Monday, June 30, 2008


Stefan and I are currently planning a staycation - a vacation in our hometown. It's difficult because we always leave when we have a few free days, however these are some of the things we need to do on a long weekend or perhaps with some vacation days.

The difficult part of living in a wonderful city is getting too comfortable. There are plenty of things that we have not yet done and many museums we have not visited. While we realize this is rather tragic, we are doing what we can to correct that.

On our list of places to visit are the Deutsches Museum, which we pass too frequently and always comment we should visit, yet never have. Perhaps we will do a popular bike tour or join one of the 'hop on hop off' style bus tours and pretend to be tourists for the day. We have already done the free city tour, which was excellent.

There are also the Hangmen, Whores, and Hags tour and the haunted Munich ghost tour. Or perhaps the fairy tale tour.

Other unique things are climbing the tents of the Olympic stadium or visiting the Bavaria Film studios where The Never Ending story movie was filmed. I also recall my favorite TV show, The Amazing Race, making a trip there.

Maybe for a more active staycation day we'll go to the Müllersches Volksbad, which is a beautiful Art Nouveau pool or rock climbing at the Ostbahnhof Heavens Gate.

I'd also like to sample some new restaurants. The tourist oriented medieval dinner at the Welser-Kuche or a 'Blind Angel' dinner in the dark.

There are many options and so many great things we've yet to do here.

Here is a helpful List of museums in Munich. I am already thinking of what exactly a visit to the Potato museum would be like.

We have a few days in mid-July that we are still deciding if we are going to head somewhere last minute, or perhaps if we'll spend more time on our apartment and enjoying a nice little staycation where we check out some of Munich's offbeat things.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Germany vs. Turkey

I must be delusional to even consider baking on a sweltering day sans air conditioning. Since Germany plays Turkey tonight in a highly tension filled game, I have decided that baking cookies would be a nice way to support Germany. As I have previously noted, my delight for the games stems mainly around culinary adventures that I pair with them. It's kind of nice that no matter the outcome I will be happy with my yummy cookies.

Besides, who doesn't love a cookie shaped like a beer?

Just to give you an idea of how serious Germany takes this game + soccer in general:

  • The US consulate sent out a warning to Americans saying they should use precaution if attending a public viewing and avoid demonstrations. The Turkish and Germans are good friends but this is a big rivalry, so in true American fashion they put the fear in us. 
  • Porsche, BMW, Daimler, and Opel have either stopped production or created arrangements for their workers to watch the game. Typically Porsche only displays the score on monitors for it's workers (we learned this on the tour we took in March). 
  • The radio has been playing a new Catholic 'Our Father' prayer with the words changed to be about Lukas Podolski scoring goals. I hope the Bavarian Pope has a sense of humor about that. 
  • Leopoldstraße (a large street in Munich's Schwabing neighborhood) is expecting 100,000 people. The Brandenburg Gate has 500,000 spectators. 
  • Out of the 80 million people in Germany 35 million are expected to watch tonight's game. Even German soldiers in Afghanistan will be watching. 
  • People had to leave work for the public viewings at 4:30pm... the game begins at 8:45pm.
Tonight we are also expecting heavy rain and hail storms - so you can guess where I will be... hanging out at home.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Amsterdam is everything Munich isn't. There's a large difference between the two cities. Amsterdam is young, very liberal, and there are virtually no dogs or children around. Noticing the contrasts was very interesting and at times slightly disheartening.

We arrived in Amsterdam on Saturday afternoon and I was instantly reminded of one of my favorite American TV shows - The Amazing Race. I remember one season when they had to find specially marked bikes amidst the large bike racks next to the station. I still don't really know how people figure out where they parked their bike.

After we met up with our friend Martina, who lives along the Keizersgracht, I was also reminded of the same show where they had to move furniture through the large windows using pulleys. Her apartment is really spectacular, but the staircases are very narrow. She was telling us how difficult it is to bring luggage down or to bring groceries up. I don't envy that. She even had a special 'torture wheel' as she called it, which looked like a torture device, but was really used to help with moving things through the windows.

