Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Augustiner Oktoberfest

I'm sure Lauren got her fill of Augustiner while she visited. Once again we dressed up in our dirndls and hit up the Oktoberfest. I made the bad choice of wearing my second dirndl, so they both now smell like smoke. Theoretically this is supposed to be the last year of smoking at Oktoberfest, however I am not sure it will be.

At Oktoberfest there are many tables reserved, however they are open during the afternoon, so we still had plenty of time to enjoy a few beers. As we sat and waited on a group of friends to arrive we also made several new friends from the UK and Rosenheim, a city not too far from Munich.

Part of the fun is never knowing who you will meet. It's also interesting to watch the dynamics - groups of young guys who build up their courage to approach ladies after a few beers, or groups staking out a table for hours on end.

The group that joined us asked if they could sit down and then asked where we were from. Lauren responded America and they told her they liked Americans. Then she continued on about how they had to be nice to us because soon we'd be living in boxes due to the economic crisis going on. It's always surprising to Americans because conversations can quickly turn political, especially with the upcoming elections. I often find at Oktoberfest people will agree with whatever you have to say (except not always in regards to politics) if you have a table and they don't. Even so, it was nice to chat with them and share several beers. We even exchanged phone numbers.

It was nice that Lauren got to experience all of Oktoberfest because it is quite different at nightfall. I really love all of the blinking lights and colors, which are even more vibrant at night. Thankfully we didn't encounter huge crowds thanks to a slight drizzle.

As an interesting side note, I noticed there were signs in the ladies restrooms that were stating it was safe place if you were being sexually harassed. What I found odd was that they were only written in German. Hopefully next year they can at least write them in English and German to be a little more accommodating to tourists.

Only 353 days until Oktoberfest 2009!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Lauren goes to Austria

Having friends come to visit always gives me a renewed perspective on things. It was so nice to go to Salzburg without working and simply to follow our own schedule. It's also nice to get off the normal route that I take my groups on and explore more of what the city has to offer.

Salzburg is any easy place to take people to impress them. It's so quaint and charming. I was also happy to take Lauren there because when we were roommates she always said how she wanted to visit Austria.

Lately there has been quite a lot going on in Salzburg - a movie shoot about an Austrian actress and an excavation. I never know what we are going to encounter.

We had fantastic weather and packed in a lot of shopping and delicious food. Lunch at Carpe Diem was quite good, but definitely for skinny people - the portions are small, but the presentation is interesting. I tried three cones (salmon potato, cheese truffle, and chicken wing) followed by homemade granny smith apple with coriander and plum sherbets. I really like the idea of having small dishes so you can eat a variety of things and the sherbets really made me want to get an ice cream maker.

We didn't spend all of our time shopping and I managed to give Lauren a short tour of the old town. It made me feel like I was taking a friend to work. Sometimes Salzburg seems really small town as each place has it's claim to fame: the oldest bakery, original frescoes, the oldest restaurant, the biggest North of the Alps... and on and on. It's really quite sweet.

I didn't want Stefan to miss out on all of the fun so I brought him a rose macaroon from Demel. They have some really beautiful (and delicious!) pastries.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

MB + The Beatles

Since our dear friend Mary Beth wasn't able to join us in Munich, we decided to bring her along - courtesy of a little mask we made. Suddenly she was peaking out of the bushes, using the phone booth, and riding the straßenbahn. It didn't really make up for her not being around, but we still had a nice time remembering her.

After meeting the lighting guys for 'Rain: The Beatles Experience' at Oktoberfest, we were happy to be added to the guest list for their final night in Munich. I had never been to the Circus Krone, which is sort of a Munich landmark. They evidently held concerts for some rather well known rock stars in it's time (including the real Beatles). The venue is small and smells like animals since it has a circus. Looking past that it was an interesting evening.

