Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I couldn't leave Munich without writing a little bit about the 176th Oktoberfest.

As we arrived we noticed people sleeping in the lawn. Amazingly some people come to Oktoberfest without a place to stay. They put their luggage or bags in the train station lockers and are able to shower at the Hauptbahnhof. I can't even imagine.

The Australian consulate even relocates to Munich during Oktoberfest from their Berlin office, because people often lose their passports / wallets. If they don't have an ID it makes getting a train ticket more difficult.

We walked through on opening night, because I love seeing the lights at dusk when the colors are so beautiful. The tents were packed and the drunkards were everywhere.

Not only is tons of beer consumed, there are also plenty of carney rides. I never go on them, but it is interesting to watch. The 'Top Spin' was particularly interesting, because it nearly dunks the people in water. I also love the 'star flyer' sky swing, but I don't know that I'd have the nerve to get on it.

There were bachelor parties, couples strolling through, and plenty of food for drunken hunger pangs. In some places you can walk through and feel as though your lungs are coated with sugar from the saccharine sweets for sale. They are never as good as they smell.

It's a great place to visit for some interesting photos - if you can handle being run into by drunks and dodging the manure and detritus on the ground.

We'll get decked out in our tracht and celebrate tomorrow.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

St. Peter's Stiftskeller

Stefan joined me on my final tour before we head out on our big 4 month adventure. It was so nice to have him, because it was a long day. We had some characters including the kind that turn up over 15 minutes late, which required hauling it to the train station - complete with a grandma in a wheel chair. We thankfully were able to catch our train with only a minute or two to spare.

Stefan and I decided to stop at the St. Peter's Stiftskeller for lunch. This is one of the oldest restaurants in all of Europe and dates back to 803! On one of my tours, a few weeks ago, I had a couple who invited me to lunch there, however I had already been invited by another couple to another place, so I had to turn them down. (Bummer!)

After their lunch they were raving about the schnitzels. The woman was telling me she had the veal schnitzel and she was so impressed she was asking about it and they said they have a special schnitzel oven. Most schnitzels are made in a pan with way too much oil, so I try to avoid them... and I don't eat veal, although I will on occasion eat poultry, which they also have.

We both ordered a schnitzel today and I still think mine are better, although these were decent. I think I'm just a sucker for home made food, even if I have to be the cook. I make my own - from scratch, using this schnitzel recipe. If we have a loaf of bread that needs to go I will use that, and if not I use panko (Japanese bread crumbs). We usually eat ours with Heinz curry ketchup instead of making the sauce. You can make them to celebrate your own Oktoberfest at home.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Munich Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof (ZOB)

The Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof (ZOB) has opened right at the Hackerbrücke S-bahn stop and it is a very welcomed addition. I love seeing Munich modernizing it's image - at least with some new architecture.

This will serve as a bus station, but it also has restaurants and shopping. We decided to check it out today and were certainly impressed. It felt as though we were on vacation, because it was so foreign to us.

We had lunch at Vapiano, which is an open kitchen style restaurant that is actually branching to the US.

They have another location at Fünf Höfe, which is an equally as impressive design oriented restaurant and shopping area.

Here are a couple more photos, including the bus area, which is located underneath the shops and restaurants. It looks like next year we'll be able to entertain the idea of traveling by car, plane, train, and now bus.

Through the coming months we'll also often be traveling by foot, so I was really excited to get these adorable red shoes in a package from my parents.

I've never owned crocs - and I am one to agree most of them are heinously ugly on anyone older than 8. What swayed me was their lightweight and anti-microbial aspects, which will be nice for our trip.

(Thank goodness the rhinestone on the side is covered by my pants.) I bet you wouldn't have even guessed that they were in fact crocs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Less than a week!

We went around town today collecting our last minute things. Here are a few of my observations:

I love MUJI (inside Fünf Höfe). It's a Japanese shop that prides itself on being no brand. All of the merchandise is simple and they have a wonderful array of everything you never realized you needed to stay organized. Their travel sized products and stationery items are among my favorites. They make packing so simple with their empty TSA sized 100mL bottles.

Everyone and everything is gearing up for Oktoberfest. I love seeing products suddenly having Bavarian spirit and lederhosen all over them. Even the Pixar movie 'Oben! (Up!)' is in on the fun with their ad featuring the herzen, roller coaster, and the sky swing. (It says: 'With so much fun you'll lift off') We're slightly behind on the times here - it opens tomorrow.

I noticed Ihr Platz located inside the Ostbahnhof (near the U5 Orleanplatz entrance). Under normal circumstances I really wouldn't write about a drug store, and I realize this sounds ridiculous, but it is open until 10PM - even on Sundays. Talk about revolutionizing shopping in Munich! Really, it's the little things here.

They even have a small grocery section where you can get milk and simple things past 8PM! I'm thrilled - even though I'll only be here for one more weekend this year.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Long Term / Extended Travel Packing

Some of this list is slightly laughable for going lightweight, but to each their own.