Since Amsterdam is such a bike city that is how we chose to experience it. The bikes are very cheaply made, which Martina said was because they are often stolen. She said that on average people go through two bikes a year! I could not get over how thick the chains were - even for a rusty piece of junk. If it functioned it was apt to be stolen.

Martina guided us around town and we stopped at most of the stores I wanted to visit and then stopped to rent a bike for me. It wasn't as smooth of a ride as my cute bike at home, but it served its purpose. I also started to feel that I may want a bigger lock for my Munich bike since I would be devastated if someone stole it.

Kitsch Kitchen had my oil cloth for our biergarten. They had tons of variety, but I liked the blue polka dots. The shop was filled with interesting objects from around the world, but typically from Asia + Mexico.

Egg Mercantile is a place I could probably go bankrupt in. I absolutely love their spoons. Now I just need to have some friends over for a tea so we can use this sugar spoon! [Egg Mercantile isn't open any longer, but the Otherist is and they have similar products.]

During our ride I was surprised to see so much orange in preparation for the soccer game. I even saw inventive bike bells fashioned after a cleat kicking a ball. Later in the evening we'd soon see the pride and spirit that is even in the oldest Dutch person. I could not get over the variations of orange that people came up with. Even though it's not always the most flattering of colors everyone was dressed to support their team. Unfortunately many people went home grumpy since the Netherlands wasn't able to defend it's World Cup title. Thankfully Germany is still in the European championship.

Some of the restaurants we visited were the Bakkerswinkel, a cute little cafe with pretty mixed decor that was designed by Piet Hein Eek.

And also Tempo Doeloe, which had the Indonesian rice tables. We ordered the medium spiced dishes, which weren't very spicy. There were 25 small dishes filled with various Indonesian foods. I'm glad that we tried it and I liked the concept, however I'm not sure I would go back. The food was just OK.

No trip for me is complete without checking out the new and interesting confections. We stopped at Papabubble, a candy shop where they make the candies on the premise. The candies also reminded me of old time things that my Grandma used to have at her house. They had a more modern twist with interesting flavors such as mojito and mango. The colors are just beautiful and the candies almost look like little beads.

Another stop was at Puccini chocolates. We shared a box with interesting flavors such as tea, plum, honey, mint, and apple.

The city's architecture is something that I also found myself enjoying. A lot of the houses had interesting colors, such as a slate gray. Many of them also have a slight (and some not so slight) lean since they were built on each other for stability. The canals add to the beauty.

At night I occasionally felt a deja vu moment as I recalled having been places before. The last time I visited it was at night due to a rerouted flight. Since we were there during the summer solstice it was light until about 10:30PM, so I wasn't completely able to retrace my steps from my previous visit, but I did recognize things when it got dark.

On Sunday, we met up with Martina to visit the Bloemenmarkt, take a walk through 'De Wallen' (better known as the Red Light District), the neighboring China Town, and then to a coffee shop.

De Wallen was interesting to me because I just don't get it. I know it's complex and I understand what happens there, however after walking through I felt as though I only had more questions. I must say it felt strange even walking through this area. Many of the women were quite young and I just wondered how they got into this predicament. It was also strange to see a Christian youth hostel on the same street as several red lit windows.

I was surprised that there are several red light districts, which can be a surprise when walking past and not expecting to see a lady in the window on a seemingly residential street. Martina told us the following that she has heard - there are areas specializing in various ages, ethnicities, you name it. If there is a blue light (we didn't see one) it was a transvestite. The ladies in the higher windows are more expensive. We also went to this strange crack in the wall that opened into a huge area of men standing around. Some I presume were looking to purchase, while others were probably body guards or pimps. Some ladies sat and sent text messages while others attempted to draw men in by dancing and tapping on the glass. It was very odd.

Amsterdam also had much less graffiti for a city it's size - except for the squatter houses. According to Martina, if a building is unoccupied for 6 months people are free to inhabit it. I always pay attention to graffiti and find it fascinating. I also look for politically charged imagery because so much of it is extreme and controversial. I am curious how people view things.

At night we went to the 'I amsterdam' sign. Martina guided us to the Rijksmuseum so we could make a visit the next day.

We also went to the Van Gogh museum, both were very interesting and informative - thanks to the headset guided tour.