I really have to give the performers credit - they sing all of the songs and play their own music, undergo costume changes, and typically set changes, but since the Circus Krone is so small they weren't able to do that. I was impressed by their singing and instrument skills, however it was kind of strange that they were playing mega rock stars and would appear in remade ads and photo shoots. I couldn't tell if I should think it was funny or slightly creepy.

What also made me laugh was that as we were talking at Oktoberfest, I said I was from Ohio, and they said they were going to be in Dayton for two weeks in December. I wished them luck and brought a list to the show of several things they could see or do during their trip. I hope they are able to find things to bide their time. Lauren and I brought them a list of suggested places worth visiting so hopefully that helps.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Englisher Garten

Today we spent a day enjoying Bavarian foods at Nockherberg and then walking around the Englischer Garten. We even saw Ottfried Fischer (a political comedian) at Nockherberg.

Lauren had plenty of firsts today - a weißwurst experience, going to the biergarten, and of course drinking on the streets. She also couldn't believe it's legal to drink in the car, which I also think is ridiculous.

I love to be reminded of little things that have become common place for me. She thought that was hilarious how we broke so many American laws and here they are legal.

The Englischer Garten is such a great place to spend an afternoon. It's great for people watching and there are so many interesting things going on... dogs playing in the water, people trying to walk tightropes, plenty of greenery, and of course drinking a beer at the park.

Dirndls + Coldplay concert

Lauren and I got a late start to Oktoberfest - suiting up in dirndls is serious business! We arrived early in the afternoon and searched out the tents.

It's interesting how different we were treated since we were two ladies. First, there was a large table of guys at the Hippodrome that yelled at us that they would find us seats. They were already packed tight on their table. Since the Hippodrome is the smallest of all the tents we decided to look elsewhere. We went across to the tent of Munich's beer - Augustiner. It was also surprisingly packed, but we managed to find a couple places to stand and even made a few friends.

One group of men was from Canada and were working with the Circus Krone doing lighting. We talked to them for quite some time about their travels. I told them I was from Ohio and then laughed when they said they would be in Dayton for two weeks in December. Lauren and I offered up tips and I probably didn't reassure them too much when I said it was a dying city except for the University.

Roger, the head lighting guy, had traveled with The Killers and other notable singers. He put us on the guest list for the Circus Krone's 'Rain - The Beatles Experience' this Sunday and even said they would take us backstage, which was really nice.

I often find it funny in situations like this how being married seems to precede me as a person. It's really a great way to filter people's agendas though.

Lauren and I also met a fellow named Dimitri, who was from Oslo. He was one of those types that told us his English wasn't good and then had an entire conversation with us. I jokingly told him I was 35. My theory is women should say they are older than they are because it would make them look great for their age. He said, 'You have such a pretty face, but I don't think you are 35', then Lauren then said she was 55. He knew we were joking. He loved that we were from America and after Lauren told him I was married he asked if she wanted to get married. She said, 'someday', and then he asked if she wanted to marry him. We laughed. Who knew there would be Oktoberfest marriage proposals?

At the other end of our table were some dirty old British men who turned out to be golf pros. They kept trying to get us to join them. We chatted with them for a few minutes and they told me they lived here, but not for long, and then said it was 17 years. One asked if Lauren wanted to stay longer and told her she could move in with him. It was a busy evening for Lauren and now I have a concert and golf lessons lined up!

At night we went to the Viva La Vida Coldplay concert. They definitely put on a good show and I was really excited to see them. Chris Martin, the lead singer and husband to Gwyneth Paltrow, was more fidgety than I expected, but he has a cool persona and seems like a nice person. The entire show was being recorded for a broadcast on Absolute Radio - a new station in the UK.

I was really impressed by the lighting and at one point they had a black light with beautiful confetti falling, which made a neat effect. Everyone was surprised when they went up into the crowd to sing.

They played a nice array of songs from all of their CDs and Stefan correctly predicted an encore - their song 'Yellow'.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Beer Steins

Stefan and I have been acquiring half liter steins since we have lived in Munich... except for our first year - 2006.

