early or staying up late. I also appreciate having someone to talk to that is also getting accustomed to another language and culture.

Majorca gets a bad wrap as a party island. There are areas Stefan tells me that are very German and 'bad news, worse than Daytona, and people drink out of buckets'. I guess you find what you are looking for. I am more interested in the architecture and beaches. It's going to be so nice to hang out with Catherine again.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

a boy + his dog in law

I was looking through some old photos today and came across this one that made me so happy.

The first time Stefan met Mieka, she was several months old and she adored him. I still remember her running up and down the hallway trying to entice him to play. She always wanted to be near him. If she was outside everyone had trouble getting her to come in. Stefan had to simply call her name and she would prance up to him like they were old friends. Irritating as it is - I love the bond they have formed.

I'm really looking forward to a visit. Or as Stefan says, 'We love that girl don't we?'


It is no secret that I love stationery (especially letterpress), handwriting, and typography -basically all of the old time consuming arts.

I came across these beautiful and seriously affordable screen print posters by a company called Ork. They have the areas of the city mapped and named. Once we know where we'll end up I will definitely be buying one... and their selection of cities continues to grow. Maybe I can convince them to add Munich to the list.

I also think they make a wonderful housewarming gift for a friend moving to a new city. You can click the image to see it larger, or simply go to the Ork website and check them out for yourself!

Don't tell them I sent you because they have no idea who I am.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Einladung zum Kinderfasching

Fasching - also known as Fat Tuesday, is a pretty big deal here. It's probably a combination of being in Bavaria, a heavily Catholic state, and the lack of Halloween as children, that cause costumed adults to fill the streets and celebrate with one last hurrah before the reflection and fasting that come with Lent. I went to the celebration (sans costume) last year at Marienplatz. My favorite costume award went to a group of flight attendants and pilots. They had these turquoise and magenta getups and drink carts with plenty of prosecco flowing. It's nice to see people don't take themselves so seriously. I kind of view it as Halloween, Fat Tuesday, and April Fools Day rolled into one.

This is a photo of the aftermath... people sell bags of confetti all around Marienplatz and there is traditional dancing at Viktualienmarkt. It is fun to see small children dressed up or sitting on their parents shoulders tossing confetti.

And the next day, Ash Wednesday, the mayor of the city dips the city purse into the Fischbrunnen (fish fountain), which local lore says washing your purses in this fountain on Ash Wednesday keeps it from ever going empty. I dipped my hand and rubbed it on my leather bag... so far, so good!

We have been invited to a Fasching party on Feb. 2nd at our friend Constanze's apartment. The theme is 'kinderfasching' meaning to dress in costumes that children would wear. I'm not really one to dress up, so this may require some creativity. To me wearing my dirndl is wearing a costume, but here it would be considered formal wear. We've not done too much with Fasching, but I love the mischievous nature of it - sometimes people make cupcakes and fill several with mustard. I may have to do that myself.