It was great to visit Martina and finally see the city in day light. Now it's time to eat stroopwafels and learn the answers to all of my unanswered questions about the city.


I started my trip to Amsterdam with a flight to Köln to meet Stefan, who was there for work. It felt like we were on a blind date when I arrived because I called him and was telling him what I was wearing and trying to spot him among the tourists. We met up at the Kölner Dom (cathedral), right by the train station. It was nice to have some time before we boarded our train to Amsterdam to walk around the city.

I don't know too much about Köln, besides it's known for it's cathedral, German TV production, large carnival celebrations, and Lukas Podolski - a famous soccer player.

As we walked through the streets to the Rhein River we passed an Aussie pub around 9:30am. It was filled with men watching a rugby game. I got a good laugh out of that.

In the Cathedral I really loved the stained glass window by Gehard Richter. It has a digital feeling to it that seems a bit misplaced for the church, but it was very unique and colorful. Also nearby was the museum and their wonderful book store. I was delighted to see a new book by Philip Waechter, who is quickly becoming my favorite German children's book author. The book was about a little boy who lives and breathes soccer and wants to be a famous player - only at the end he considers being a drummer. He really has beautiful illustrations and cute stories that are easy to identify with. I saw he has another new one while we were in Amsterdam, however it was all Dutch, so I ended up with something else.

Stefan was well prepared and booked first class train tickets for us. It was a 3 hour trip with the ICE train, but it was very relaxing.

Next stop - Amsterdam!

Citizen M's very first guests!

It just so happens that Stefan and I were the first guests to stay in the new Citizen M hotel. We were told as we checked out that they had pushed back their opening date one week after we won free rooms, so we had the entire hotel to ourselves. We didn't initially realize this since there were meetings going on, which I presume were actually workers or investors. Now I have to laugh as they probably wondered who we were as we checked things out.

The Citizen M concept reminds me of what Target is in America in a hotel style - good design that is affordable. Since I really love beautifully designed things, I was happy to see chairs designed by Eames (as a side note the US post office now has Eames stamps!!), Vitra chairs, coat racks, and even my Algue pieces that we'll soon be purchasing.

We stayed in different rooms both nights - one facing the runway and the other facing the highway. They were nearly identical except for a couple small things - one had a vitra chair and a hair dryer and the other didn't. It was small, however beautifully designed and very comfortable. The bed was enormous and very comfortable, which was nice when we came back.

The highlight for Stefan was the Philips touch screen preference menu that allowed us to control the lights, temperature, music, free movies - (recent releases too), and welcomed us with our name on it. Check in was very simple and self explanatory. There were computers set up with baskets of cards next to them and we simply had to put our code / last name in, choose a room, and hold a key up to a sensor. The key also doubles as a luggage tag after the stay, which is a nice way to recycle (and good marketing to spread their name).

The bathroom was comprised of small pods that had rolling doors. There was also a curtain between the sleeping area and restroom for more privacy.

When we initially told Martina we were staying near the airport she was asking us if we were sure we wanted to do that. She lives in the middle of the city right on the beautiful Keisergracht so I am sure she wondered why we wouldn't just stay with her.

It really wasn't a big deal because the train into town took 15 minutes and cost 7€. I'm really happy we were able to stay at the Citizen M and I can't wait to learn where they will be putting their next hotels.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Animals around the world

I have always loved learning the animal sounds from other languages. Some of them sound more accurate than their English counterparts, while others sound quite strange to my English tuned hearing.

Today I read about bzzzpeek on Kirtsy. It has the sound effects for various animals, insects, modes of transportation, and virtually anything with an onomatopoeia.

I must say some of the American English even are different from the British English. Also, be sure to follow the arrow for more sounds from other countries.

Have fun previewing all of the international animal sounds!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Views over Salzburg

Today was a bit of an unusual tour. I had a young Spanish woman, a family with people from the US, Myanmar, and Bangkok that had met up to travel Europe, and a young American man from Kansas who had a wheel chair.