I included anything that people would potentially want to bring, so you can always cross things off your own list as you see fit. Thanks also to my friend Cait, who is also planning a trip. It's been so nice to compare lists and have someone to double check with.

Don't forget the added bonus of packing light is having plenty of space for the treasures you find along the way!

(click the image to see it larger)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Long Term / Extended Travel Checklist

I'm not sure if anyone else that reads this will be planning a long term trip, but I figured I could at least share the information that I've gathered along the way so it's not as daunting.

Feel free to add anything I may have forgotten!

(click the image to see it larger)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

2 weeks

We are really making progress on the travel plans, which is a very good thing considering we leave 2 weeks from today. I don't even know how to comprehend that. The planning phases are at times very exciting and at other times slightly frustrating, but so far things have worked out wonderfully. (knock on wood!)

Our vaccinations are completed, all of our flights and trains are booked, we have reservations at some pretty stunning hotels - and restaurants.

(As a side note, I just received the Zagat Best Restaurants in the World book today, simply for rating my favorite European restaurants on their site. I'm so excited to check out their recommendations for the cities we'll be visiting. If you haven't signed up I highly recommend it - they send you fun little surprises like this book.)

I'm also really looking forward to seeing friends along the way. The last things to do are to finish up our work weeks. This is Stefan's very last week of work for 4 months! Mine ends next week. I've really enjoyed talking with the tourists and getting tips from about their homelands.

We've exchanged money into a rather large stack of US dollars. We need to pick up our final visa, check our packing list, print our tickets, and then we'll be ready.

The best part is that we get to celebrate before we leave - with a visit to the Oktoberfest! Not bad at all.

If I get some time in the coming days I will try to write a list of things we'll be packing and what we've had to do in preparation for such a long time away.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Münchner Kindl

Sometimes when I walk through town I play spot the Lion or Münchner Kindl, which are both ubiquitous symbols of Munich. They are literally everywhere.

The lion came about because the city was founded by Henry the Lion in 1158. The Münchner Kindl has changed a bit through history - it first began in the 13th century as a monk and over time has transformed into being a young girl. It's very prestigious to be the Münchner Kindl, who leads the Oktoberfest parade.

We will be attending Oktoberfest this year, as always, although I'm not sure if we'll attend the opening parade. While opening day is a lot of fun it's also a lot of drunken people who pass out or get sick before the mayor taps the first keg at the Schottenhamel. I have no issues in avoiding that.

Above is one of my favorite depictions of the Münchner Kindl - atop the Rathaus (town hall) at Marienplatz. It goes easily unnoticed, but it's always watching over this wonderful city.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


All of the little ones are going back to school. The yellow school buses and glorified school supplies are American luxuries that don't exist here. Sadly, you can't even purchase crayola markers in Germany.

The school children don't completely miss out... at least when entering first grade. This momentous occasion is marked with a Schuletüte, which is a cone filled with candies and tiny presents to make the transition a bit easier. Stefan tells me one of his co-workers has a son that just entered first grade and he made his own Schuletüte as a final project in Kindergarten.

The school system in Germany is complex. Can you imagine your grades and test scores in the third grade dictating that professions you could have down the road? In Germany the children are tracked towards attending a Hauptschule (9 years of schooling), Realschule (10 years of schooling), or Gymnasium (12 years of schooling - recently changed from 13).

I still remember my mother in law saying she was amazed that President Obama could come from such humble beginnings and eventually go to a prestigious university and become president. The chances of something like that happening in Germany are slim to none.

Attending Gymnasium paves the easiest route to getting into a University, so the pressure is really on from a very early age. As always, the higher the education the more opportunities and options. This system can be really oppressive to foreigners who haven't grown up with German as a first language.

In the United States, which is the system I am most familiar with, the students attend school until the 12th grade. It strikes Stefan as odd that each and every county and school district can differ in when they have holiday breaks and vacations or when school begins, both in dates and times. What is odd to me is that until recently each and every German state used to decide how many years their children would go to school.

Then there is the issue of perpetual students. Those who were fortunate enough to attend a University often stay there for quite some time they are able to do so because going to a University here is incredibly affordable. Not always, but typically (especially in comparison to the US). There was a large outcry when students were asked to pay roughly 500€ / $700 per semester. Unfortunately at my university it cost about that much for every credit hour - and most people took around 18 a semester.

The perpetual student issue creates a very educated population, however we also have a shrinking population. So many people marry much later here than their counterparts in other countries. That's another issue unto itself.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I keep seeing this book around town and it is absolutely adorable. It's the 'Kinder Künstler Kritzelbuch' (child artist scribble book) from Beltz&Geldberg.

You can see pages from the interior, which include beautiful fill in style illustrations from illustrators like one of my favorite - Philip Waechter (he did the cover).

They say things like 'Das bin ich' (This is me) and 'Und sehe ich aus, wenn ich gross bin' (This is what I look like when I grow up) with space to draw a self-portrait. There are other pages which give suggestions that allow imaginations to run wild.

Here are a few more from the publisher's website:
They say: 1. What grows here? 2. There are a lot of fish under the boat, aren't there? 3. Who was that?