I am rather particular and only wanted the glass one with the logo on it as opposed to the ceramic version. Thankfully, the Oktoberfest souvenir website was carrying them again and I was able to nicely complete our collection.

Now we just need some warmer weather to enjoy the final days at our balcony biergarten!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Deutsches Museum

On a drizzly day there is nothing better to do than head to a museum. I was excited when Lauren picked the Deutsches Museum because I had sadly never visited.

We walked through the halls admiring enormous airplanes, boats, and tunnel construction. I was really fascinated by that. I can't say I was too reassured looking at the cross section of a Lufthansa plane. Is that seriously all that's under there? I guess they have to keep them as light as possible and my enormous bags probably don't help.

Now I know that with my love of subways that I need to head to the MVG Museum here in Munich. If you are in love with subways like I am, you can check out the Metro Bits website that has loads of information on cities with subways.

My other favorite areas included the arts - photography, glass, ceramics, paper, and printing. We were too late for any of the demonstrations, but it was still nice to see walk through the exhibits.

In the photo exhibit they had quite a collection of cameras and information about how they function. I loved their transparent touch screen that allowed you to pick cameras you were interested in to obtain more information.

It was rather cute in the paper area that they had small origami stations and people could try to build the strength of paper using folds. Even the wall and seats were made of cardboard. Lauren tested her hand at making something (we didn't really know what it was) and eventually gave up.

The printing rooms were really impressive. There were really old presses and even a small area about the art of bookbinding. They were all so German thanks to Johann Gutenberg.

I also learned that Germany was very important in making color during the 19th century. I loved their vials of bright colorants.

After going to the museum we headed over to Gast for dinner. We had a great time and tomorrow Stefan comes home to join in on the fun. We'll be going to the Oktoberfest and Coldplay concert.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lauren's here!

I absolutely love having visitors, of course it helps when it's someone you enjoy having around. I went to pick Lauren up from the airport at the dark hour of 5:15am. I was overjoyed to see her.

Not only that - she brought me some of the amazing Vosges cookies that I have dreams about. How sweet is she? I've already put them in the freezer so I can have them around for a while. The Naga cookie is my favorite, but she also brought the newest - Bianca, which is white chocolate + coconut + lavender flowers + Australian lemon myrtle. I can't wait to try it.

We took naps before hitting town and had a very successful day enjoying the Bavarian way of life - complete with dirndl shopping, enormous pretzels, seeing pig heads in Viktualienmarkt's meat area, and tying up the evening with homemade schnitzels, knödels, and weißbier. It was quite a busy day!

I'll get some photos of Lauren and myself exploring Munich in the coming days.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I'm amazed that Oktoberfest is already here. Stefan and I spent the afternoon enjoying the Wies'n. There were definitely plenty of tourists and visitors. Many of them had already imbibed too many beers - that's one of the downsides to the celebration.

We also saw a group of very young teens asked to leave because they simply weren't old enough (under 16) to be partake in drinking. Stefan and I joked that because the tables are so crowded that someone probably asked the security to give an age check so they could steal their table. Then again, they were being rather loud and not exactly avoiding attention.

The other occasionally unfortunate aspect is the tracht. I am partial to the more conservative longer dirndls with the 'less is more' approach. It's really delightful when it's done well, however there are a lot of fashion faux pas that are made - especially with shoes. Boots and tennis shoes are just not acceptable. I am always surprised at the variations that I see... including this 'I just escaped from jail, but I am glad I found my tracht so I can blend in' look.

I'm also not entirely certain how I could forget, but Oktoberfest is seriously sensory overload. Not only is there plenty of beer flowing, the smell of roasted nuts in the air, and loads of décolletage, but there are the carney rides with blinking lights and interesting music to accompany them. I am curious how many people lose the contents of their stomach on many of these rides. I just hope I'm not underneath them when it happens.