I've never had a tour with a person in a wheel chair, however my feeling was if he was confident enough to travel to Europe - (on his own!) then who am I to tell him he may face challenges or wouldn't be able to come on my tour? It wasn't a question for me, even though I knew I would possibly have to help him with getting onto the train and around the city. If there's a will - there's a way!

Suddenly I became aware of every slight step, hill, and struggle that he had to face. I am so inspired by all that he has done and that he never lets his disability set him back. Coming to Europe, which isn't always the most politically correct place, has to be difficult, but he obviously doesn't let anything get in the way of living.

On our free time he wanted a view over the city. We went up to the Mönchsberg Museum of Modern Art, which in my opinion has one of the best views of Salzburg. We were both slightly surprised that we didn't have to pay the typical elevator admission as a courtesy for him. The photo above was taken today.

The view was beautiful as always. I now have another restaurant to visit - the M32, sister restaurant of Spoon - with the circle windows I adore. M32 is located above the art museum. I cannot wait to have friends visit because I know quite a few beautiful little surprises that I am excited to share.

It still amazes me that I get paid to do my job. I meet wonderful and inspirational people... even the less than inspirational people give me more appreciation for great groups!

I am going to try to compile a visitor's guide to Salzburg similar to the one for Munich. It's really a terrific city. In the meantime check out Creative Austria.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Animals on the Underground

I saw this today and got really excited. I tell you it's the little things that make me happy.

There are many little animals hidden on London's Tube maps. Now I am going to want to take a closer look at Munich's own subway, which doesn't have as many connections - maybe Paris has a better shot.
They even have a cute little book for 10£, which will be added to my list of great gift ideas.

(via Vibe)

Color wheel

I think it's the art historian / art teacher in me, but how beautiful is this wooden color wheel puzzle for little ones?

I feel slightly strange buying things for the children I don't even have, but I can always give it as a gift. This is just too pretty for me to pass up.

(image Pottery Barn Kids)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Camera Obscura

While strolling through the myriad of booths and mass humanity at Munich's birthday celebration this weekend, I was struck by a different type of art. The artist had an interactive booth and initially I thought it was more of an instillation - that is until I noticed business cards. I picked one up and figured I would check things out when I got home where I could do so peacefully without people constantly bumping into me.

What I saw was beautiful, affordable, and timeless.

I also saw the artist, Przemek Zajfert, is located in Stuttgart - so I assume he was one of the visiting vendors. The website camera-obscura-art is mainly geared towards places in Germany, however he did have several pieces from his native Poland and also from Italy.

I rarely see things at these festivals that I consider purchasing, however I'm very happy I picked up this business card. Now I just need to decide which images I can't live without.

Isn't the dream like quality just breathtaking?

(images by Przemek Zajfert)

Monday, June 16, 2008

To do in Amsterdam

There are several things I am really looking forward to doing in Amsterdam - shopping, roaming the streets, taking an insane amount of photos, eating delicious foods, and hopefully visiting a museum or two.

A couple years ago I found a store called Egg Mercantile, which has the most beautiful spoons. I have saved the picture for nearly two years and I am going to be happy to finally make a purchase direct at the store in Amsterdam. I also want to check out the oil cloths for our biergarten at kitsch kitchen.

Another fun addition for our biergarten are the beautiful little lanterns for only 7€ each at &k. I may just have to buy multiple colors. Hopefully I have enough space to bring things back! Pol's potten has beautiful pitchers... I love the red one, which would be great for margaritas.

I'm definitely a prepared traveler, but I am also excited to see what kinds of interesting things we stumble upon. Amsterdam has so many great design shops and I already know I will be in heaven.

Martina said dinner reservations are a must, so she is going to let me know tomorrow where we will be having dinner.

I'd like to try Proef restaurant, which says it's by appointment and not open for dinner. I may have to force Luke + Nan to go to the one in Rotterdam to let me know how it is. It focuses on food design and some plates are even edible! It sounds really interesting. Also the Indonesian rijsttafel (rice table) sounds like a fun dinner that would be a deviation from the norm.

Another thing I look forward to are the confections - especially these that are beautifully handmade. Papabubble candy shop has such a cute name and what looks to be a beautiful shop. I'm looking forward to checking it out. And of course a chocolate shop - Puccini Chocolates. I also must have the stroopwafels and poffertjes. Hopefully we will be doing a lot of walking or if we are brave enough, bike riding. 