(images: Beltz verlag)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Around the World Travel

There are plenty of resources online regarding long term travel. Here are some that I returned to again and again, as well as a few tips of my own.

If you are planning a trip around the world or for an extended amount of time it's difficult to know where to begin.

This is where we started. These were our our first considerations, and this is a bit of information about our stops along the way (this is still being updated).

You can also pick country or city specific posts by scrolling down on the right.

These are the places we have visited so far:

Here are a plethora of helpful planning links that I frequently use -

Star Alliance Around the World planner - We chose Star Alliance because of Stefan's Senator Status and also because they fly to the destinations we wanted to visit and they also give us flexibility (we can change dates without paying a fee).

kayak - we frequently use the multi-city tool and I love that it stores my past searches for future visits.

skyscanner - this also scans budget airlines, which can be very helpful in Europe. I also love that you can search by price if you don't care where you go, but don't have tons of money to spend.

Flight Stats - delays and other important information
Flight View - track loved ones as they travel
Flight Memory - keep track of your own flights and stats on airtime
Seat Guru - find the best seat so you have some extra leg room
Startrax - safety ratings for airlines if you need a side flight

Seat 61 - Very concise and well put together information regarding trains around the world.

Make sure you purchase country passes before you get to the country. Often times they are not available once you've arrived.

Busabout - I've never taken one of these tours, which seem geared towards a college crowd, but I like the idea of traveling above land and stopping in various cities.

How far is it? - calculate distances between cities
Google maps - maps and step-by-step directions between multiple locations.
Meet Ways - find a meeting point in the middle

Travel Independent - this is an incredible resource that is a one stop place to find useful information regarding any and all aspects of being gone for a long time.

Health + Safety
Centers for Disease Control
Fit for Travel
Travel Cautions + Warnings
Travel Registration (for US citizens)
Medgle- search your symptoms
What bit you - images of bugs and their bites

Project Visa - Which countries will you need a visa for and embassy information
Country Specific Information
Travel + Leisure
Time Magazine city guides
Budget Travel
NY Times Travel
Condé Nast Travel
World Travel Guide
Famous Wonders of the World
43 places
lonely planet

What to Pack - while it seems straight forward there are a lot of things that are completely not necessary and can be purchased along the way.

There are plenty of stores online to help make getting supplies easier. I also suggest heading to your nearest outdoor sports shop and a home goods store. We found many practical things that were added to the 'What to Pack' list.

Here are a few of my favorite Travel brands:
ExOfficio - wicking and quick drying undergarments
The North Face - high quality and very durable
Columbia - feminine and simple outdoor wear
I know every country has their own take on these. If you have time in advance to ship things I also suggest checking out Campmor and Backcountry, for discounted apparel.

Trip Advisor - see actual candid photos and ratings of hotels and the reasons people like them or don't. There are some major gems if you just look.

airbnb - vacation rentals, private room, and sublets. It always is nice to walk onto the city streets from a neighborhood or unique location rather than a massive hotel. It's a quick way to feel like a local and stay like one, too.

hotels.com - for every 10 nights you stay you get a free room. If you frequently travel this is a really great deal. I also like that it doesn't tie you to one chain.

hostelworld or hostelbookers - I'm not opposed to staying in a hostel, provided I have a private room / bathroom and it is highly rated. Just check out the best boutique hostels and you'll quickly see it's easy to save money and sleep in style.

hotwire - this unfortuantely only works in the US, but you can get a real steal if you simply need a place to stay last minute.

unusual hotels of the world - if you're looking for offbeat this is a great place to start. Some of these are seriously out there. We've stayed in a hospital and I have to say it was lovely.

Design hotels
Small Luxury hotels

Food and Wine
San Pelligrino 50 best
Unusual Restaurants of the World

Interesting and random travel links
Travel Math - a calculator that helps with distance, time, and budgeting
Walki - Talki - audio walking tours for your MP3
single serving - free pocket sized travel phrases in a large number of languages
Trip It - organize your travel plans
Smug Mug - upload your photos to share and download them in full size once you get back.
gadling - travel related news, gadgets, and photos
XE - money conversion
Panoramio- explore the world through other people's photos
locr - locate your photos / geotag through various methods

Hopefully there was something here that will be helpful and useful for you in the future. I'll add more links over time.

Safe and Happy Travels!

New Hotel on the Market

I always stop at Viktualienmarkt to purchase berries and delicious foods. It's definitely a place where tourists and locals alike flock to for a quick lunch or specialty ingredients to make meals at home.

Right by the auction house there has been a lot of action for what seems like an eternity. A new chic façade has replaced the scaffolding and left a beautiful sight in its place - the Louis hotel. I'm glad that we finally have a design hotel here in Munich and what a fantastic location!

You can read a bit more about it at design hotels. I'm also looking forward to trying their new Japanese restaurant (Restaurant Emiko) and Asian Tea.

Hopefully we'll be able to try the restaurant out before our trip. It opens September 9th.

Can you believe we leave for our adventure around the world 3 weeks from today?