Then there is the bathroom situation. It always pains me to have to wait in line for the restroom, because just like every other place the ladies line ends up being miles longer than the mens. While waiting there are inevitably interesting characters who want to talk... especially if you have a dirndl on. A few girls from one of the Contiki tours even asked to touch Stefan's lederhosen. They asked me if I come every year and if it was always this cold as they stood around in t-shirts in 50 degree weather.

For some reason I seemed to recall more people wearing tracht the years prior to this one, however the colder temperatures could definitely have something to do with that. Oktoberfest is definitely alive and well even with cooler weather.

I can't wait for Lauren to arrive on Wednesday morning (at 5:55am! - ouch). Then I will be able to play tourist with her and help her find a suitable dirndl. I already know she is going to have a heyday commenting on people's poor fashion choices.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


My friend Jenny recently returned from Mexico, where she was taking intensive Spanish courses. Last night she decided to have a ladies night, which was a lot of fun. She made fajitas with various hot sauces she had brought back, and in addition to German Mexican food, there were plenty of drinks to loosen everyone up before playing singstar.

I had never played singstar, but I know several people that absolutely love it. It's a playstation game that is essentially sophisticated karaoke, where you can compete against others and get rated as to how well you hit the correct notes and follow the melody. It was a lot more fun than I had anticipated.

Jenny picked the 90's edition, which reminded me of my youth. I had a distinct advantage since English is my mother tongue and because I knew most all of the songs. I definitely forgot how difficult MC Hammer's 'Can't Touch This' is and could not stop laughing to hear the singers mumble along and randomly say 'Can't Touch This' off key - it was hilarious.

Manfred, the neighbor, even came up to sing his life away with all of us. It was probably better than having all of us keep him awake with our very stylized versions of the songs.

We had a fantastic time. I am really looking forward to showing up our friend Sven, who is a singstar fanatic, when we visit him in Hannover. I'll have to humor him by singing some of the German songs.

Dream kitchen

As of now, we're definitely making the most of the city life. We live small, we live simply, and we live well below our means. It's really quite nice. It also means we must be very particular about the things we decide to fill our small space with and I am always thinking ahead.

Slowly we've been working on updating our apartment to make it more of our own place. I absolutely love looking at inspirational images and wondering where life will take us. In the meantime I often gather things that are meaningful to me. Some we are able to incorporate now - like our new fridge that arrived this morning!, and other things we'll have to hold off on... like a subway tile back splash in the kitchen.

I also love the fact that Stefan continually is commenting how much he loves our refrigerator.

Not only do I want my dream kitchen to have a subway tile back splash, but I want the entire kitchen to have a very slight subway undertone. I have a cookie jar, à la my Grandma, that my sister gave me a few years ago. It is a London underground sign. She also recently showed me the beautiful Parisian subway dish cloth, which I have added to my wish list.

Isn't it lovely to surround yourself with things you enjoy and to look forward to?

Here are bits of the master plan...

The subway tile kitchen belongs to Genifer Goodman Sohr, who is a well known stylist. I saw these images on her equally talented friend, Sara Hicks Malone's blog Party Perfect, and I can't quit thinking about them. They also match our table and chairs that we recently purchased.

I promise I'm not on a French kick, but I also love the work of antoin + manuel, a French design duo. And continuing on the subway theme, they have a lot of beautiful pieces including one aptly titled RATP (Parisian Metro), Carte Intégrale, 2005. Their website is a real treasure trove for design lovers.

In other things French... I was overjoyed yesterday when I was in town shopping for a few things and found two things I have been dreaming about. Originally I had see them on uncommongoods and the Moma Store, but today I found them here in Munich.

I really love Revol French porcelaine - it's minimal, very resistant, and simply elegant. Some of their pieces are quite classic, while others - like the the things I bought today, are slightly comical. They keep things interesting.

They have an entire line called the Recycled collection. I love the curving ruffle lines of the 'pommes frites' dish - and the crumpled tumbler is just cute and fits so nicely in my hand.