Monday I'd like to check out the Noordermarkt at the Jordaanmarkt, which has tons of retro and vintage kitchen accessories. The multi cultural Dappermarkt also looks fascinating. I hope Stefan can stand that because he's not much of a shopper. I'll have to keep him fed with stroofwafels.

The museums I am interested in are the obvious Van Gogh, and also the Tulip museum.

It looks like we will have a long weekend filled with interesting things. I'm really looking forward to getting away.

Let me know your favorite places in Amsterdam - I'm always open to recommendations!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Being away from my family makes me nostalgic, even for seemingly mundane holidays. Today is Father's Day in America and of course it makes me think about my Dad. He and I have a lot in common - not only our dark brown eyes or our mischievous streaks, but also our laid back personalities and occasional stubbornness. I'm happy to have inherited his zeal for life and his curiosity.

Some of my favorite memories with my Dad are when he would take me and my sister on bike rides, nature hikes, and splash in rain puddles when we were young.

I recall one evening when we failed to make it to the library. We had decided to go on a nature hike and ended up lost, although he would never admit it. It was slowly getting dark and we probably had gone off the path. Another evening we sat for what felt like hours visiting some of my grandparents' elderly friends. My Dad has always been compassionate and kind. He always remembers the oldest people and makes sure they feel appreciated.

He was monumental in getting our pets. He had a cat growing up, which he fondly named 'blue kitty'. He even decided blue kitty needed his whiskers trimmed and cut them all off. I'm sure the poor cat had trouble after that. While my mom was concerned about getting attached to a pet and having it pass on, he knew it would bring us happiness - even if he didn't particularly like or know much about dogs before. Our family dog appreciates her daily walks and he must as well if he is entertaining the idea of a second dog.

He was the dedicated father that took us to 'take your daughter to work day', which was popular in the 90's, and he proudly attended all of our father daughter dances. He taught me a lot about not taking things too serious and to be self respecting.

As I entered high school, he taught me patience with learning to drive a manual car. I recall thinking it was impossible and I would never master it, however I persevered through it and he was patient and always stayed positive. Later I was happy to dazzle people with my new skills and bumper to bumper parallel parking abilities on the first try. It was a simple task, but I felt the same pride as I did when he taught me to first ride a bike.

In college, after I won a free flight to anywhere in the US, he accompanied me to San Francisco for 10 wonderful days. I still remember exploring the city, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, and visiting John Steinbeck's old haunts further down the coast. I created a photo album from the Monterey sea glass for him filled with photos from our trip. There was also time when I was feeling slightly car sick as he sped around the coast on Highway 1, however I would never trade those memories for anything. It was such a nice trip and I think father daughter trips are essential - at least once in life. It is something I will forever treasure.

It's hard for my family to have me live so far away, especially when I miss out on family cookouts and other celebrations and family traditions. It's difficult to only be there in spirit.

I miss you and love you Dad! Thanks for being such a special person and the greatest Dad that I could ask for.

Munich's 850th Birthday

Today we ventured out to celebrate Munich's 850th birthday. I was amazed to see how many people had also come to celebrate. As soon as we arrived on Max straße we were greeted by people in traditional clothing that were parading down the street. The city center was even more congested.

The Marienplatz celebration had singing school children, crowds, and an enormous cake. We got tired of being herded around through the sea of people so we didn't stick around to try the cake.

Along the streets there were various stalls selling assorted handicrafts and art work. I was slightly disappointed to see more wasn't geared towards Munich. The nice difference from normal Munich festivals was that vendors and city representatives from all over Germany had come to sell things and to congratulate the city. It was nice to see some variety. The trades people were also dressed in their traditional archaic uniforms which were interesting to see.

We decided that we would have lunch in town - unfortunately many of our favorite restaurants were closed today. We got a sandwich at the Kunstcafe in Fünf Höfe, which I always love. I think the Fünf Höfe compliments the city so nicely and is beautifully designed.

If you are interested in Munich 850 souvenirs, they can be found here. I am hoping to find a decent glass stein similar to the other ones we have for our biergarten. The festivities will continue through the summer, although I don't think many people need another excuse to have a beer and offer up a 'Prost' to this great city.

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag München!

German style cookout

Yesterday we went to a cookout with Stefan's coworkers and it was really a nice time. There are a few differences from German and American cookouts - namely there isn't a 'potluck' aspect. The American side of me still feels that it is necessary to bring something, so I brought brownies and some fresh picked strawberries. There were also insane options in terms of meat - sausages of every variety, steak, and lamb - but no hamburgers, veggie burgers, or hot dogs. The sauces are also not as good - Germans really don't eat anything remotely spicy.

I was so happy that we brought the strawberries because I could not get enough of watching the twins devour them. They both kept reaching up to grab another one - it was so cute.

It was also nice to chat with various coworkers and their 'plus one' partners. We were happy to to see our friend Martina who we will be visiting next weekend in Amsterdam. I'm already looking forward to seeing her again and I know she'll have some great stores and restaurants for us to visit.

I practiced my German quite a bit and came home very worn out, so I guess it was a successful evening. The friends make it worthwhile, but it makes me crave an American style cookout. It's too bad I won't be home for the 4th of July.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Picking Strawberries

This afternoon Stefan and I made it to pick strawberries right before it started to rain. I'm always surprised how many we walk away with - and how inventive I have to get to use them all. Right now I am thinking we'll be having strawberry margaritas and perhaps trying strawberries with balsamic, which I hear is delicious. What's also surprising is that 2 large bowls of strawberries only cost 6€!

We saw some interesting things in the field - Stefan tossed me a heart shaped strawberry and he spotted conjoined (or mating) may flies. My favorite finds were the strange shaped strawberries - one even looked like a star.

If you live in the Munich area, you can find nearby fields at Erdbeerzeit in München. This website also lists nearby fields for raspberries and blueberries as well.

I have a feeling we'll be checking those out soon!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Austria + the Euro championship

It has been a few months since I have been to Salzburg, but I was anxious to go and see how hyped up Austria is for the soccer games and to buy some champagne truffles. It was nice to go back and even nicer to have one of my best tour groups yet. There were 13 people from all over the world - US, New Zealand, Brazil, Korea, Canada, and Spain.

The train ride to Austria was filled with conversation and I appreciated chatting with an American woman was like an old friend. We had so much in common from the traveling husbands to our midwestern roots. I was so happy to hear she could possibly move here for her husband's job.

From the moment we exited the train, there were many flags flying and people dressed up to support their favorite team. I gave my tour making a few adjustments due to 'fan zones' being set up around the city, but it only added to the excitement and appeal.

I love sharing Salzburg with people, but the soccer and camaraderie is special. There were also a lot of German supporters strolling the streets and joining in on chants and sharing beers with other fans.

During the free time I always tend to roam around and take photos of things that grab my attention as well as stopping at several stores we don't have in Munich. I remembered I didn't have a children's book from Austria and then I ended up buying two. I am a sucker for cute illustrations and especially those of children in wellies (rain boots). When I have children they will probably have multiple pairs because I just adore them.

When we met to head back to the train station one of my tourists came back with his face painted with German flags and his wife had one on her arm. The German pride was running deep.

The train ride home was equally as pleasant. When I arrived back I joined Stefan at his office to watch the Germany vs. Croatia game.

Unfortunately Germany lost.

A nice consolation were the cute Germany inspired gummy bears from Haribo.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fondue for two

After a bit of a rough week we decided to enjoy the Switzerland vs. Turkey soccer game in traditional Swiss style - with a fondue. Raspberries always make me a bit nostalgic since we always had them growing in our backyard while I was growing up. For me it's a nice healthy comfort food... especially when paired with chocolate.

Every time we get our fondue pot out I think we should have it more often, with cheese or chocolate, since it's rather effortless and never disappointing.

Something else that never disappoints is watching field sports during rain, like the game tonight. The slipping and sliding makes everything less predictable and a bit comical.

I'm hoping to pick strawberries this weekend at one of the near by fields. It looks like we'll have plenty of fresh fruit for another fondue on Sunday when Switzerland plays again.