The best design advice is to surround yourself with things that you love and I can really attest it adds to my happiness.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Parisian Munich

Yes, life has gone on since our trip. For some reason I am so seriously happy that I can't even contain myself. I have no good reason why, but I will take it.

The weather has cooled off substantially and autumn is really making it's presence felt. I love the brisk wind - and even the occasional rain.

Right before our trip, Stefan and I ran a lot of errands. We were in the Isarvorstadt neighborhood, which is traditionally the gay area of town, when we stumbled upon an adorable little French café called Rive Gauche.

It was as if we had been transplanted to Paris - complete with pain au chocolat and a yummy goat cheese salad. The owner's cute little son also set the tone as he was chatting with them in French.

It was so delightful.

Along with the French theme, this morning I made crêpes and Stefan went into work late. It was such a great start to the week, since he will be away, and a fun breakfast. I always love the little things.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


As we drove along we weaved around green hillsides filled with sheep grazing dangerously close the edges, large glacier covered mountains, and finally to our intended destination - the black sand beaches. We were also surprised how close the Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Isles) appeared from the coast.

When we arrived in Dyrhólahverfi (Vestur-Skaftafells), a bird watcher's paradise, we took our trusty little rental car on some extremely bumpy roads. I still have no idea how Stefan managed to get this thing to the top, but the views there are really striking.

We stood on top of the 120 m headland for quite a while. There is a beautiful arch, which is naturally made, and really demonstrates the strength and beauty of nature.

Also in view from the headland are Reynisdrangur Sea Stacks, which are basalt formations. If that wasn't enough, directly behind us we could see Mýrdalsjokull Glacier. Inside the Mýrdalsjokull Glacier is the Katla Volcano, which erupts on average every 40-60 years. The last eruption was in 1918.

Surrounding the shore line down below are the Mýrdalssandur Sands - the black sands that I was so excited to see. The contrasting colors in the landscape made me stand in awe.

We drove down to some of the beaches, and walked along the shore. It was very quiet except for the sound of the crashing waves. The shoreline had smooth pumice stones, fine black sand, and beautiful craggy caves and columnar basalt.

Stefan saved the day by finding my sunglasses in the tide. They must have fallen out of my pocket as I was running to join one of our self timed photos. Coincidentally, they were a replica of the sunglasses I lost in Barcelona. He asked if I always want to leave something behind in the places that I love. I am so happy he found them.

After taking all of the scenery in we drove to Vík í Mýrdal, which is so very tiny. I think Dyrhólahverfi takes most of the credit for beauty in this area.

Iceland had yet one more treasure in store insuring that it would leave us with something to remember - another stunning sunset for our last evening. The entire drive back to Reykjavik was draped in pinks and purples.

A common theme of this trip is probably complete bewilderment. I know that nature is extremely incredible, however I've not been somewhere that so much is packed into one small place.

If that's not reason enough to have fallen in love with Iceland in the book I was recently reading (Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner). His book has piqued my interest in Bhutan, but what he has to say about Iceland is very interesting as well. In his chapter title, 'Happiness is Failure', he suggests that Iceland has so many people involved with the arts because it doesn't see failure as a bad thing.

It goes along the lines of my ceramics teacher that I have written about before. You make a lot of junk before you really make impressive things. In Iceland, that's OK and even encouraged. I think it's a combination of the natural beauty and the 'live and let live' carefree attitude that easily makes this one of my favorite countries. It probably also helped that we visited on a cusp season - day light hours were still reasonable long, and there weren't tons of tourists, but even so, I think Iceland has a permanent calmness about it.

I also love that it has a blank slate feeling to it. The people don't seem to be in a major hurry to change that, which is so nice. They choose to live with nature and preserve what a beautiful country they have.

There are plenty of things we didn't do during this trip - see Puffins, visit Vestmannaeyjar, go to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, visit the Kerið crater, see the aurora borealis, and I am sure many of other things I don't even know about yet.

I will definitely make it back to Iceland. It has so much beauty it just moves me to tears. What an amazing world!